Say hello to game day goodwill

Kevin Velovitch welcomes Northwestern fans to Iowa City at the Northwestern University alumni tailgate on Saturday.

Kevin Velovitch welcomes Northwestern fans to Iowa City at the Northwestern University alumni tailgate on Saturday. Photo by Tim Schoon.

There are few experiences comparable to a football game at historic Kinnick Stadium.

From the moment you enter the tailgating area, you can feel the energy throughout your entire body. College students, parents, and children are completely covered in black and gold. When the Iowa Hawkeyes enter the tunnel to “Back in Black” and take the field to “Enter Sandman,” chills run up your spine. Whether you’re a Hawkeye fan or an opponent visiting Iowa City, nothing can ruin game day at Iowa.

Nothing except foul language, inappropriate gestures, and belligerent fans.

One student organization on the University of Iowa campus, Hawks Nest, is working to make every sporting event enjoyable. The group also is trying to bring more students and community members to all University sporting events.

Hawks Nest defines itself as the official student section of Hawkeye athletics. Founded in August 2009, Hawks Nest addresses the need for a liaison between students and the UI Department of Athletics.

“Our main goal is to create a fun and respectful atmosphere for the players and fans,” says Kevin Velovitch, Hawks Nest president. “We are a nine-person executive board that provides ideas for improvements to the game day experience and administers changes.”

One initiative that Hawks Nest is planning this year is having Hawkeye Greeters around Kinnick Stadium. Different student organizations will walk around and welcome visitors during the games against Northwestern University, Indiana University, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State University.

“The goal is to create a positive atmosphere for all,” Velovitch explains.

Hawks Nest is known for putting on Hawkapalooza—a pep rally and concert before the first football game—the past three years. The group also organizes bus trips to away football, wrestling, and basketball games, and hosts meetings for students featuring a UI coach, student athlete, or athletic administrator.

“We are still going to be competitive and loud when cheering on all Hawkeye sports this year. This is just to ensure that we treat everyone with respect, and we are respected when the Hawkeyes travel to other schools.”

—Kevin Velovitch,
Hawks Nest president

In conjunction with its charter, Hawks Nest hosted the third annual Big Ten Sportsmanship and Spirit Conference in July to discuss how to handle the issues with obscenities and attendance at sporting events.

The conference provided an opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss challenges that all Big Ten universities are facing with their sporting events. Hawkeye Greeters is an example of one of the ideas adopted from other schools—both Ohio State University and Penn State University have game day greeters.

This year was unique because the conference was organized around the intention to create a tangible document to support the mission of student sport sections.

“Hearing about initiatives that were successful at other universities provided us with ideas that we are going to try to implement,” says Lauren Whalen, vice president of Hawks Nest. “We also discovered that we were unique in having such a close relationship with both the athletic department and administrators in order to accomplish our goals.”

After three long days of discussion, disagreement, and compromise, the end result of the conference was the creation of the Big Ten Sportsmanship and Spirit Agreement. This is a student-produced document that states how Big Ten students and schools are expecting their fans to behave at all athletics events.

The agreement reads, “We, as students of the Big Ten, strive to create a respectful and enjoyable environment for all fans, student athletes, coaches, staff, and officials while maintaining a competitive spirit and exhibiting positive sportsmanship.”

Hawks Nest plans on moving forward with the agreement and sportsmanship initiatives. According to the organization, the document soon will be printed on the back of season tickets, and Hawks Nest will look for opportunities to help fans learn the agreement.

“We are still going to be competitive and loud when cheering on all Hawkeye sports this year,” Velovtich says. “This is just to ensure that we treat everyone with respect, and we are respected when the Hawkeyes travel to other schools.”