How AC/DC’s 'Back in Black' became the must-hear song on Hawkeye game day
Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2018.
It’s a Saturday in October and you’re up at 6 a.m. to make a familiar 115-mile drive from Des Moines to Iowa City.
It’s game day at Kinnick Stadium and your beloved Hawkeyes kick off in five hours.
You hit the parking lot by 8 a.m., ready to tailgate with friends and family. You’ve been waiting all week for this morning.
It’s a half-hour to kickoff and you head for your seat, anticipation coming to a boil as each team readies for battle.
But first, a little music. An eight count on the high hat and the Young brothers kick in with the gritty Australian guitar riff that’s provided rock ‘n’ roll adrenaline rushes for nearly 40 years.
“Yes, I’m back in black!” Brian Johnson screeches across the stadium’s speaker system.
Now it’s game time.
AC/DC’s 1980 rock anthem “Back In Black” first echoed through the stands at Kinnick Stadium in 2005, a pregame production effort introduced by HawkVision, the team responsible for in-game audio-video.
And it’s become a home game tradition as synonymous to Hawkeye football as the stadium-sized chants of I-O-W-A.
“That’s the first culmination of the morning,” said Ross Peterson, afternoon host on KXNO, Des Moines sports talk station. “You’re looking for a place to pour out your adrenaline. It’s the verge of that explosion. That moment seems to bring it together for everybody.”
In 2005, Kinnick underwent renovations to the south end zone that included adding a tunnel in the stadium’s southwest corner leading from the field to Hawkeyes locker room. Jim Berg, who leads game day production, knew the tunnel could play an integral role in the team’s introduction.
So, he put a camera operator in the tunnel to capture the team hitting the field, adding AC/DC as the soundtrack. And it stuck.
“(It’s that moment of) well, here comes the game,” Berg said. “There’s no stopping it now.”
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Former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle suggested “Back in Black,” Berg said, because the song played well for the players in the weight room.
It checked all the right boxes, said Mike Moriarity, HawkVision director. Big riff, anthemic rock song? Check. Popular across multiple generations? Check. Features one of the Hawkeyes' jersey colors in the song title? Bonus.
“We live in an era now where fans … they’re so used to the entertainment aspect of going to any kind of game,” Moriarity said. “If fans are paying money to go see an event they’re expecting to be entertained.”
Still, the production team didn’t realize they’d created a tradition until a few years later when the team accidentally entered the field without giving fans those few minutes of heart-pounding guitar.
“The university got quite a bit of heat for that,” said Dave Sibert, Hawkeye tunnel camera operator. “That was the first that we knew that it had actually become a tradition.”
And it’s a tradition fans should expect to experience for each game in the foreseeable future.
“Until there’s a new coaching regime, way in the future, I don’t think we’ll mess with it,” Moriarity said. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. And it works really well.”