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The Iowa Bets Song

Nicholas Johnson

Iowa City Press-Citizen

February 19, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 383 - Feb. 8," February 8, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "UI Football Promoting Gambling?" September 16, 2006

Nicholas Johnson, "Gambling on the Hawkeyes; Wanna Bet? NCAA to Legalize, Organize, Profitize Intercollegiate Sports Betting?" in "UI President Search Held Hostage Day 66 - Jan. 21," January 21, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "The analytically bizarre editorial about athletics and gambling," in UI Held Hostage Day 381 - Feb. 6," February 6, 2007

"The Iowa Fight Song"

Iowa Lottery Commercial Song

Tom Witosky, "Iowa Lottery Ends All Use of 'Iowa Fight Song'"

Tom Witosky, "Lottery Spot Ran Without a Review by AD Barta"

Note of Explanation: As the above links indicate, I have written from time to time about the ties between the UI athletic program and organized gambling. In February 2007 a controversy arose regarding a commercial run by the Iowa Lottery that used alternative lyrics for the Iowa Fight Song, location, colors and other indicia of the University of Iowa to help promote the Lottery. The Iowa City Press-Citizen has a weekly feature called "Poetic License" to which readers are invited by the editor to make submissions. Knowing of my position on gambling and athletics I was asked to submit a rewrite of the Iowa Fight Song expressing some of my concerns. It follows.

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

Poetic License

The Iowa Bets Song

by Nicholas Johnson

We'll take your cash or check or credit card

Let every loyal Iowan pay

You want a skybox serving alcohol?

Business is open every day (Buy now!)

We advertise casinos and lotteries

So coaches' living wages can be great

It's all for athletes' education

Until they graduate

Poetic License is a weekly feature in which the Press-Citizen asks local residents to comment poetically on current events.

"The Iowa Fight Song"
The word is fight, fight, fight for Iowa
Let every loyal Iowan sing
The word is fight, fight, fight for Iowa
Until the walls and rafters ring. (Go Hawks!)

Come on and cheer, cheer, cheer for Iowa
We're gonna cheer until we hear the final gun
The word is fight, fight, fight for Iowa
Until the game is won.

From "Lyrics on Demand,"

The lyrics set to the melody of the "Iowa Fight Song" begin this way:

"I'm gonna scratch, scratch, scratch my Diamond Mine.

I could win 30,000 bucks.

And, if I don't win big the first time,

You know I'm still not out of luck. (Oh yeah)."

Reproduced with Tom Witosky, "Lawyer calls ad's parody of U of I fight song illegal; He says that composer Meredith Willson's widow did not OK the Iowa Lottery TV commercial," Des Moines Register, February 11, 2007

Iowa Lottery ends all use of 'Iowa Fight Song'

Tom Witosky

Des Moines Register

February 12, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]

Iowa Lottery officials have ended all television and radio advertising of a promotion using a parody of the “Iowa Fight Song,” a lottery official said this afternoon.

Tina Potthoff, public affairs manager for the Iowa Lottery, made public a letter from lawyers representing Meredith Willson Music demanding the lottery cease and desist using the commercials and turn over all copies of the promotional materials using the song within 10 days.

Willson, who grew up in Mason City and is best know for writing and composing the musical “The Music Man”, wrote and introduced the Iowa Fight Song in 1951.

His widow, Rosemary, still owns the copyright of the song, according to her lawyer, Tom Camp.

In his letter to the lottery, Camp said that his client “has no record of having licensed your use of this composition.”

“Moreover we understand you are using the composition with parody or altered lyrics which is something our client would not have consented to in any event,” Camp wrote.

Concerns by Willson’s family and lawyers about use of the song were first reported in a copyrighted story in The Des Moines Sunday Register.

Potthoff said the television campaign ended Feb. 4. Radio broadcast of the commercial — heard as recently as Saturday during the Iowa-Wisconsin men’s basketball game — also are at an end, Potthoff said.

“There have been a lot of questions over the promotion, obviously,” Potthoff said. “All I can say is that we have been doing advertising and promotion like this for the past 20 years. We will be looking into this matter as a result of the correspondence we have received.”

Lottery officials have said they were approached about the campaign by Learfield Sports Inc., which holds the rights to advertising at Hawkeye athletic events and publications.

U of I athletic representatives approved the content of the commercials, lottery and U of I officials said.

The lottery plans to give away a Dodge Caliber SXT car customized in Iowa Hawkeye colors and logos on March 3 to individuals who entered the contest with non-winning scratch tickets for the “Diamond Mine” promotion.

The television commercial featured a Hawkeye fan sitting in Carver-Hawkeye Arena as he played the instant ticket game. As he scratched a ticket, the man parodied the fight song with new words as the original music played.

U of I athletic officials have acknowledged that they approved the use and content of the commercial. They also have said that they are looking into the use of the song to determine if it was used improperly.

Lottery spot ran without a review by AD Barta

Tom Witosky

Des Moines Register

February 9, 2007

Iowa City, Ia. - A controversial Iowa Lottery television commercial using the Iowa fight song and set in Carver-Hawkeye Arena went on the air even though it had not been seen or approved by Hawkeye athletic director Gary Barta.

Barta acknowledged Thursday he didn't see the TV spot before its broadcast last month, but he accepted responsibility for it. Barta said the commercial was reviewed by the athletic department's marketing department before airing.

"I did not (review it), but that is not an excuse," Barta said. "It was one of those things. It is my department, and I am responsible for it. When I did see it for the first time, I didn't care for how it turned out. But that's not the lottery's fault, that's our responsibility."

Barta, in his first year as Iowa athletic director, made his comments after a discussion of the advertising and promotional campaign by the Iowa Presidential Committee on Athletics, a student, faculty and alumni advisory group.

Controversy surfaced this week over the campaign in which the lottery will give away a Dodge Caliber SXT customized with Hawkeye colors and logos at halftime of the Iowa-Illinois men's basketball game March 3. Several faculty members suggested the athletic department sever its ties with gambling interests.

State records show the lottery spent more than $200,000 over the past three years on promotions tied to Iowa athletics. The lottery also spent $100,000 on promotions tied to Iowa State athletic events.

No decision was reached on recommending severing ties with gambling interests. But Charles Lynch, committee chairman, said the issue would be discussed next month. Lynch said he hoped the committee would vote on a resolution recommending action to school officials.

The faculty committee is advisory to the athletic department and the president's office and can't require action.

But that didn't stop several committee members from arguing that the athletic department shouldn't be promoting gambling interests.

"It felt wrong because it was wrong," Ed Wasserman, a psychology professor, told Barta during the meeting. "The simple answer here is to stop the relationship."

Wasserman said a major concern is that the athletic department will be viewed as supporting gambling when there appears to be a huge increase in gambling problems among college students.

He also said the department should consider adopting the NCAA's advertising standards that prohibit gambling businesses from advertising during NCAA-sponsored events.

"I don't think we've gained $40,000 to $60,000 in good will on this promotion," Wasserman said.

Barta said the use of Carver-Hawkeye and the Iowa fight song made him feel that the commercial had gone too far, but added that the department had approved the use of both.

"Shame on us," Barta said. "I didn't like the commercial, and my department was responsible. This shouldn't have happened."

But Barta said he thinks the lottery should be permitted to promote its products at Iowa athletic events and to use the school colors and logos.

He said that there will be a greater level of scrutiny in the future.