Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium is famous (or infamous) for its pretty and pink visiting locker room.
Visiting locker rooms are often cramped places that aren’t meant to be comfortable confines for a home team’s opponents, but the Hawkeyes take things up a notch with the paint job.
1. The paint has been around for over 30 years.
The origin comes from former coach Haden Fry.
Fry earned a Master's degree in psychology as a student at Baylor University, and legend has it he read that pink can have a calming effect on a person.
When he started coaching at Iowa in 1979, he ordered the walls in the visiting room to be pink. During a 2005 update of Kinnick, the toilets, lockers, etc. were added.
By Fry's recollection, the pink had a beneficial effect for his program.
"When I talk to an opposing coach before a game and he mentions the pink walls, I know I've got him," Fry wrote in his book, A High Porch. "I can't recall a coach who has stirred up a fuss about the color and then beat us."
2. Penn State coach James Franklin is one opponent who’s cool with it.
He delivered these comments to local media in advance of the Nittany Lions’ 2017 matchup with the Hawkeyes.
“I'm actually gonna talk to our guys about it being a really, really nice gesture by the University of Iowa to welcome Penn State since our original colors are pink and black,” Franklin said. “How wonderful it is and what a wonderful gesture it is that they painted their locker room pink for us.”
By the way, Franklin’s right. Penn State’s school colors were at one point pink and black.
One of the three students charged with choosing pink and black, George R. Meek, Class of 1890 and editor of La Vie, wrote: “We wanted something bright and attractive but we could not use red or orange as those colors were already used by other colleges so we chose a very deep pink – really cerise – which with black made a very pretty combination.”
Reportedly, it was a short-lived color. The pink faded too easily, and the baseball team got ridiculed for the duds. After two and a half years, Penn State switched to the blue and white they sport today.
3. Michigan had its own way of dealing with the locker room a few years ago.
They attempted a hearty remodeling job.
4. Here’s what it looks like in this sweet promo, with what sounds like Ed Norton channeling his Fight Club character.
5. But not everyone is a fan of the pink locker room.
A university professor at the time, Erin Buzubis, made it her goal to get the locker room back to normal, and Iowa fans responded by selling pink apparel with the Hawkeye logo all over it.
Some people took their disdain for Buzubis’ comments way too far, with death threats as well.
She’s far from the first to take up the crusade. A former faculty member said Iowa could be open to legal challenge because of the locker room. In 2014, a professor organized a march in protest, and wrote an op-ed criticizing the tradition.
Does a pink locker room directly lead to violence against women and gay people? Of course not, but it does reinforce the narratives about what it means to be a "real" man that kids are exposed to from a very young age.
This creates a subtle and harmful ripple effect — especially when it's officially sanctioned by the university.
6. Iowa’s not the only team that does it, too.
A minor league team in South Bend, Indiana recently did the same thing when it renovated its stadium.
For now, the locker room is certainly here to stay at Kinnick.