PASADENA, Calif. -- President Reagan, a former radio announcer for the Iowa football team, said Thursday he wishes both the Hawkeyes and Washington Huskies the best of luck in Friday's Rose Bowl game but admitted he had a 'special place in my heart for Iowa.'
'Years ago I broadcast their football games in Des Moines,' the president said in a statement to be aired Friday morning during the Rose Parade. 'I find special meaning in that this New Year's Day, this Hawkeye team has made it to the Rose Bowl.'
The teams meet at 2 p.m. PST in the 68th Rose Bowl with Iowa listed as a 2 -point favorite by oddsmakers.
The final news conference featuring the teams was held Thursday at the Kiwanis Club luncheon with more than 4,000 people -- most of them Hawkeye supporters -- jamming the Pasadena Center with master of ceremonies Jimmy Stewart introducing coaches and players along with the governors of both states and the presidents of both schools.
Iowa Coach Hayden Fry, however, missed the event because of illness. The colorful and flamboyant coach was suffering from a bout with influenza, team officials said, and also missed a news conference Wednesday night.
Fry was expected to be on the sidelines to guide his team on New Year's Day.
'I'm sorry to hear Coach Fry is ill,' quipped Washington Coach Don James. 'I'd be a lot happier if it were some of his players.'
James said his Huskies will have a tough time penetrating the swarming Iowa defense, which ranked high in the final NCAA statistics.
'We've looked at 11 game films and I think Iowa has the best defense in the country,' James said. 'They've had some fine performances against some excellent football teams.'
Rain began falling in the Pasadena area Tuesday night and light rain fell again Wednesday and Thursday. More rain was forecast for Thursday night and early Friday morning with clearing skies predicted for kickoff.
The Rose Bowl field was covered with a tarpaulin and appeared in fine condition, officials said, but at least one Iowa player said a wet field would favor the Hawkeyes.
'If there's rain, maybe it will force Washington to keep the ball on the ground more,' said defensive end Brad Webb, 'and that has been our strength all season -- stopping the run.
'We were at the Rose Bowl Wednesday and I would think it would take an awful lot of rain to hurt that field.'
The governors of the two states made the usual interstate bet on the outcome of the game, with Washington Governor John Spellman promising to pay in wine, cheese and apples if the Huskies lose and Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray agreeing to pay in pork chops and turkeys.