By now, most of you have your Christmas shopping done. However, there are a few folks here at CycloneNation.com and CN Magazine that I have yet to hand out gifts to, and that's what I intend to do with this week's column. That would be folks like yourselves that patronize this website, or its competitor, and support it with your dollars. Y'all make up the most loyal segment of Cyclone Country, and the time, money, and emotion you invest in Iowa State sports should be reciprocated with the five gifts below that make up every grown up Cyclone's Christmas list for the New Year. To most of you, these are your favorite things, and much more valuable than gold, frankincense, or myrrh.
We're not asking for a Star in the East, and accomplishing these feats wouldn't require a miracle on 34th Street, but they would certainly make for a wonderful life and bring joy to our world in 2005. Ok, enough with the seasonal puns…
5. A football victory over Iowa.
Be honest. You're among friends here. So let your guard down just for a second and come clean. There isn't a better Monday at work than the one following an Iowa State football victory over that dreaded EIU, is there?
Especially since you're probably outnumbered by Hawkeyes at work, like most Cyclones not living in Ames are. Those Mondays you actually look forward to coming into work, don't you? Is there anything better than the water cooler, trip to the potty, or lunch break? While there you eaves drop in on their lame excuses of why they lost, while at the same time smugly not even recognizing that ISU won. You could argue with them, but that gets nowhere. Instead, you discovered that quietly and confidently acting like you expected it all along is what really gets under their skin. Nothing like reflecting that presumptive arrogance right back at them, right?
Yep, those are fun times. And then, to cap it off, there is the 50,000-watt meltdown the Hawkeye Nation suffers live on the radio during SoundOff following the whipping. You got to revel in five straight of them from 1998-2002. However, something has changed the past two years. Kirk Ferentz has created a football juggernaut in Iowa City, and has gotten the better of his old friend Dan McCarney on the gridiron the past two years as a result.
The Cy-Hawk Trophy is no longer a cornerstone of the ISU football offices, it's gone back to being an eye-soar.
But now that the school out east has had two years to beat it with an ugly stick, it's time for an extreme makeover, cardinal-and-gold style. The date has been set: September 10th, 2005. On that day, the University of Iowa visits Jack Trice Stadium looking for the hat-trick. Adding intrigue to this game – as if anymore is needed – is the possibility the Hawkeyes could arrive with a top 10 national ranking in the national polls.
Wouldn't it be just grand to knock them off such a lofty perch?
4. A conference road win somewhere in men's basketball.
Thy streak which we dareth not speak thou name stands at 25 straight. I'm so distraught over it that I'm about to place it on my prayer list.
I'm sick of talking about it. I'm sick of writing about it. I'm sick of taking phone calls from listeners about it. Wayne Morgan is sick of us talking about it. The players as well. Even Hawkeye Nation is sick of it. Somebody, anybody…please stop the madness.
President Bush had just been inaugurated the last time ISU won in Big 12 rival's gym. Here's hoping we don't get past his second inauguration without seeing this streak end.
It's unfair to saddle this current Cyclone basketball program with the sins of the past, but that's life I suppose. In Morgan's first season there were close calls on the road, like Kansas and Nebraska, and forgettable efforts, like Oklahoma, Baylor, and Kansas State.
Originally, I thought the streak could reach 30 before ended in either Lincoln or College Station in February. But now, seeing how the team coached by the Cheating Quinn has struggled so far, I'm placing a gift-wrapped road win under the tree for the Cyclones in their conference opener on January 8th.
3. Dual NCAA Tournament bids come March.
After six straight invites to March Madness, Bill Fennelly has waited three long years to return. The men's team has waited just as long, too. For a fan base that loves its hoops, that's three years too long.
Both squads are off to decent starts this season. The women certainly have the senior leadership to make a run, and their head coach all but declared this season null and void before it got started if it didn't end with the NCAA Tournament. Morgan, who boasts as athletic of a team as ISU has had in recent years, is tempering expectations because of the collective youth. Still, given the lack of depth in the Big 12 this season, the Cyclones should finish in the first division if they can stay healthy.
The coed NIT doubleheaders were a box office bonanza last March, but a sequel isn't in high demand. Fans should rightfully be disappointed if they're asked to rally around them again.
2. An empowered athletic director with a mandate to boldly lead.
Gregory Geoffrey is a nice, well-meaning character. Yet behind the bespectacled outward academic appearance is a shrewd politician, which you almost have to be to run an institution as vividly diverse as a public university.
However, nobody deserves to twist in the wind like this, Mr. President. Where I come from, the axiom goes like this: crap or get off the pot. And between now and July 1st when the contract of Athletic Director Bruce Van De Velde expires, it's time for Dr. G to do one or the other.
If he wants to run the athletic department, with nothing more than a managing figurehead that has no job security doing his bidding, then just say so. If he wants someone to really take over and consolidate power and support, then he should either give Van De Velde the tools necessary to do so or go in a different direction.
By now you know that I was on record last summer during this melodrama in favor of giving Van De Velde an extension, and I still am. Yet this half-arsed compromise solution Dr. G came up with to appease both sides of the debate is impotent, to say the least. It smacks of ivory tower, not real world, thinking. It sounds good on paper, but it's simply not practical. That's the reason no other school president in the Big 12 has his athletic director working under such lameduck conditions.
Fortune favors the bold, but it's tough to ask someone with "at-will" employment to display testicular fortitude in such a high-pressure job. A battle-weary Cyclone Nation has given up discussing this disaster, and has chosen to chant "serenity now" every time the topic comes up.
Bowl positioning, lack of TV exposure, closing the revenue gap, and finding creative ways to get more fannies in the seats are the issues Cyclone Nation is primarily interested in. And it's not likely they'll get satisfactory, long-term solutions until they get some real leadership; starting at the top.
1. An undisputed Big 12 North Division title and upper-tier bowl bid.
This is the next step in the evolution of ISU's football program, and one that may not require a giant leap of faith to accomplish.
On paper, 2005 has the potential to be the best football season in the history of ISU. The Cyclones should at least be preseason co-favorites for the division crown, which instantly makes them legitimate contenders for one of the Big 12's top four bowls—Fiesta, Cotton, Holiday, or Alamo.
The only road game I would make the Cyclones a prohibitive underdog in is at Texas A&M. This will be their best chance for their first road win at Nebraska since 1977. They get the Hawkeyes at home.
The next one shapes up to be a very special season, indeed. Here's hoping ISU kicks it off by beating Miami University on December 28th. Wouldn't that be a nice stocking stuffer?
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you at the bowl game.
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Iowa each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network. His Monday Musings column will return on January 3rd.)