On The Beat: Iowa’s long history with Iowa State includes fights, upsets, controversy

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Many of Iowa’s greatest rivalries started with a spark and spread into a wildfire.

That’s definitely the case in football with Minnesota and Northwestern. But for perpetual arguments and issues that antagonize both fan bases, none of Iowa’s other rivalries have anything on the Cy-Hawk series with Iowa State.

The 65th meeting takes place Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames (11:01 a.m. CT, ESPN2).

The series originated in 1894 and there was a 43-year donut hole starting in 1935 and lasting until 1977. This year’s edition marks the 40th anniversary of the reboot.

Issues between the clubs started more than 100 years ago and almost every year there’s another situation added to the Cy-Hawk legacy folder. Here are some of the most important events in the series that has shaped into a sizzling rivalry that captures the attention of the state every September.


The teams first met in 1894 and the Cyclones won the first three games in the series. They played every year but two from 1901 through 1920, and it was a feisty, competitive rivalry. A report by U.S. education commissioner P.P. Claxton suggested that the schools do away with their series because of “general antagonisms,” wrote Al Grady in “25 Years With the Fightin’ Hawkeyes.”

After an Iowa 10-0 win in 1919, Iowa State tackle Gilbert Denfield picked a fight with Iowa All-American Duke Slater. Denfield sucker-punched Slater, who responded with an uppercut that sent the ISU starter to the ground.

“For a few moments the surging crowd beheld an impending melee that suggest long-gone days when Ames and Iowa seemed to hate each other with undying bitterness,” wrote The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The teams met again in 1920, but they couldn’t agree on a suitable date for a 1921 game. They arranged for two games in 1933 and 1934, which the teams split. Then Iowa’s administration opted to freeze out any future meetings with the Cyclones.


Iowa’s board in control of athletics instituted policies in 1935, 1960, 1964 and 1965 to prevent the Hawkeyes from playing Iowa State in any sport. Publicly, Iowa officials wanted to prevent disharmony among the teams. In reality, Iowa thought it was too good to play Iowa State.

By the late 1960s, relations became better among the schools. Iowa athletics director Forest Evashevski — the former football coach — approached Iowa State athletics director Clay Stapleton about playing in 1977, the first open year for Iowa. Stapleton accepted, and they agreed on a game in 1978 as well.

On Oct. 20, 1969, the officials announced a four-game series extension through 1982. All of the games were scheduled in Iowa City because Iowa State’s facility was too small. But the Cyclones had plans to build a large stadium and games could shift to Ames after completion.

The friendliness was shattered in 1970. Evashevski resigned and Samuel Fahr, chairman of Iowa’s athletics board, declared the four-year extension was unsigned, nonconsensual with the board and invalid. Evashevski publicly backed the negotiated extension, but Iowa’s board didn’t budge.

The state Board of Regents couldn’t decide so the issue went to a neutral arbitrator. On April 23, 1971, arbitrator Patrick J. Fisher ruled Iowa “is obligated” to play Iowa State from 1979 through 1982. Iowa officials accepted the ruling.


For the first time since 1934, the teams met on the football field. In a surprising upset, the Hawkeyes beat the Cyclones 12-10 at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa finished 5-6 that season, while Iowa State was 8-4 and competed in the Peach Bowl.

The first four games in the resumed series were played in Iowa City before the Cyclones hosted in 1981. In a dream season for Iowa, which included a co-Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth, Iowa State stunned the Hawkeyes 23-12. In 1982, Iowa State also won, 19-7.


Despite three straight losses to Iowa State, Hayden Fry had his Hawkeye Train rolling by 1983. Iowa ended the losing skid by pounding the Cyclones, 51-10. The Hawkeyes continued to dominate the Cyclones. From 1983-88, Iowa totaled 258 points and gave up just 50 to their neighbors.

