Putting a price on the Iowa-Northwestern rivalry

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

No self-respecting list of Big Ten rivalries would put Iowa-Northwestern in the top 5, though the bile between the Hawkeyes and Wildcats is certainly growing.

The series has been competitive since 1995 (Northwestern leads 7-5), and last season added some fuel. Northwestern beat Iowa in Iowa City and finished with a better overall record at the end of the regular season (9-3 vs. 8-4), but the Hawkeyes leapfrogged the Wildcats come bowl-selection time, as the Outback Bowl chose Iowa and its sizable fan base.

The rivalry definitely has heated up between fans of both teams, and I know Northwestern players consider the Hawkeyes their top rivals.

Iowa might have stoked the fire even more after announcing its single-game ticket prices for 2009, The (Cedar) Rapids Gazette's Mike Hlas writes in The Hlog blog (man, I love typing that).

The school listed Michigan ($70) and Arizona ($65) as its premium games for 2009, while tickets for the other five home contests, including a Nov. 7 meeting with Northwestern, will be $52. Hlas contends that by grouping Northwestern among the less-attractive games and highlighting a still-rebuilding Michigan team and a possibly rebuilding Arizona squad, Iowa is dissing the Wildcats.

"Michigan went 3-9 last season. Northwestern was 9-4. But the Iowa organization deemed Hawkeye fans' interest in seeing a rebuilding Wolverines program is higher than watching a Wildcats team that beat Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2008!

You would think Iowa might at least consider jacking up the price of the Northwestern game instead of the Sept. 19 meeting with Arizona. Arizona? Iowa and Arizona don't have a rivalry. The don't share a climate, let alone a conference. They haven't met in 11 years. It's just a game."

Hlas makes a pretty good pitch for why the Northwestern game deserves premium status.

"Those smarty-pants from Evanston got us here last year, the promotions could say. But this time it's personal.

OK, it's not an original line. Still, it will be personal. For both sides.

Those Iowa hicks took our Outback Bowl spot, Northwestern can say. Those Wildcats didn't beat us, we beat ourselves with turnovers, the Iowa side can say.

Run a reverse, Iowa ticket office. Sell $70 tickets for the Northwestern game, and $52 seats for Michigan."

It's an interesting take, though I'm not totally sold and neither is my pal Darren Rovell of CNBC. Michigan travels much better than Northwestern and has a national following. I can see why Iowa fans would be less hesitant to open their wallets for the Maize and Blue.

Then again, Iowa sold out 36 consecutive games until the 2008 regular-season finale and returns a top 20 squad this fall. Iowans aren't immune to the economic struggles, but they probably would pay a little extra to see their team play a meaningful November game against a decent team like Northwestern.