When Iowa played USC in the FedEx Orange Bowl in 2003, Iowa Hawkeyes fans turned South Florida black and gold. So much so that tourism officials are hoping the Hawkeyes’ return to the Orange Bowl will be just as lucrative.
“I tell you I feel very bullish, because I remember a few years ago when Iowa played and they had their yellow shirts and those yellow shirts were here early and they stayed late. You saw them all over town,” said Bill Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Whether fans of Iowa’s OB opponent, Georgia Tech, will travel as well isn’t known, but Talbert is optimistic about them as well. “Georgia -- and Atlanta -- is one of the strongest vacation feeder markets for Miami and in January, it will be cold there and warm here.”
And, of course, Georgia Tech hasn’t played in the Orange Bowl since losing to Florida in 1967.
But back to Iowa. Experts say Iowa fans in South Florida outnumbered Trojans fans by as many as four to one. USC pounded Iowa 38-17 in the game.
“I don’t know if the same numbers will be there as last time because last time was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen,” said Tom Kakert, publisher of hawkeyerepoort.com, who spoke to me while driving in a snowstorm. “They had 25,000 people show up for a pep rally.”
But Kakert expects the Hawkeyes to be well represented again, even though they’d thought they might be going to the Fiesta Bowl instead.
“A lot of people have a lot of good feelings about South Florida. They enjoyed that trip, even though they didn’t enjoy the results of the game.”
The economy and the late Jan. 5 date of the game at Land Shark Stadium are likely to prevent some fans from attending this time, he said. But, he reminded, temperatures will be around 10 degrees in Iowa in early January.
“Hawks fans are excited,” he said. “They’ll be ready to go.”