As Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz enters his 21st season guiding Hawkeye players, Ann Kessler, a teacher at Lucas Elementary School in Iowa City, oversees her own group inside Kinnick Stadium.
Kessler has been the University of Iowa site manager for Learfield IMG College Seating for 11 years and is tasked with finding non-profit groups to help with the arduous annual task of installing thousands of seatbacks at Kinnick.
This year, Iowa City High School's Little Hawks — named after the neighboring Hawkeyes — stepped into the role for the first time. They follow in the footsteps of volunteers from Regina Catholic High School in Iowa City, who installed the seats in Kessler's first decade managing the project.
About 300 student athletes, parents, teachers, and coaches from City High and South East Junior High trickled through the propped open southwest gate at Kinnick around sunrise Saturday to install many of the 17,000 seatbacks needed ahead of the Hawkeyes' fast-approaching home opener.
Phillip Hansen, athletic director at City High, helped organize the hundreds of volunteers who turned out for the installation effort and said he hopes they can assist again next year.
The morning of work netted the Little Hawks Booster Club, which primarily funds athletic programs at City High and South East, nearly $30,000, according to the group's volunteer recruitment post.
"They're working great," Kessler said. "The kids are hard workers. The parents, the coaches, they've all been on board."
The No. 19 Iowa Hawkeyes will open the season against Miami of Ohio on Aug. 31, at 6:30 p.m.