April 5, 2023
How Iowa fans led the Hawkeyes to the national championship game
Clark, Czinano credit the Iowa faithful for their postseason run
When you hear the word “Iowa,” what do you think of? Corn? Farmland? The RAGBRAI bike race? While all very important to the culture of the Hawkeye state, nothing quite encapsulates the spirit of Iowans like their support of women’s basketball.
Iowa has been a hidden gem in the world of women’s basketball dating back to the 1920s when the fast-paced game of six-on-six was created to allow girls to play basketball. This style of play was extremely popular and led to the creation of the University of Iowa Women’s Basketball team in 1974.
Now, nearly 50 years later, the Iowa Hawkeyes put their state on the map with a historic appearance in the national championship game. According to players and coaches, they couldn’t have done it without the support of the Hawkeye fans.
“I truly don’t think we would be here if it wasn’t for our fans, the way they’ve traveled at home, at the Big Ten Tournament, out in Seattle, but now here,” Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark said.
Walking around the streets of Dallas, it felt like you couldn’t go more than a block or so without seeing someone in black and gold. Young girls proudly wearing Clark’s number 22 on their backs, fans of all ages with every kind of Iowa garb you could think of, from hats shaped like the Hawkeye logo to black and gold striped overalls.
The Iowa fans brought such a presence to Dallas that many of them proudly donned a gray shirt with the silhouette of the state of Texas in the back and the words “Carver South Final Four… Damn it!” referring to the large chunk of fans that traveled from the Hawkeyes’ home Carver-Hawkeye Arena down south for the Final Four.
Historic NCAA women’s basketball stats from Sports Reference
NCAA women’s basketball stats are now available on College Basketball Reference! Track your favorite teams and players through the season or check out daily stat leaders. You can also dive into their archives, which go back to 2001-02, when Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Swin Cash were still in school.
Click the link below to start exploring.
The loyal Iowans cheered the Hawkeyes to victories over Colorado and Louisville, punching their ticket to the Final Four. From there, “Carver South” helped lead them to upset the undefeated No. 1 seed South Carolina.
“I don’t think they quite realize, I think they just have fun watching, but the impact and the edge they bring us,” Monika Czinano said. “Obviously, this stage is different, but a lot of times teams aren’t used to having that many people cheering against them and it’s just really so special having the Hawk fans with us. They are the best fans in the country.”
While most spectators only stood up during player introductions or to cheer after an exciting play, Iowa fans were perpetually out of their seats. The reaction to every call in the Hawkeyes’ favor was as if it was a tied game with a minute left in the fourth quarter. Walking through the bustling concourse of American Airlines Arena, if one fan said, “I-O,” others would join in, “W-A.”
“It really did feel like Carver South,” Czinano said. “I remember hearing the ‘Let’s go Hawks’ and it was loud and it was proud. It shows the support Iowa has for women’s basketball.”
This support has been cited as one of the main factors that attract high school prospects to the University of Iowa.
“If you want to play in front of sold-out crowds, if you want to play for a fanbase that understands what’s happening in women’s basketball, you come to the University of Iowa,” Clark said.
Taylor Warnock, sister of Hawkeye senior guard McKenna Warnock, shared her memory of her sister’s decision to move from her hometown of Madison, Wisc., to the Hawkeye State and the presence of Iowa fans across the nation.
“The culture of basketball in Iowa was one of the main reasons she wanted to go to Iowa,” Taylor said. “I moved out to Seattle and just seeing Iowa fans there is crazy. I’ll wear an Iowa Hawkeyes shirt and someone will say, ‘Go Hawks,’ and that’s just an amazing thing.”
But what is it about this team that captivates fans and keeps their support going?
“I think it’s just the togetherness that we play with and the team camaraderie,” redshirt senior Kate Martin said. “The coaching staff is easy to root for as well, you know, they’ve been together for so long. It’s been the same starting five for the last three years, so our fans have really gotten to know us as people outside of basketball, as well. So once you get that type of relationship, you want to root for somebody.”
Add Locked on Women’s Basketball to your daily routine
Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.
Unfortunately, the support of Hawkeye fans wasn’t quite enough to bring the national championship trophy back to Iowa City. But their belief in and love for the team never wavered. When Iowa trailed by 17 points at the half against LSU, a young boy in a black and gold t-shirt cried in the arms of his father, who reminded him that life isn’t always about winning, but about the teamwork and friendships you make along the way. Clark had a similar sentiment after their 102-85 loss against the Tigers, the last game she would play with fifth-year senior Czinano.
“I told her after the game, I’m nothing without you,” Clark said. “She’s made me a better person, a better basketball player. And I’m just really lucky that I was able to play with [Czinano] and share a lot of really fun moments with her.”
Head coach Lisa Bluder also reflected postgame on what makes this team and the state of Iowa so special.
“I’m so proud of my team,” Bluder said between tears. “I’m proud of the women they are. I’m proud of what they stand for. The Iowa fans that came here in droves, I’m so thankful for them. I’m thankful that I get to coach at a university like the University of Iowa.”
Written by Rowan Schaberg
Rowan Schaberg (she/her) is a Seattle native covering the Seattle Storm for The Next. She is currently studying Sports Journalism at Colorado State University.
Iowa announced yesterday that they are no longer accepting season ticket deposits for the 23-24 season, which seems to sugget that they are selling out their 15K arena with just season tickets.