Even in down seasons Iowa kept winning and the rivalry was starchy. After a 21-7 victory in 1992 — a non-bowl year for Iowa — Hawkeyes nose guard Bret Bielema walked over to Iowa State coach Jim Walden and said,  “You’ve been a big [expletive]. I’ve enjoyed kicking your ass the last five years.” Bielema and Fry later apologized.

By 1996, the wins were annual for Iowa. Fry shrugged off any extra incentive for the game. He told reporters, “I can’t say it’s more important than a Big Ten game. It’s more important than the Tulsa game, but I can’t say it’s more important than the Arizona game, because that was the first game.”

Iowa continued to roll in 1996, winning 38-13, and in 1997 (63-20) to extend its streak to 15. It appeared there was no end in sight for Iowa victories, but its run ended in dramatic fashion.


Iowa State coach Dan McCarney grew up in Iowa City as the son of the police chief and played football at Iowa. He served as Fry’s defensive line coach for 11 years before heading to Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez. In 1995, Iowa State hired McCarney, and entering the game in 1998, the Cyclones were 28-point underdogs. That didn’t faze McCarney or the Cyclones as they waltzed into Kinnick Stadium and stormed to a 27-9 win. It ended the 15-year losing streak.

Iowa State rose to new heights under McCarney. The Cyclones beat Iowa and new coach Kirk Ferentz in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, the teams shifted their game to season’s end after the September 11 terrorist attacks, but Iowa State still won, 17-14.

In 2002, the Hawkeyes soared to a 24-7 halftime lead in a night game at Kinnick Stadium. But behind Seneca Wallace, the Cyclones rallied to win, 36-31. It was Iowa’s only loss of the regular season and both teams spent time in the top 10 that season.


From 2003 onward, the rivalry has featured last-second outcomes (Iowa State’s 44-41 triple-overtime win in 2011), a few blowouts (Iowa’s 42-3 win in 2016) and a handful of upsets (2-10 Iowa State’s 17-14 win in 2014). But some of the off-the-field moments often dwarfed the games.

In 2007, Iowa State hiked single-game tickets purchased by Iowa to $93. In addition, the schools had arranged in the mid-1970s that the visitor would receive 20 percent of the gate. Iowa gave ISU 20 percent of the gate from the rivalry game, while ISU gave Iowa 20 percent from an average home gate.

In written letters between former administrators, the schools had agreed to extend the series through 2020. But Iowa maintained it was merely correspondence, not an actual contract extension and vowed that the series’ expiration date was 2010. The sides argued over semantics. About eight months later, they agreed to extend the series to 2017 and end the 20 percent gate provision in 2013.

The Des Moines Athletic Club gave the schools a generic Cy-Hawk Trophy in 1977. By 2011, the teams wanted a better-looking trophy. With help from series sponsor Iowa Corn, the schools unveiled a new trophy in time for the Iowa State Fair. It featured a corn family sitting on top of a base. It universally was panned by both fan groups. The trophy was yanked, an interim trophy was made, and fans voted on another trophy design for the 2012 game.

In 2013, a former University of Iowa student broke into the Iowa locker room at Jack Trice Stadium and stole money, cell phones and other personal possessions from Hawkeyes players and coaches. A warrant was issued, but the thief never was found.

There have been uplifting moments, too. In 2015, Iowa State held a moment of silence after former Iowa stars Tyler Sash and Roy Marble died a few days before the Cy-Hawk game. Last year, Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg brought an engagement ring in his bag to Kinnick Stadium and proposed to his girlfriend after the game. VandeBerg caught 7 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.

Through multiple rounds of Big Ten expansion, Big 12 contraction and changes to league scheduling, the Cy-Hawk series remained intact. The rivals decided to extend the series through 2023 and it remains as vibrant as ever.

Will there be any more wild moments over the next six years? If history is any indicator, it’s a good bet that more interesting chapters will be added to the rivalry.

The post On The Beat: Iowa’s long history with Iowa State includes fights, upsets, controversy appeared first on Land of 10.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.

With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.

Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.