Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State Cyclones Football History

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"Cyclones"

In the summer and early fall of 1895, an unusually large number of what were then referred to as “cyclones” wreaked havoc upon the state of Iowa. Had the United States Weather Service known a little bit more about climatology at that time, Iowa State might today be known as the “Tornadoes.”

That fall, however,
Iowa State football historyan underdog Iowa State 11 played at Northwestern. After building a commanding 30-0 halftime lead, the Cardinals, as ISU’s teams were then named, went on to post a shocking 36-0 rout of the Wildcats.

The game story headline in the next morning’s Chicago Tribune read “Iowa Cyclone Devastates Evanstontown,” and since that famous moment in Iowa State gridiron history, the athletic teams have been known as the “Cyclones.”

Origin of "Cy"
In 1954, a group of students that included pep council president Chuck Duncan, brainstorming on how to build more school spirit, approached Collegiate Manufacturing of Ames on creating a school mascot. Since the consensus was that you “couldn’t stuff a Cyclone,” a bird figure using the school colors (cardinal and gold) was the eventual choice. Duncan and the Pep Council then got a green light from ISU alumni director “Red” Baron, sports information Director Harry Burrell and Cyclone Club director Ray Donals.
A cardinal-like bird was introduced at the 1954 Homecoming pep rally. A contest was held to determine the cardinal’s name. The entry “Cy” won. Cy is short for Cyclones, and the cardinal figure represents the school colors as well as the original Iowa State nickname.
 
   

In 1894, a terrible tornado hit the Iowa town of Grinnell. During the summer and early fall of 1895, a number of "Cyclones" continued to wreak havoc on the state of Iowa. Hence, when Iowa State's (then called Iowa Agricultural College) football team blew away highly-touted Northwestern that fall, the winners were likened to a cyclone. The name stuck as this group of Cyclones helped propel Iowa State into the world of big-time football.

An organized group of athletes first represented Iowa State in 1892. In 1894, College President William M. Beardshear spearheaded the foundation of an athletic association to officially sanction Iowa State athletic teams. The 1894 Iowa State team finished with a 6-1 record, including a 16-8 victory in a bitter battle against what is now the University of Iowa.

A college football legend was the next catalyst in the growth of Iowa State's fledgling program. Glenn S. "Pop" Warner, later to become famous as coach of the Carlisle Indians, University of Pittsburgh, Stanford, and Temple, and also as the inventor of the double wingback system of offense, came to coach the Ames team for the first time. Warner, just beginning a coaching career that would span 44 years and 313 victories (currently ranking fourth on the all-time NCAA coaching list behind Eddie Robinson, "Bear" Bryant and Amos Alonzo Stagg), came to coach the team in the late summer before heading to Georgia where he had been named head coach. This arrangement was followed each year through the 1899 season. Before he left for his jobs in the east, Warner turned the 1895 reins over to Burt German, who was the team manager, one of the star backs and, during the regular season, a mentor. Warner's pre-season drilling soon paid big dividends.

Iowa State's team opened the season with a game against the Silver Bowl Athletic Club of Butte, Mont. The Ames team traveled to Montana on a train that included a combination tourist sleeper and dinner car. The squad had its own chef along. That luxury lost its glitter when the train became snowbound and ran out of food. The squad had to subsist on raw berries purchased at a sold-out general store for the balance of the trip.

The game was even rougher. The Butte team, comprised mostly of former eastern collegiate stars and a few hardy mountaineers, scored two touchdowns in the game's first 15 minutes. Warner, a gridiron standout himself at Cornell, suited up for the second half. Iowa State closed the gap to 12-10. The game got rougher and a third Ames touchdown was negated by the local official. He may have been intimidated by miners who were shooting their guns off amidst the crowd of over 3,000. Iowa State's players left the field in disgust.

Most observers didn't expect Iowa State's reception to be much better two weeks later when the Ames team traveled to highly-regarded Northwestern for that school's home opener on Sept. 28. But the home team was in for a big shock. Iowa State rolled to a 36-0 victory. Right halfback Joe Meyers was the offensive star, making several long runs, including a 70-yard scoring jaunt. Iowa State led 30-0 at half-time. The final outcome was so decisive that the Chicago Tribune reported the next day that "Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday." The article's headline read "Struck By A Cyclone." The nickname stuck and the Iowa State team had made a name for itself, literally.

The "Cyclones" went on to beat Missouri, 6-0, before dropping a 24-0 contest to Minnesota. The fact that this team played every game on the road underscored its effort. Iowa State won its second straight game over Iowa, 24-0, on October 26 before closing out the season with a 12-6 loss at Wisconsin.

"I'm afraid some of us got a bit stuck up after that Northwestern game," German would recall 50 years later. "Some of the boys didn't train too well either."

But Warner, German and the rest of this 1895 team had put Iowa Agricultural College on the football map. And as I.A.C. grew into Iowa State College and then Iowa State University, its athletic teams carried the same name the 1895 unit had earned on that cold afternoon against Northwestern.
 

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