AMES — My hope, however, is that college football is over in about five years and whoever is in charge upholds the tradition.
Let’s hope the lure of almighty financial greed isn’t strong enough to pull this game off the schedule.
Hopefully there will always be a football game between Iowa State and Iowa.
Even Matt Campbell was as adamant as possible on general issues when asked about what is the largest one-day annual gathering in the state outside of the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Even with an 0-5 record against the Hawkeyes since Taking over from the Cyclones in 2016, Campbell is a total supporter of Cy-Hawk, and I know it’s not just some coaching bragging.
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Here’s how that question and answer played out at the Big 12 Conference’s annual Media Days in July.
Reporter: Iowa State has managed to maintain a rivalry with Iowa, despite being in different conferences. As we see the conference realignment progress, we’re starting to see more of those traditional rivalries disappear. How can schools accept the change that realignment presents, while maintaining those traditional rivalries?
Campbell: Man, great question. In our state, we are very fortunate. There are no professional sports teams. To have two Power Five conference programs going and being able to compete against each other, I think it’s really special for our entire state. I know that game has meant a lot to the State of Iowa. It certainly means a lot to our student base and our colleges. So for us, we’re very grateful that he’s continuing, and he certainly has the opportunity to continue moving forward.”
That’s as close to a Campbell mandate as you’re getting. Originally from Ohio, he recognizes the importance of what happens at 3 pm Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. He knows that it has never been, nor will it be, a decisive game for either team.
He also knows that it is always a great game for the fans. And really, that’s what this should all be about.
I said it there. Without fans, Jack Trice and Kinnick Stadiums would be empty. Without fans, who would be watching college football on TV or wherever games are available? Without the annual CyHawk football game, what would our wonderful fall months be like?
We went through it for a year, and it was not something I wanted to put up with again. COVID not only forced the cancellation of the 2020 game, but also our prized Iowa State Fair two summers ago.
“Speaking of a one-two punch to the gut,” former Iowa State coach and Iowa player Dan McCarney said then of a game that had been played back-to-back since 1977. “Those are Iowa State fabrics. non-football fans look to that special Saturday every season, that special fall tradition of the Iowa-Iowa State football game.”
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That was before all this really serious talk about 32 or so of the nation’s biggest and best college programs breaking off on their own. That was before USC and UCLA announced their intentions to join the Big Ten, and before new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark publicly proclaimed “we’re open for business” when asked his thoughts on the expansion.
“Growing up in this state, this is the game,” Iowa State center Trevor Downing of Creston told me this week. “It’s a bragging right for the fans and the players.”
He will play in this series for the third time on Saturday, helping to entertain fans in the stadium, people watching on TV and people tuning in on the radio.
A total of 2,704,218 tickets have been sold for this series since Cy-Hawk resumed in 1977. Bars and restaurants will be packed this weekend, just as they are when the game is at Ames. Hotels will bulge. The traffic around the stadium will be a mess. Beer and soda can collectors live for big return days like this.
“These games are long-awaited and substantial economic engines for schools and communities,” Bob Bowlsby told me before retiring as Big 12 commissioner.
He’s also a former Iowa athletic director. He’s seen this game from multiple angles.
“Games never disappoint,” he said. “Usually they are closer than anticipated and are a lot of fun under any circumstances.”
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In the world of big sports, that’s a word to focus on more: fun.
“One of the great joys of being in this state, in our seventh year, is the energy, the engagement and the enthusiasm of the fans in the communities,” Campbell said Tuesday. “That makes it really special.
“There is a great loyalty and a great sense of pride. That’s what makes games like this special, no matter the sport, the stadium or the environment, the fans show up and care. They’re passionate, and that part of it makes it really special (at Iowa State), but it also makes it really special to be involved in a game like this.”
So, whoever decides the future of this great sport, keep this in mind:
Cy-Hawk is our game.
Leave it alone.
Iowa State Columnist Randy Peterson embarked on his 50th year writing sports for the Des Moines Register in December 2021. Contact him at [email protected], 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.