He doesn't really want me to credit him but one Cyclone fan in particular has been extremely helpful in my quest to understand as much as I can about Iowa State. I've mentioned this is in my last article but Iowa State fans haven't exactly been treated to success on the field over the years. This to me shows the difference between the fair weather fans and the fans who will go support their team through the bad times as well as the good.
The general feeling I get from Cyclones fans is they make the pregame and post game as enjoyable as possible and they are one big family. In fact for us UK fans this is the side of the game that we love the sound of but unless you've attended a game, we have no idea how special this part of the game day experience really is.
I had a few questions I wanted to put to Jim for this article and he has very kindly taken the time to give me an insight of a Cyclones fan.
How long have you been following the Cyclones?
A: I got my first team sweatshirt at age 10 and started following the Cyclones in my early teens. The first Iowa State game I attended was a 20-6 loss to powerhouse Oklahoma in 1972 at the old Clyde Williams Stadium in Ames. I graduated from Iowa State University in May 1978 and attended all home games as a student, including the first two years of a very strong 1976-78 stretch under Coach Earle Bruce. After Bruce left for the Ohio State job, several college friends had season tickets (originally in the top row of the stadium’s upper deck) off and on for 20+ seasons of football mediocrity and frustration, peppered with a few memorable wins and some talented individual performers (the incomparable Troy Davis was the first college running back to have back-to-back 2,000 yard seasons), as the league transformed from the old Big 8 (ISU, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State) to the expanded Big XII. I’m currently part of a group of 4 friends with season tickets on the 30 yard line.
2. Can you explain to us UK fans why you became a Cyclones fan?
A: My dad was a longtime Iowa Hawkeye fan, but my brother attended Iowa State, so I followed both college teams in my youth. The only television stations we could get in my hometown were from Omaha, Nebraska (remember this is the pre-cable TV era), so we were inundated with Nebraska Cornhusker coverage during that school’s early glory years. ISU’s near upset of a 3rd ranked Husker team in 1972 (the Cyclone placekicker missed a chip shot extra point that would have won the game, which instead ended in a 23-23 tie) cemented my love of the Cyclones. If you pull for the underdog, you have to love the Cyclones and the heights to which Coach Matt Campbell has led the program since his arrival in Ames. As you begin to appreciate the way in which Campbell has engineered this turnaround and the culture he’s built with his player-driven leadership model, the love for this team only deepens.
3. You are attending Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, how exciting is it to be back there after what happened last year?
A: Last season was the greatest in Iowa State history, which made it incredibly frustrating not to be in the stadium to watch the 2020 team in person. ISU fans are beyond excited to be heading back into Jack Trice Stadium at long last, knowing the unprecedented talent, depth, leadership and experience that returns. I’ve never been more pumped up for the start of a season!
4. Give us a quick run-through of a typical pregame experience?
A: The beauty of it is that every Cyclone fan has his or her own pregame experience and traditions. Portions of the stadium flat parking lots is reserved for large recreational vehicles (truck-sized luxury campers, converted school buses, converted emergency vehicles, etc.), which often arrive the day before the game.) Fans drive in from all around the state and beyond. Game day arrivals begin pre-dawn, triggering a constant flow of traffic up and down Interstate 35 from Des Moines to the south and Minnesota to the north into the lots surrounding the stadium up until the game’s kickoff. Red and gold tents, along with tall Cyclone flags, soon adorn the lots. Many fans bring portable charcoal grills and it doesn’t take long for the air to fill with the aroma of grills and smokers cooking BBQ and other culinary treats. Groups of friends mill around their vehicles, often with music or sports radio playing. Televisions are a common sight, as well. Fans sit in portable red and gold chairs and tables, engage in friendly contests of cornhole (bean bags tossed into different-sized scored holes on a slanted, painted board), toss footballs around, eat too much BBQ and bratwurst, and drink a lot of beer. Repeat – a lot of beer.
The Cyclone team bus arrives outside the north side of the stadium 2-3 hours before the game. The players and coaches emerge carrying their duffels stroll through a fan-lined spirit walk to the locker room facility. Members of the Cyclone Varsity Marching Band in full uniform march into the parking area from the north and assemble on the steps of the Alumni Center for a pre-game performance of the Fight Song and the Alma Mater (“Green Hills”) song for gathered fans. Gates into the stadium open 90 minutes before kickoff, with some fans heading in early and some barely making it in time for the opening kickoff. Inside the stadium music is blaring from huge speakers at both ends. The South End Zone project was finished in time for the 2015 season and included an end zone club with indoor food and beverage options for fans with memberships. That development not only changed the entire feel of the stadium for the better, but also moved some of the tailgating activity to the lots south of the stadium. Inside the stadium, the teams take the field for stretching and warm-ups before returning to their respective locker rooms. The Iowa State Varsity Marching Band (the “Varsity” part of the name is a story for another day) performs the Fight Song, “Green Hills” Alma Mater song, and National Anthem. Storm sirens begin blaring as the massive end zone video boards display a Cyclone storm warning for visiting fans until, with all fans standing and excitement at a fever pitch, the Cyclones emerge from a tunnel onto the field carrying the US and Iowa flags, where the team is greeted by cheer squad, pompon squad, marching band members and the cheers of the home crowd. Following the coin toss to determine the receiving/kicking teams and starting field ends, the teams line up for the kick-off and the game is underway.
5. Iowa State hasn’t always found themselves in the AP preseason top 10, is this the year they topple Oklahoma and take the Big 12 Championship?
A: Correction: Iowa State hasn’t ever found themselves in the AP preseason top 10, which adds to the “pinch me” mindset of Cyclone fans. This is the year ISU’s 109-year football championship drought ends, with OU the likely opponent in a rematch of last year’s Big XII championship game.
6. Talking about the Big 12, with the biggest story line this offseason being the exit of Texas and Oklahoma, are you concerned for the future of Iowa State and the Big 12?
A: Any Cyclone fan who tells you they aren’t concerned for the future is lying. It’s a frustratingly nerve-racking time amidst all the optimism for the season. The announced departure of Texas and Oklahoma in the near future have thrown the fates of the remaining eight conference members into uncertain territory. Speculation abounds about a reconstituted Big XII, moves of individual schools to other conferences either on their own or as part of a group. Some outcomes could leave Iowa State in a strong position, but some worst-case scenarios would leave the Cyclones in a lower tier conference with greatly-reduced revenues and exposure. ISU’s Athletics Director Jamie Pollard is a smart, innovative, brash, well-connected leader. He enjoys the full support of Iowa State’s President Wendy Wintersteen. Fans trust that both Pollard and Wintersteen are working behind the scenes to achieve the best possible outcome for ISU, but we may not have a clear picture for several months. Suffice it to say that Cyclone fans have the November 6 home game against the Texas Longhorns circled on their calendars.
7. Score predictions for your game vs Northern Iowa on Saturday?
A: Despite a history of close games against an always-sound UNI program and recent slow starts to the season, I’m predicting a 31-13 Iowa State win.
8. Finally, your overall record for Iowa State?
A: Without conceding dreams of an undefeated season and national championship, I’ll soberly predict a 10-2 record in the combined preseason and regular conference season, plus a win in the Big XII championship game and a bowl or first-round playoff loss for a 12-3 overall record.
Iowa State opening game starts at 9:30pm BST, you can catch it on ESPN Player.
A big thank you to Jim for taking the time to do this for me and the site. All I know is reading the pregame experience makes me wish I was there! Go Cyclones