Doing double duty: Hawkeyes that played both ways

Pat Harty
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Editor's note: This is the fourth story in our Top 7 series, which will run the day of each of the Hawkeyes' seven home games.

Fred Riddle is part of a small but talented group in college athletics.

He has the distinction of being one of the few who played both football and basketball at the University of Iowa.

A quarterback in football and a forward-turned guard in basketball, Riddle did double duty at Iowa in the early 1960s.

"It was a little bit more common then," Riddle said. "It was a not a thing that I would advise doing now in retrospect. Because what you'd do, you'd start in August and didn't finish until a week before finals in June."

Hawkeye legend Nile Kinnick pulled off the same double duty as Riddle about 25 years earlier. At least five other former Hawkeyes competed in both football and basketball, the most recent being quarterback Jon Beutjer, who lettered in football in 2000 before transferring to Illinois.


-Nile Kinnick

Riddle, who lives in Iowa City and works as a dentist, appreciates being among select company, but he also understands that circumstances have changed dramatically on and off the playing field since he participated in two sports in college.

"It's nearly impossible to do it now with the specialization in one sport," said Riddle, who grew up in Illinois.

The college football regular season now stretches from late August until late November. Throw in a bowl game, and the season could last until early January.

The college basketball regular season lasts for a minimum of five months, starting in November and stretching through mid-March. Iowa played in a school-record 38 games during the 2012-13 season while advancing to the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament. The season lasted from Nov. 9, 2012, until April 4, 2013.

Iowa played only in 24 games during Riddle's freshman season in 1962-63. The season started Dec. 1 and ended March 9.

But even back then, pulling double duty took a great deal of staying power and meant little rest.

"For a couple years, I survived on about 4½ hours sleep a night," Riddle said.

Both sports also have evolved since Riddle last competed in college. Today's athletes are bigger, faster and stronger, making it harder to excel in both sports.

"The tackles are 300 pounds now and run as fast as our halfbacks used to run," said Riddle, who stood about 6-foot-3½ and weighed about 215 pounds for football and 198 pounds for basketball. "It's amazing what they can do. When I played, I was a big quarterback. Now I'd be an averaged-sized quarterback, and weight-wise, I'd be a small quarterback."

Riddle didn't become a star at Iowa, but he did set a then-Big Ten record by throwing five touchdown passes in a 37-26 victory over Indiana in the third game of the 1963 season at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa and Indiana will meet for the 75th time Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

His record-setting performance didn't earn Riddle much job security, though, as coach Jerry Burns named sophomore Gary Snook the starter barely two weeks after the Indiana game.

"It was nice to do, to be able to set the record," Riddle said. "You live in glory for a while, and then three weeks later you find out that the bench looks pretty good, too."

Riddle played basketball throughout college, but he quit playing football after his junior season.

"Gary Snook had taken over for the last half of the year and then I thought, 'You know, it's going to be my senior year and I'm not going to get to play much from now on,' " Riddle said. "So I think I'm just going to play basketball."

Plus, Riddle had a preference: "I might have been better at football, but I liked basketball better.".

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Other Hawks who played football and basketball

No. 2: Nile Kinnick

The Heisman Trophy winner's legend stretched to the basketball court. Kinnick was the Iowa basketball team's second-leading scorer and ranked 15th in the Big Ten in scoring as a sophomore in the 1937-38 season, averaging 6.1 points per game as a 5-foot-9 forward. He quit playing basketball after his sophomore season to concentrate on academics and football.

No. 3: Erwin Prasse

He complemented Kinnick as one of the stars for the legendary Ironmen in 1939, earning all-America recognition as an end. He also started on the Iowa basketball team as a senior guard in 1939-40, averaging 3.6 points per game.

No. 4: Nate Washington

He lettered three times in football in 1973, 1975 and 1976 and averaged 7.0 points per game as a reserve sophomore center in the 1973-74 season.

No. 5: Matt Szykowny

He lettered three times as a quarterback in football from 1960-62. He also started on the Iowa basketball team as a sophomore in the 1960-61 season, averaging 9.9 points per game. He averaged 7.5 points as a junior reserve.

No. 6: Jon Beutjer


-Text: PC photo by Danny Wilcox Frazier --8/14/00-- Iowa QB Jon Beutjer out runs the grasp of Illinois' Brett Kautter while marching Iowa deep into Illinois' territory. Iowa was held to a fake fieldgoal attemp. Jason Baker dropped passed to Nate Kaeding who dropped the pass.

He barely lasted two seasons at Iowa before transferring to Illinois to play quarterback. He lettered in football at Iowa in 2000 and was a member of the Iowa basketball team as a walk-on for one season.

No. 7: Tom Grogan

He replaced Chuck Long as the starter for the second game of the 1982 season against Iowa State, but then Long replaced Grogan as the starter for the next game and went on to become arguably the greatest quarterback in school history. Grogan also lettered once in basketball as a shooting guard in 1980.