Hawkeyes in Hollywood: A recap of the University of Iowa in famous movies and TV shows

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When you think of Iowa, you don’t really think of Hollywood. The Hawkeyes aren’t the flashiest university around and not really the team you picture when you hear “marketability.”

While Iowa has a very strong local fanbase, they certainly aren’t the national superpower that teams like Alabama, Ohio State, or Notre Dame are. You would be surprised, though, just how well represented the University of Iowa has been in movies and television. Here’s a look back at some of the best and wackiest examples of the Iowa Hawkeyes in pop culture.

A.C. Slater almost wrestled for Iowa

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – MAY 01: Fan “A.C. Slater” poses for portait at the Saved By the Max Los Angeles opening night pop up on May 1, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

For people of a certain age group, “Saved by the Bell” was a defining show of their generation. If you were a teen growing up in the early 90’s, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

In the fourth-season episode “Wrestling with the Future,” star athlete A.C. Slater, played by Mario Lopez, is offered a scholarship to wrestle at the University of Iowa.

Slater was pretty much the most dominant athlete in television history, All-City in four different sports even as the basketball and wrestling seasons ran together. Imagine Slater headlining a lineup with Spencer Lee or manning the quarterback position for the Hawkeyes.

'Water sucks, it really really sucks'

Sep 13, 2008; Los Angeles, CA; USA; Henry Winkler poses with Southern California Trojans Song Girls cheerleaders at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what critics think, Adam Sandler’s 1998 smash hit “The Waterboy” is one of the most iconic football movies to ever hit the big screen. Full of quotable lines and scenes, one of the best scenes in the movie features the Iowa Hawkeyes.

I’m talking, of course, about the infamous “Water Sucks” scene where Coach Klein sends Bobby Boucher into a hallucination rage by dissing his favorite choice of hydration.

Henry Winkler says “Gaaatoraaaaade,” the line declares that “water sucks (it really really sucks).” Bobby Boucher blocks and returns the field goal for a touchdown, and the audience cries laughing even though they’ve seen the scene 50 times before.

Sad Ending to the Patriot Bowl

Former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, left, and actor Craig T. Nelson share a moment with Quincy the dog on the set of the television show “Coach”, Feb. 10, 1995, in Universal City, Calif. Johnson will appear as himself in an episode in which Quincy ends up swallowing Johnson’s Super Bowl ring. AP Photo/Chris Martinez

“Coach” was a classic show in the 90’s about head coach Hayden Fox of the fictional Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles football team. After a successful season, the Screaming Eagles are invited to play in the inaugural Patriot Bowl in the season four episode “The Patriot Bowl.”

With pretty much the entire team out sick, coach gives his team a rousing speech before their big bowl game against Iowa in a blizzard. The Screaming Eagles would lose 71-7 against the bigger, faster, healthier, and more experienced Hawkeyes in a virtually empty stadium.

Iowa in a utopian society

Photo by Pro Shots/Sipa USA

The movie addition that inspired this list. The Bill and Ted franchise starring Alex Winter and the great Keanu Reaves has a massive cult following. In “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey,” while the Evil Robot Bill and Ted take over the lives of the regular Bill and Ted, we see a shot of their girlfriends getting angry. In the background, there is a Tigerhawk cap. Not sure why exactly there is one, but, hey! It’s great to see Iowa represented in such a prestigious film!

The Gray's Sports Alamanac

Actor Michael J. Fox, right, greets fans outside the theatre on Nov. 20, 1989 in Universial City, California where his latest film, “Back to the Future Part II,” premiered. AP Photo

A large part of the second film in the Back to the Future trilogy centers around a sports almanac. The Gray’s Sports Almanac was a book from 2015 (seven years ago now) that contained all the sports results from 1950-00. The older 2015 version of Biff obtains the book and travels back to give it to his younger 1955 self, Biff becoming one of the wealthiest men in the country in a dystopian new reality.

