A blush of pink wrong for OSU

Pink locker rooms at OSU

By Marc Katz

Yes, I’ve been inside the University of Iowa’s infamous pink visitors’ locker rooms, and don’t really think they made any difference at all, except to the guy who had them painted that way, UI coach Hayden Fry.

It’s odd, the things you think about when you’re watching the big state team in Columbus get smacked around by the Hawkeyes on television. I must admit, my first thought a couple Saturdays ago was “thanks” since I didn’t have to be there, seeing as how it was a chilly day and I don’t work well in the cold.

I’m only gong to briefly mention Michigan State, since that game was played after I wrote this. Some day I’ll tell you about the interview room at MSU. Ugh.

It wasn’t painted pink. Fry, a psychology major in college, revived Iowa’s program from 1979-89 and thought pink was a soothing, calming color which would work to the disfavor of the visiting team. It must have worked on sports writers, too, since pink was the color of the room where we did post-game interviews.

Before Fry, Iowa football was as bleak as the Iowa City skies in late fall, and while expectations are always high, you kind of wonder how Fry lasted 20 years at Iowa with a 143-83-6 record while a guy like Earle Bruce went 81-26-1 at Ohio State and was gone after his ninth season.

The first time OSU played under the pink glow was 1980, and the Buckeyes won 41-7. It was the next time the Bucks came up short, in 1983, when tailback Keith Byars of Dayton Roth punched his way to 98 yards in the first half but also stretched a ligament in his knee and didn’t play in the second half.

An arts patron at the Dayton Alliance Gala on Saturday night (yeah, I attended) reminded me of that game and, really, the only thing I remembered was Byars’ injury. I had to look up the score. She was correct. Ohio State lost.

I don’t recall Bruce making such a big deal of the locker rooms, but some coaches sure did, especially Michigan’s Bo Schembechler.

He hung butcher-block paper on the walls, only to be outdone by a predecessor, Jim Harbaugh, last season. Harbaugh decorated the rooms with blue and gold (they call it maize) tarps and pennants.

Fry is long gone, but the possible pink effect remains. Michigan lost.

Schembechler didn’t do too well in Iowa City against Fry, either. He went 2-2-1.

Of course there have been detractors other than coaches. Critics say the use of pink “demeans women, perpetuates offensive stereotypes about women and homosexuality, and puts the university in the uncomfortable position of tacitly supporting those messages.”

Look, I was just there to report on a game.

One of those years, the Hawkeye souvenir stands were selling plastic batting helmets, only with a long beak taking the place of a visor in the front.

They were $10, as I recall, and a colleague offered to buy me one if I’d wear it to the post-game press conference.

I almost took him up on it, except I was afraid Iowa might pull another upset, and I didn’t want to face coach Earle Bruce wearing a Hawkeye helmet. I passed.

Of course, I’ll never forget the 1987 game at Ohio Stadium, the one that ultimately cost Bruce his job.

Trailing 27-22 with 6 seconds to play, Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb—in his first season after Long graduated—was in a fourth-and-23 situation at the OSU 28.

Yeah, he completed the pass, tight end Marv Cook at the nine on the right sideline, just before crossing the goal line as two OSU defenders ran into each other.

Before that play, then-OSU president, Edward Jennings, told athletics director, Rick Bay, he could accept whatever bowl bid came Ohio State’s way. The Buckeyes would be 6-3-1 with a game to play at Michigan.

Then came the pass. Ohio State was 5-4-1, and by the next morning, Jennings called Bay to tell him to fire Bruce—after the Michigan game.

Bay, of course, was having none of it. He wanted to keep Bruce, and if Jennings wanted to fire Bruce, he would be saying goodbye to Bay as well.

What a delightful week that was.

To make it even more delightful, the OSU players rallied around their coach, wore EARLE headbands under their helmets, and beat Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Dressing in a pink locker room suddenly didn’t look so bad to Mr. Schembechler.

OK, I’m getting a little off subject. More recent history about the pink locker rooms was in 2005 during remodeling; not only were the walls given a fresh coat of pink, the lockers, urinals, and carpeting were ordered in pink as well.

Ironically, the South Bend Silver Hawks, baseball’s team in the Midwest League, picked up the theme where the Dragons play.

In a recent remodeling, their visiting clubhouse was refashioned in pink.

South Bend didn’t win the pennant.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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