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Archive for March, 2015

For the love of the game

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
The voice of Iowa home football and basketball games for a generation of Hawkeye fans died Tuesday at the age of 92. Reverend Canon Robert E. Holzhammer, better known at Kinnick Stadium, the Iowa Field House and later Carver-Hawkeye Arena as "Father Bob,'' was the public address voice for Iowa football and basketball games for more than a quarter century. He worked his first game at Kinnick in the fall of 1974 and began working basketball games that winter. He sat behind the mic at his final basketball game in 1999 and called his final football game in the fall of 2000. A native of Bellevue, Iowa, Father Bob grew up in Jackson County and began his college career at Iowa after serving as a flyer in the Air Force in World War II. After earning his undergraduate degree at Iowa in 1949, he earned a Master's in Divinity from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1952 and a Master's in American Church History from the University of the South in 1971. Holzhammer served parishes in Iowa Falls, Webster City and Dubuque before moving to Iowa City in 1962, becoming the rector at Trinity Episcopal Church. I first met Father Bob on my first assignment for The Daily Iowan, the perfect assignment for a green-behind-ears newbie. I was to write a personality feature which was published in the student publication's football Pregame section one day before the Iowa-Iowa State football game in September, 1980. We talked in his office at Trinity Episcopal, located just east of downtown Iowa City. He talked about his passion for sports. He once convinced the editor of the newspaper in Iowa Falls to let him work as a stringer, covering high school sports games in that area. He kept statistics and one week when the regular PA announcer was ill, Holzhammer was asked to fill in at an Iowa Falls football game. He became a regular and following his move to Iowa City, word of Father Bob's second "job'' reached the desk of Iowa director of athletics Bump Elliott. Iowa was looking for a PA voice to replace Bud Sutter in 1974 and Holzhammer was asked by Elliott to announce the spring football game. Calling himself a Hawkeye fan "for what seems like forever,'' Holzhammer attended his first Iowa football games in the Ironmen era as a youth. He accepted Elliott's offer and when Elliott liked what he heard Father Bob became the voice of Iowa athletics beginning that fall when new football coach Bob Commings worked his first game on the Hawkeye sideline. Holzhammer told me during that 1980 interview that he simply tried to be himself. "Jim Duncan of the Drake Relays has his (own style), Frosty Mitchell has his and I have my own,'' Holzhammer said. "I try not to give play by play. My intention is to pretend that I am a fan and I try to supply information that will add to the spectators' enjoyment of the game.'' His role, from the lean years of announcing games coached by Commings and Dick Schultz to Rose Bowl runs with Hayden Fry and a Final Four year with Lute Olson, was truly a labor of love. The small-town guy had a chance to rub elbows and get to know his heroes, both from the past and from teams whose names he called. "Announcing means a great deal to me,'' Holzhammer said. "I get far more out of it than what I contribute.'' Holzhammer is survived by a son, David of Iowa City, a daughter Mary of Deerfield, Ill., six grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Meredith. Services will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 11 at Trinity Episcopal Church and the family will welcome friends to a time of fellowship and celebration of his life at the Paul Brechler Press Box at Kinnick Stadium from 1-3 p.m. that day.

Mulling his options

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz does not plan to address roster changes until Iowa opens spring football practices on March 25, but today's report that Jake Rudock plans to spend part of his spring break next week investigating a graduate transfer possibility that could lead him to Michigan indicates that the two-year starter is more than mulling his options. Rudock, a microbiology and pre-med major, will earn his degree at Iowa in May and under NCAA rules, he can become eligible immediately as a graduate transfer at another institution as long as he enrolls in a graduate program not offered by Iowa. Former Hawkeye Cody Sokol followed that same path a year ago and started last season at Louisiana Tech. Rudock's situation has been fluid in reality since the end of the 2014 season. While his statistical performance improved in every measurable way from 2013 to 2014 - with the exception of the team winning one less game - Rudock's spot on top of the depth chart changed as the Hawkeyes began bowl prep. After a second-half collapse against Nebraska, a situation impacted as much by special teams issues and defensive lapses as the offense's inability to sustain drives, Iowa coaches allowed both Rudock and back-up C.J. Beathard to compete as the Hawkeyes prepared for the TaxSlayer Bowl. The pair shared snaps in Iowa's loss to Tennessee, and neither were particularly effective. Beathard did lead a pair of late touchdown drives, long after the outcome of the 45-28 game had been determined. Iowa coaches provided more than a hint that things were fluid at the position when they positioned Beathard at the top of a depth chart released in January. At that time, Ferentz indicated that the transfer of a quarterback was a possibility, but offered few details other than to suggest "it could be a fluid process.'' Multiple sources have indicated that Rudock has not been participating with the team in its offseason individual work, working out instead with last year's seniors as they prepare for the upcoming NFL draft and Iowa's March 23 pro day. That is where things stand today. Rudock has not spoken to the media since the end of Iowa's late November game against Nebraska, and those around him have declined to speak as well. That creates a situation that basically clouds a picture that is truly becoming clearer by the day, even if not much is being said.