COLUMN: A look back: Big 10 champs visit here

Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

   It always amazes me, when I stop and think about it, how the Great Jones County Fair draws some of the biggest nationally-known musical acts (usually country) to our small town.

   Apparently some big names have come to Monticello from the sports world, as well.

   Judy Tuetken and Bob Goodyear were in our office recently and talked to me about some remarkable happenings in Monticello more than 50 years ago.

   Judy recalled that, once upon a time, Monticello High School’s athletic teams held an awards banquet, and the featured guests were members of the University of Iowa men’s basketball team.

   She even suggested that the Hawkeyes might have been Big Ten champions the year they came to Monticello.

   I’ve only been here since 1998, but it seemed implausible to me. So you’re telling me Iowa wins the Big Ten title, and celebrates it at a large banquet held not in Iowa City, not in Cedar Rapids or Des Moines, but in Monticello?

   I looked it up. Turns out, she was right.

   The giant, lead headline from the Express issue of March 26, 1970 read: “Athletic banquet attracts record crowd of 1,200.”

   The big draw, of course, was the Iowa team (then referred to as State University of Iowa, or SUI), which in fact won the Big Ten title in 1970.

   The unnamed Express reporter who covered the event wrote, “This undoubtedly makes the banquet one of the largest ever held anywhere in the State of Iowa.”

   In addition to the Hawkeyes, who presented their team awards that night (John Johnson was named Iowa’s Most Valuable Player), Gov. Robert Ray was on hand, and introduced as Iowa’s No. 1 Sports Fan. Iowa coach Ralph Miller spoke as well, stating that those Hawkeyes were “the finest team I’ve ever coached.” Youngsters stood in line to get autographs from the Hawkeyes.

   It also turns out this wasn’t the only time the Hawkeyes were part of Monticello’s athletic banquet. My research through old issues of the Express indicated that Iowa’s team also attended the banquets in 1962, 1966 and 1968 (there may have been more, but those were the ones I could find).

   The banquets honored varsity basketball squads from MHS and Sacred Heart, the MHS football team, and MHS wrestling team.

   And, amazingly, the Hawkeyes.



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