Thursday, January 19, 2006

Iowa Gave Montana 'An Offer We Couldn't Refuse' [Of $450,000-Plus], So the I-AA Team Will Be the Hawkeyes' Opening Foe At 'New' Kinnick On Sept. 2

When Iowa came calling, Montana couldn't say no.

"Iowa gave us an offer that we couldn't refuse," University of Montana athletic director Jim O'Day said.

O'Day made his comment while announcing that his Division I-AA school will be Iowa's opening football opponent next Sept. 2 in the newly-renovated Kinnick Stadium at Iowa City.

Montana made the announcement of the game on its athletic website.

"[The game] will allow us to meet a number of official needs in or department as well as within the Grizzly football program," O'Day said. "It will also give us reassurance that our deficit situation from two years ago will be paid off at lezst two years early."

O'Day didn't release details of the contract with Iowa, but said the dollar amount was substantially higher than the guarantee received last year from the University of Oregon.

The Billings [Mont.] Gazette said the guarantee from Oregon was $450,000. Oregon won the game, 47-14.

Western Michigan was supposed to be Iowa's opening opponent next September, but evidently didn't want to honor the contract. For whatever reason, the school disappeared from the Hawkeyes' schedule.

So Iowa, a Division I-A school, was in need of a game, and decided to schedule an opponent from a lower NCAA division.

To make way for the Iowa game, Montana has canceled its Sept. 16 home game against Division II Central Washington.

"We are constantly working on our football schedule to assure the most success for our program," O'Day said. "It's a continual 12-month process. While understanding that Griz fans request upcoming schedules as early as possible, sometimes decisions are made after the fact that are deemed worthwhile to the university."

Montana football coach Bobby Hauck likes the idea of playing Iowa.

"This is a great opportunity to play against one of the best football programs in the country and to test ouerselves against a team from the Big Ten Confernece," said Hauck. "Iowa is one of [four] teams in the country that have played [January bowl games] the past four seasons, and they are also the winningest team, along with Ohio State and Michigan, in the Big Ten during the same period.

"Obviously, we will have our work cut out for us. With that being said, we are excited about having the chance to play in one of the greatest venues in all of college football."

Iowa finished the 2005 season with a 7-5 record that included a 31-24 loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl.

One of the Hawkeyes' victories was over Division I-AA opponent Northern Iowa, 45-21. The Panthers went on to finish second in the I-AA championship game, losing to Appalachian State, 21-16.