‘Swarm’ vs. ‘Row the Boat’: Unifying mantras redefine programs when players buy in

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On the surface, Minnesota’s “Row the Boat” mantra and Iowa’s “Swarm” concept don’t appear to be all that similar. But when you take a deeper look at the programs, they both value togetherness and culture, even if the Gophers and Hawkeyes are completely different stylistically.

“Every good football team has to have camaraderie and guys that are unified and playing together,” Iowa junior linebacker Nick Niemann said. “The Swarm is what we show on the field, but I think we live it in the locker room and on the field. We’re a team that wants to be together, and that’s what the successful teams have been like at Iowa.”

“I don’t know exactly, because I’m not in there at Minnesota,” Iowa sophomore offensive lineman Kyler Schott said. “But for us, the Swarm is…it’s just everything. That’s what we look forward to, it means we’re together, we’re unified, ready to go on Saturdays.

“You know, you can have a slogan, but if you don’t have the right message with it, it really doesn’t mean much,” Iowa senior quarterback Nate Stanley said. “I don’t know what else they’re saying about it, but to them, obviously, it means to make sure that they’re all going in the right direction… same with our Swarm.”

“Mantras and words or concepts are just that, they’re words or concepts until players really understand what the concept means, what the meaning behind it is,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “At some point hopefully there’s an illustrative moment, if you will, or moments that really help reinforce the things that you’re trying to get across to your football team, and they clearly are — they’re all on the same page right now, there’s no question about that.”

Of course, Hayden Fry brought the Swarm concept to Iowa City in 1979. Three seasons later, Iowa was in the Rose Bowl. P.J. Fleck and “Row the Boat” are in their third season in Minneapolis, with the Gophers’ sights set on Pasadena and more this season.

Iowa and Minnesota are getting set to renew their rivalry on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The Gophers are a perfect 9-0 this season.

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