There’s a scene where young Biff is realizing that the book is actually accurate, despite dismissing it at first. One of the results is Iowa losing to Ohio State, 20-10. If you look back in your own almanac, you can see that the Hawkeyes did indeed lose to Ohio State, 20-10, on that date. Don’t you wish you could travel back in time now?

Alvin Mack learns the power of the Hawkeyes

Sep 7, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Wyatt Davis (52) against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Alvin Mack was one of the greatest college linebackers in fictional football history. Starting linebacker for Eastern State University in the 1993 film “The Program,” Mack was a can’t-miss prospect.

Played by Duane Davis, father of former Ohio State offensive guard Wyatt Davis, Alvin Mack played with an edge and took on blockers with ferocity. Mack’s heavy trash talking came back to bite him in the form of a pulling Iowa lineman ending his career.

Hawkeyes and horror

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

This is a weird one, sort of like the Bill and Ted addition to the list. Fright Night was a 1985 horror movie directed by Tom Holland (not the one you’re thinking of.) It is somewhat of a cult classic in the horror realm despite being a box office flop, a pretty common occurrence in the genre.

As main character Charley’s vampire neighbor Jerry Dandrige attempts to throw him out of the window, Charley fends him off with a pencil. Interestingly enough, his pencils are kept in an Iowa Hawkeyes cup.

Iowa basketball in Glory Road

In this March 20, 1966 file photo, Don Haskins coach of Texas Western, receives congratulations as his team is awarded the new National Collegiate Basketball championship in College Park, Maryland, after defeating No. 1 ranked Kentucky 72-65 in the NCAA finals at the University of Maryland. AP Photo/File

Glory Road was a 2006 sports movie made by Disney. It is based on the true story of the 1965-66 Texas Western basketball team. The Miners featured the first all-black lineup in college basketball history. They would go on to beat Kentucky in the championship in one of the greatest upsets in NCAA Basketball history.

In the movie, the Miners are getting pummeled by Iowa before coach Haskins lets the players really play their game. They win with a last-second bucket. It isn’t entirely historically accurate, the Miners beat Iowa that season pretty handily by 20 points, but Glory Road is still a must watch for any sports fan.

Tom Davis on the big screen

Iowa basketball coach Tom Davis yells to his players during the first half against Northwestern, Tuesday night Feb. 23, 1999, in Iowa City, Iowa. Davis was coaching his last home game for Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

In the 1998 classic “He Got Game,” former Iowa head men’s basketball coach Tom Davis plays himself as one of the coaches recruiting Ray Allen’s star basketball character, Jesus Shuttlesworth. One of the scenes with Davis can be seen in Bleacher Report’s thank you video tribute to Ray Allen.

'Who you like? Iowa?'

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

That’s right. One of the greatest television shows of all time even has an Iowa Hawkeyes reference in it, albeit very quickly. In the season three episode of “The Sopranos” titled “Fortunate Son,” Chris becomes a made man. At one point in the episode, we see Chris, Furio and others fielding bets from callers and reacting to college football bets of their own.

Furio turns and asks Chris, “Who you like? Iowa?” Chris responds that it doesn’t make a difference as long as it pays out. Chris would very shortly after find out that his USC bet was not destined to be on the winning end.

The college boyfriend

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In 1987’s “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Patrick Dempsey starred alongside Amanda Peterson about a high school kid from outside the popular crowd named Ronald Miller that paid Cindy Mancini $1,000 to pose as his girlfriend. There was just one problem, though. Cindy already had a boyfriend named Bobby Hilton (played by George Gray) that attended the University of Iowa.

Needless to say, it didn’t turn out well when Bobby showed up to a house party and found out Cindy was “dating” Ronald. Really, all things considered, not the nicest portrayal of a fictional Hawkeye, but a portrayal all the same.

The Iowa grad with a strange set of singing friends

Actors (L-R): Jerry O’Connell, Anthony Anderson and Michael Shannon attend the premiere of the film “Kangaroo Jack” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on January 11, 2003 in Hollywood, California. Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Jerry O’Connell is pictured here at the premiere of the film “Kangaroo Jack” in 2003. It was before that, though, when he starred as Joe in the 1996 movie “Joe’s Apartment.” The premise is strange to say the least. Joe is a recent, penniless grad from the University of Iowa that moves to New York needing an apartment and a job. What does Joe find? An apartment filled with thousands of talking, singing cockroaches led by voice actor Billy West.

