Here's Where to Find the Most Heartwarming Tradition in College Sports
Fair warning: it's impossible to watch this without tearing up.
If you find yourself at University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium on a Saturday in the fall, you can be sure of a few things:
You’re going to be surrounded by a sea of exuberant fans dressed in Hawkeye yellow.
You’re going to see some great football.
And at the end of the first quarter, something extraordinary is going to happen.
Since last year, at the end of the first quarter at every home game, every single person in Kinnick Stadium — from the 70,000 yellow-clad fans to the players and referees on the field to the bands and concession vendors — turns and looks up at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and waves at the kids and their families inside, who have gathered at the windows to wave back.
It’s a simple gesture rendered pure magic on a grand scale — and it’s nearly impossible to watch without tearing up. Go on, we dare you to try:
What’s now known as the Hawkeye Wave began as an idea shared by an Iowa fan on Facebook, and has since been covered by national news outlets, gone viral on social media, and was even featured in a Carrie Underwood music video.
Residents of Iowa City say it’s no coincidence that college sports’ most heartwarming tradition can be found here.
“The culture of Iowa City is one of the most welcoming and open-armed communities I have ever experienced,” says Katherine Crosby, a student at the University of Iowa. “The Wave could not be better fit for any place besides Kinnick Stadium. I love seeing everyone take just a moment to put any differences aside and remember the power of being ‘Iowa Nice.’”
Mark Nolte, President of the Iowa City Area Development Group, says the wave is a perfect example of Iowa City’s culture: “The prevailing mindset of the people who live and pass through here as students is one of forward orientation, a willingness to consider new ideas and an embrace of diversity,” he says. “The Wave is a reminder that no matter what, we know what is really important. We put people and family first.”
From city leaders to hospital staff to students, Iowa City locals tend to describe their hometown using similar words: Kind. Welcoming. Caring. Generous.
Iowa City isn’t just a place that pauses its beloved college football games to wave at kids in the hospital, it’s a place that offers new residents a local “wingman” to help them make friends and find job opportunities. The sense of community here is palpable every day, and extends far beyond the walls of Kinnick Stadium.
(It’s no coincidence that Iowa City clocked in at #4 on Livability’s Top 100 Best Places to Live list this year.)
For Michael J. Humpal, a former Hawkeyes linebacker, the Hawkeye Wave represents everything he loves about the place he calls home. “Regardless of where they are from, people feel at home in Iowa City,” he says. “This is a very caring and compassionate city willing to lend a helping hand to less fortunate individuals, and the Hawkeye Wave symbolizes that helping hand.”
As a former player, Humpal remembers being laser-focused on game days, but would have gladly made an exception to take part in the Hawkeye Wave. “I can't imagine anything else being worthy of pulling the team's attention away from the game. And for the coaches to support and contribute to Wave, it makes many Iowa Alumni proud to be Hawkeyes.”
Kelsey Laverdiere, Assistant Athletics Director of Marketing, agrees. “The people of Iowa City truly care about each other," she says. "Iowa City is special because we are all on the same team.”