Iowa Hawkeyes fans began a heart-warming new tradition on Sept. 2 by standing to wave at the children who are watching from University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.


IOWA CITY, Ia. — Thanks to the national ABC broadcast, millions of viewers across the country witnessed the now-famous Hawkeye Wave after the first quarter of Iowa vs. Penn State on Saturday night.

And those millions saw a new spin to the wave that, possibly, made college football's coolest new tradition even cooler.

A sea of lights.

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Fans at Kinnick Stadium turned their phone flashlights on while waving to the children and families watching the game from the neighboring University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. Think, a modern version of the old-school candle wave at a rock concert. 

The result looked pretty dang neat.

Iowa's three previous home games happened during the day. So when fans learned this Saturday was a 6:30 p.m. kickoff, the sea-of-lights plan hatched. A reader emailed the idea to Register columnist Chad Leistikow, who then relayed the message to his followers. Hawkeye fan pages also caught wind of the plan, and word circulated from there.

Since its debut against Wyoming, video of the Hawkeye Wave has spread like wildfire across the country, and it's not an exaggeration to say it's probably the best new tradition in college football. ABC World News, ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, The Washington Post, the NCAA and just about every local outlet you can imagine have covered it in some way.

The recently finished University of Iowa Children's Hospital sits right next to Kinnick Stadium. The top floor features the Press Box Cafe, a rotunda of sorts with floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a perfect view of Hawkeye games for patients and families packing the cafe. You can also see signs posted on windows from the top several floors of the hospital, where young patients watch and root for their Hawkeyes. 

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After every first quarter this season, fans inside Kinnick turn around and wave up to the hospital. Inside, patients and their families wave back.

Levi Thompson first promoted the idea of the wave on his Hawkeyes fan page after Krista Young, a reader of his site, suggested something could be done to recognize the patients and their parents watching from the brand-new 12-story hospital.

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.