One of the dream schools

Actor George Lopez of the ABC network show “The George Lopez Show” attends the ABC Primetime Preview Weekend on August 24, 2002 at Disney’s California Park in Anaheim, California. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Who wouldn’t consider the University of Iowa as one of their dream schools? On the ABC sitcom “The George Lopez Show” which aired from 2002-07, Lopez’s daughter on the show, Carmen, applies to the University of Iowa as one of her dream schools. Unfortunately, she is rejected and does not become a Hawkeye.

'Kiss him, kiss him'

Matthew McConaughey stands on the sideline before Texas’s annual spring football game at Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas on April 23, 2022. Credit: Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Matthew McConaughey is a proud Texas Longhorns fan, but it’s the Iowa Hawkeyes that are briefly featured in one of his films. In the 1999 comedy “EDtv,” McConaughey plays Ed who the television network True TV is putting together a 24/7 reality show. If you’re thinking it sounds eerily familiar to “The Truman Show,” then you’re not alone.

Anyways, as seen in the original movie trailer, a group of college girls from Iowa yell to the TV, “Kiss him! Kiss him!” while watching some of the romantic drama unfold with Ed.

A special forces Hawkeye

“South Park” creators Matt Stone (L) and Trey Parker appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” at the NBC Studios on October 5, 2004 in Burbank, California. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Okay, this one is a little zany, but did you know that Gary Johnston in “Team America: World Police” is a former Broadway actor with college majors in Theater and World Languages from… the University of Iowa? That’s right. The protagonist in “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s 2004 film has Hawkeye ties.

'I hope Fry knows the one for the gipper speech'

Actors Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange attend The Film Society of Lincoln Center honors Jessica Lange at Avery Fisher Hall April 17, 2006 in New York City. Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

In the 1984 film “Country,” we see the cast watching the Iowa Hawkeyes play. Otis (played by Wilford Brimley) turns and remarks to Gil Ivy (played by Sam Shepard), “I hope Fry knows the one for the gipper speech.”

The All-American running back from Iowa

1983: The “M*A*S*H” cast for the 11th and final season (1982-83) which ended with a 2-1/2 hour “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” special on Feb. 28, 1983. File, Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In the season five episode of “M*A*S*H” titled “End Run,” Sergeant Billy Tyler makes an appearance. According to the show, he was a former All-American running back at Iowa. He recounts his playing experiences against Minnesota with Radar saying, “There’s always a way to beat ’em. You just have to keep trying till you find it.”

'Available while supplies last'

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 23: (L-R) Director Breck Eisner, actor Timothy Olyphant and producer Michael Aguilar arrive at Overture’s “The Crazies” VIP screening at the Vista Theatre on February 23, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Overture

“Football fans, show your support this offseason with our University of Iowa Hawkeyes snack pack! One jar of hot sauce and one jar of salsa in a collectible Iowa Hawkeyes helmet. Available while supplies last only at Quik Phil’s!”

That’s what blares out over the speakers at Quik Phil’s gas station in the 2010 horror film remake “The Crazies.” I’m sure everyone will be jumping at the opportunity to snag that collectible given the circumstances.

'Hey, is this heaven?' 'No, it's Iowa'

Commissioner of Major League Baseball Robert D. Manfred and actor Kevin Costner take questions before tonight’s game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox near the Field of Dreams movie site outside of Dyersville, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register

This might be taking a little bit of liberties with the criteria here, but what the heck, why not? In the 1989 baseball classic “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner’s character is asked, “Hey, is this heaven?”

He famously replies, “No, it’s Iowa.”

We’re sure there’s plenty of other moments that haven’t been included here, so feel free to pass those along and we can update the list with more Hawkeyes in Hollywood moments.

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