Spotlight Iowa City: Making Hawkeye game day run smoothly


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Paula Jantz is not a member of the Iowa football team.

But every home game day, the petite 56-year-old woman joins the Hawkeyes in their tradition of tapping the bronze helmet on the Nile Kinnick statue as they enter the stadium.

Although she is not on the field scoring touchdowns, she works behind the scenes to make the game possible. During a football contest, she can be found on the fourth level of Kinnick Stadium in the operations and event-management booth with a buzzing cell phone and crackling walkie-talkie.

Her official title is associate director for athletics for event management and operations — in other words, she is responsible for coordinating all Iowa home sporting events.

“Our main focus is to make sure that our student-athletes, coaches, and fans have the best game day experiences they can have,” Jantz said.

The well-known director really needs no introduction for most.

“Everyone knows who she is,” said Ashley Carlson, a sports-information employee. “She runs a great group of event managers, and things always seem to run smoothly.”

After 30 years of experience in the department, Jantz is undoubtedly an expert in hosting athletics events. In 1980, after two years of working as a graduate assistant, she was offered a full-time position in the Iowa women’s athletics department.

Twenty years later, when the men and women’s sectors merged, Jantz snagged the position as an overseer for the entire department.

Now her responsibilities range from working directly with teams, strength and conditioning programs, equipment rooms, the UI police — the list goes on and on. With so many people reporting to her, employees say her chipper personality and friendly disposition aid communication and coordination among departments.

“I really just can’t say enough about what she does,” said Dave Visin, an associate director of the UI police. “She’s always positive no matter what trial comes. With events, we hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and it’s important to have a good attitude.”

When coordinating a competition as immense as a Hawkeye football game (Kinnick Stadium has a capacity of roughly 70,000) maintaining a positive attitude under that amount of pressure may seem impossible.

But for Jantz, it’s just part of the job.

“Our plan is once the game starts, we won’t have to work because we hope everything goes smoothly,” she said.

And although not all Iowa sporting events are as highly attended as football games, she said her pleasure comes from facilitating the student-athletes and watching them succeed, no matter the sport.

Her department takes pride in every event it hosts, which ranges from 175-180 per year. She said putting on a first-class competition and making the Iowa experience enjoyable to all is her top priority, and that she treats spectators as “guests in our house.”

“The icing on the cake is when you can sit back and watch students participate. To watch somebody achieve their goals — there’s nothing greater than that.”

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