This week the University of Iowa enjoyed a rare moment of national relevancy. A female student, Samantha Goudie, aka “Vodka Sam,” tried to run onto the field at Kinnick Stadium and was arrested by the campus police. In custody, Goudie took a breathilizer test and the result showed an astounding .341 blood-alcohol content. That’s over four times the legal limit for driving. According to MADD.org, anything over .300 can be fatal. Yet for all the negatives of this situation, there is a lesson that Hawkeye alumni and football fans can take away from this situation. We were again reminded that on a national media level, Iowa football doesn’t matter.
A Google search for “vodka sam” yielded about 22,800 results. Recognizable internet media sources like Deadspin, The Huffington Post and The New York Post have featured articles on her. If you simply do a search for “northern illinois at iowa,” one of the top-10 results is an article about Goudie. The sites that popup are mostly entities local to the Iowa City area: The Chicago Tribune, the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Cedar Rapids’ KCRG TV-9. You have to go five pages, over 4o results deep, before you see a search result from last Saturday’s Hawkeyes-Huskies game coming from a nationally popular media source.
You’ve got to understand that Goudie’s story does fit in better with the usual angles covered by Deadspin, The Huffington Post and The New York Post than any Big Ten–MAC football game ever will. But you’ve also got to recognize that this is the most media exposure that Hawkeye football has gotten in almost four years. Nobody cared that Iowa had a very real chance to beat the team that Sports Illustrated ranked 24th in the nation. The fact that Kirk Ferentz was starting a 14th season with the Hawkeyes with a lot of questions about what it would bring has drawn little attention. But a previously unknown Iowa student who tweeted about blowing a death-defying BAC, that’s something.
This is just as much of a commentary on our media and society as it is anything else, but Hawkeye almuni and fans need to take notice. Outside of Big Ten country, we’re irrelevant. We’re not expected to contend for Big Ten championships, much less national championships, on a regular basis. Sure, we can have a magical year once in a while. In 2009, Iowa was the Cinderella-story of college football. Midnight struck through and we’ve been back to being pumpkins ever since. An immature display of stupidity that happened to take place in Iowa City gets more press than the football team.
Perhaps any press is good press. Perhaps there are some high school football players out there who otherwise might never have heard of Iowa and have now at least heard of the place. However, I doubt this headline has made many parents of those high school football players more conducive to sending their sons to Iowa City. Perhaps a program that already struggles to attract top recruits has just taken another hit. We don’t know for sure. What has been reinforced, though, is that unless you have women in their 20s running on your field and registering ridiculous numbers on the breathilizer, Hawkeye football is an after-thought.