They also have to deal with … the pink locker room.
Yes, the visitor’s locker room at Kinnick is painted pink. The walls are pink. The floors are pink. The toilets are pink. It’s pink everywhere.
The locker room is beloved and controversial. And at least according to one Iowa coaching legend, it is a big key to Iowa’s home-field success.
The pink locker room was the brainchild of legendary Iowa coach Hayden Fry.
Fry was a psychology major at Baylor University, and once read that the color pink can have a calming effect on people.
So after he arrived at Iowa, Fry ordered pink for Kinnick’s visiting locker room. Some say Fry actually believed the color would calm his team’s opponents. Others believe he just wanted to mess with their heads.
As Fry wrote in his book, “A High Porch Picnic”: “When I talk to an opposing coach before a game and he mentions the pink walls, I know I've got him. I can't recall a coach who has stirred up a fuss about the color and then beat us."
Bo Hates Pink
Among the coaches who were annoyed by the pink locker room was Michigan’s Bo Schembechler.
By most accounts, Schembechler absolutely hated the locker room, going so far as to have his staff bring along paper from Michigan to cover the walls when his team played there. His efforts didn’t always work, however: Under Schembechler, Michigan was just 2-2-1 at Kinnick.
An Unexpected Controversy
As part of a massive renovation of Kinnick Stadium in 2004, the pink locker room got even pinker, as pink lockers, toilets and showers were installed to go along with the pink walls.
That didn’t sit well with some Iowa law professors and students, who in 2005 protested the locker room on the grounds that it reinforced stereotypes of women and homosexuals as weak. They charged that by having the pink locker room, Iowa was endorsing discrimination of those groups.
The protests caused a stir for a while, but public opinion seemed strongly in favor of the tradition. As Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins wrote that year: “I'm sure I should be more upset about the pink decor in the visitors' dressing room at Iowa. But as it happens, my violent knee-jerk reaction is that it's merely funny. If the armies of feminism want to change my thinking on that, they're going to have to slap electrodes to my pretty little forehead and zap me until I stop giggling.”
The pink locker room remains pink today.