Everyone noticed the T-shirt.
Spencer Petras showed up for Tuesday’s Iowa media availability wearing a “Baum Squad” shirt to honor center Tyler Linderbaum, who was named to the All-Big Ten first team earlier in the day.
“I stole this one directly from Tyler’s parents’ house,” Petras, Iowa’s quarterback, said with a sly smile. “They had it made a while ago. I found this in his closet, so I took it. He’s probably going to be pissed I wore it.”
When Petras was done answering questions, he noticed Linderbaum was waiting for his turn.
“Here comes the Baumer,” Petras said, still laughing.
You could hear Linderbaum’s response, and we’ll leave it at that.
“I don’t know how he got (the shirt),” Linderbaum said when he got to the podium. “I think he got it from my house somewhere. It wasn’t mine.”
The Hawkeyes were in a good mood during their morning session. They closed the regular season with six consecutive wins, and were preparing for Saturday’s scheduled Big Ten Champions Week game against Michigan at Kinnick Stadium.
Still, it is 2020, it is the COVID-19 pandemic, and they knew as well as anyone that anything was possible.
“Like, we don’t even know if we’re going to play the game coming up this Saturday,” defensive end Chauncey Golston said.
A couple of hours later, the Hawkeyes got the news. No game, because of the virus issues the Wolverines have been facing.
“I think all of us were looking forward to this game, this challenge,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Unfortunately, it is not going to happen.”
The Hawkeyes made it through the eight-game season without a cancellation either from issues within their program or within someone else’s program.
Still, it’s 2020, it is the COVID-19 pandemic…
“We were really close,” Ferentz said. “Felt great about getting those games in, really close to getting a ninth.
“These kinds of things happen.”
There, of course, could be a scramble to find another opponent, but it would be a logistical puzzle that made no sense to be put together.
It made for nice social media chatter, but it also made no sense.
“Yeah, if there is any talk of that, I'm certainly not aware of it,” Ferentz said.
“I'd certainly be against it. This isn't baseball, with all due respect to basketball or baseball, where you play multiple games during the course of a week. Seventy-five percent of our preparation had already been done, maybe 80 percent, I don't know.
“Our staff has been working hard since Sunday morning getting ready for this ballgame. To try to flip it over and play somebody else this weekend, it wouldn't be fair to the sport. Most of all it wouldn't be fair to our players. Wouldn't be representative of the kind of team we want to put out on the field.”
So the Hawkeyes wait for Sunday’s bowl announcements. And Ferentz says he wants to play somewhere.
“Our goal is to play the eight games that were scheduled,” he said. “We had that ninth game, the concept was alive and well. We were hoping that would materialize. It just didn't work out. So be it. Now you move on to the next thing, which is announcements on Sunday.
“I know there's some bowls that may hold out. I would assume hopefully things have settled now. I would assume the bowls that are still standing are still going to push forward. As long as they do that, as long as one of them will take us, that's our plan. We want to play another game.”
The Hawkeyes, Ferentz said, have had a certain mindset since the Big Ten decided there would be a fall football season. The eight-games-in-eight-weeks format required a certain discipline, especially with no off weeks. Get to January 2, and well, you made it.
“I think we're all in agreement that's how we're going to do things,” Ferentz said. “That's been our mindset. We've taken it day by day, literally day by day. I think that's all you can do. I'm speaking for everybody in America really. We're all in the same boat here.”
Some have handled the seas a little differently than others.
For the Hawkeyes, it was an 0-2 start followed by a furious finish. Had they won Saturday’s game, they would have finished with more wins than anyone else in the Big Ten.
Instead, they’ll have the weekend off. Ferentz wants his players to relax. If Iowa’s medical staff determines it to be safe, they might get a couple of days away from campus.
“This has played weird mind games on a lot of people, not only in sports but just in general,” Ferentz said. “The way we're living right now is not normal, not healthy. Most of us are pretty social. We enjoy each other's company. That's the best part of life, friends, family, all that. All of us have been restricted.
“I'm no scientist, but I know that's not good for you. Social scientist. That's not what people do. People tend to do things. At least in our community we've been able to be together, do what we like doing. That's been our outlet.”
There’s no outlet this weekend.
“There's nothing to be disappointed about,” Ferentz said. “The game didn't materialize, we'll move on to the next one. I'll encourage the guys to take a couple days, clear their heads out, put their feet up, relax, feel good about what they've done, celebrate what they've done, feel good about it. When it's time to get back to work, we'll get back to work.”
One more game. Well, it is 2020, it is a pandemic…
“I'm really proud of our guys,” Ferentz said. “I can't say enough about what they've done. The leadership we've gotten, the camaraderie I've witnessed with everybody in the building. It's been gratifying. It would have been great to play one more game, knowing there's no guarantees. That's not going to happen. Now we move on to the next one.
“Hopefully there is a next one.”