The University of Iowa

In the news:From the DI sports desk, to international reporting on hunger and malnutrition

November 12th, 2018

Roger Thurow sits at a hotel in Kenya.

By Sarah Watson, The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa alumnus Roger Thurow left Iowa City for a long and storied career with the Wall Street Journal; afterwards, the now 61-year-old journalist went on to pen three internationally renowned books on hunger.

Looking back on his career now, he is quick to point out that his love of writing began at The Daily Iowan — on the sports desk, of all places.

In fact, Thurow says the UI community has him to thank for the Hawkeyes’ last 27 winning seasons in football. And he might just be right.

A senior in the fall of 1978, Thurow sat at the City Editor’s desk, fresh off a stint of leading the DI’s sports coverage the year before.

“You won’t believe it, but the Hawkeyes didn’t used to be very good,” Thurow says now.

He remembers it was Halloween. The Iowa football head coach Bob Commings hadn’t achieved a single winning season despite performing notably better than Frank Lauterbur before him. That three-year coach led the Hawkeyes to the team’s first winless year the season before Commings replaced him.

So Thurow huddled with the DI editor-in-chief at the time — Bill Conroy — to put their complaints in an op-ed appropriately titled “Commings must go.”

“Commings was brought in to lead the team to a better neighborhood. But now Iowa football is headed for the junkyard again,” the pair wrote at the time.

In the next state Board of Regents meeting, Commings was ousted as Hawkeye coach.

The university’s next hiring was Hayden Fry — with the characteristic aviator-style sunglasses and bushy mustache that can be seen all over merchandise in Iowa Book, the Hawk Shop, and Raygun.

He turned the Hawks around, leading the team to its first winning season in 19 years in 1981 and winning three subsequent Big Ten Championships. Kirk Ferentz continued Fry’s winning career and just this season clinched the title of the Hawkeye football coach with the most victories, beating out Fry.