Karras struggled in the beginning at Iowa, with classwork, homesickness, and with his coach, Forest Evashevski. He was a pledge at Sigma Nu fraternity during his first year in school. Karras probably would have left Iowa had he not befriended a Greek theater owner, Ernie Pannos, as well as fellow players Cal Jones and Bob Commings. Karras’ sophomore year with Iowa in 1955 got off to a rocky start when he showed up for practice twenty pounds (9 kg) overweight. Karras was also hampered that season by a cracked ankle bone. After being disappointed at not getting to play in the season finale, Karras threw a shoe at Evashevski and quit the team. Karras did not earn a football letter for the 1955 season.
Karras went to summer classes and later rejoined the football team, but a strained relationship resurfaced. Evashevski promised to start Karras in the 1956 season opener against Indiana, when he would square off against his brother, Ted. But Evy played Karras off the bench instead, and Karras quit the team again. This time, Karras agreed to rejoin the team only after making Evashevski promise he would not talk to him other than in a coaching capacity. (Evashevski always denied any special agreement with Karras.) Iowa took the lead in the 1956 Big Ten title race with a 7–0 victory over Minnesota. The Hawkeyes then clinched the Big Ten title and Iowa’s first-ever Rose Bowl berth by defeating Ohio State, 6–0. Karras sealed the game with a sack on the game’s final play.
Iowa’s final regular-season game in 1956 was 48–8 win at home over a struggling Notre Dame team. Karras called it his biggest college win, saying, “The Karrases have always had a rivalry with Notre Dame. The school was just sixty miles (97 km) down the road from our home and we wanted to beat ’em at anything.” However, after the game, Karras got into a physical battle with Evashevski. Karras did not enjoy his trip to the Rose Bowl, either. “Pasadena was the most boring town I’ve ever been in,” said Karras. Karras helped the Hawkeyes win the Rose Bowl over Oregon State, 35–19. He was a first-team All-American in 1956
As a senior in 1961-1962, Nelson averaged 23.8 points and 11.9 rebounds as the Hawkeyes finished 13-11.
In Nelson’s years at Iowa, the Big Ten conference was full of future NBA players. Among others, Ohio State had future Hall of Fame players in John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas, along with Larry Siegfried. Indiana had a future Hall of Fame inductee in Walt Bellamy, while Purdue had future NBA All-Star Terry Dischinger.
“It was a terrific training ground for the pros,” Nelson said. “So many of them became stars.”
“It’s an overused phrase, but the tougher the game got, the tougher Don played,” Scheuerman said of Nelson. “He always had a lot of savvy. Don did some things you just can’t coach. Some players have the body but aren’t mentally tough. Others are mentally tough but don’t have the body. Don had both.”
“I felt more responsibility and my teammates expected me to carry a bigger portion of the load,” Nelson said of his Iowa career. “I still look back at that time as one of the highlights of my whole career. Sharm did a terrific job coaching and we played some terrific basketball.”
“What I remember most about it is playing for Sharm and our relationship over 50 years and how close we were and how much I loved that man,” Nelson reflected in 2012 of Scheuerman, who died in 2010. “A role model certainly, but I could never duplicate that man’s life because he was so special. I certainly tried. I’m certainly a better person just by knowing him and talking to him. But we spent a lot of time together over the last 50 years.”
Overall, Nelson averaged 21.1 points (1,522) and 10.9 rebounds (784) in his 72 game Iowa career. He left Iowa as the program’s all-time leading scorer.
Historically, Iowa has been very successful in wrestling, with 34 team Big Ten championships and 23 team national championships. The Hawkeyes have also won national championships in five other sports: men’s gymnastics, football, field hockey, rifle and women’s track and field. In basketball, Iowa has reached the NCAA Final Four on four occasions. The men’s team has done this three times, most recently in 1980, while the women’s team has done it once, in 1993. The baseball team has reached the College World Series once, in 1972. Iowa’s softball team has played in the Women’s College World Series on four occasions, most recently in 2001.
College Sports Established
Iowa City, Iowa
University of Iowa
1973 – Present / NCAA Division 1
1915 – 1973 / University Division of the NCAA
1899 – Present / Big 10 Conference
Hawkeyes – The state of Iowa’s nickname is the Hawkeye State, and the University of Iowa borrowed its athletic nickname from the state many years ago. It is not clear how Iowans became Hawkeyes, but the nickname was first recorded in 1859. Some people believe that a Burlington judge, David Rorer, suggested the nickname based on a character in The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.
The name also got support from James G. Edwards of Fort Madison. Edwards, editor of the Fort Madison Patriot, moved his newspaper to Burlington, Iowa, and renamed it the Hawk-Eye and Iowa Patriot. The campaign to popularize the name was rewarded when territorial officials gave their formal approval in 1838.
The Hawkeye nickname gained a tangible symbol in 1948 when a cartoon character, later to be named Herky the Hawk, was hatched.
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