CN's Top 10 Stories of the Year

To say that the last 12 months in Iowa State athletics have been a circus would be a monumental understatement. They have brought every different emotion possible to the fans of the Cardinal and Gold. Here in this FREE feature, CN breaks down the top 10 stories in the past year for Iowa State athletics.

It began with joy when the Clones triumphed over their hated rivals in a 23-3 whooping in Ames last September. Cyclone fans saw the Big 12 North Championship in their sights. Wrong. A loss to Baylor at home followed, and a season more up and down then a daytime soap opera ensued. 7-5 isn't bad, but most fans would consider it a disappointment in a year when Iowa State realistically had the chance to run the table.


So then we moved to basketball season. Street and Smiths magazine had our beloved Cyclones ranked 13th to begin the year. Common fans were thinking Sweet 16. Intelligent fans knew that a young frontcourt would struggle early. Nobody expected Wayne Morgan's squad to get snubbed not only by the NCAA tournament, but also the NIT. Wow, yet another up and down emotional season.


The year was supposed to be over. Cyclone fans were supposed to do what they always do in the off-season. It should have been time to break down who will be the backup SAM linebacker and who was going to be the third man off the bench next season in basketball.


It was supposed to be like any other off-season. It was supposed to be like any other off-season with Bruce Van de Velde at the helm.


If I can steal a line from the great ESPN Sports Center anchor Dan Patrick and put a little Cyclone flavor in it.


It's Jamie Pollard's world. His opponent it just a squirrel trying to get a nut.


Cyclone athletics are now Jamie Pollard's world. His opponent is anybody who gets in his way of taking ISU to the top of the Big 12.


When Pollard was hired in September, Cyclone athletics changed. The mindset of Iowa State fans changed. When the basketball season ended, the not so "off" season began.


In a year filled with drama, I undertook the task of fitting the 10 biggest stories in Cyclone athletics into one list. Take a look at CN's top 10 stories of the year for Cyclone athletics.



10 – Gymnastics Finishes 6th at Nationals


It's time to give these young ladies some props that they don't often get. The team competed in their first ever "Super Six" competition in front of over 7,000 fans in Corvallis, Oregon. In comparison, for those of you who don't know a thing about gymnastics, myself included, our team made the "Final Four" of gymnastics. They are the best of the best. They finished sixth of six teams, but that is still an amazing accomplishment. They were also the only Cyclone team to win a Big 12 Championship. The emerging power under K.J. Kindler is set up for an even better next year. If you've never been to a Cyclone Gymnastics meet, go to one. Sit up close if possible. After viewing these remarkable athletes, a 3-pointer isn't nearly as impressive.


9 – The Tornado Game


If I could jump into the cliché' that about every journalist in the market took full advantage of, let me. Do you get tired of people asking why our mascot is a bird? No offense Cy, but you weren't our mascot on November 12 against Colorado. You were upstaged in grand fashion. When talking to a Colorado fan inside of Hilton Coliseum while taking shelter from the storm, a woman actually said "now that's intimidation." The nice woman told me that her Buffs had no chance to win after the "Cyclone" literally appeared a few miles away from Jack Trice Stadium. The coolest part about the day was the atmosphere inside of Hilton. The pep band was playing the fight song and it was full of Cyclone spirit. I'm not going to lie; I didn't want to be in there. My dad and I have a weird, yet somewhat normal fascination with severe storms. While dad was out on the south side of Trice drooling over Mother Nature, I was forced to take my somewhat intoxicated girlfriend at the time into Hilton. She was scared to death of storms so if I didn't do it, life would be painful in the future. I was glad that I went to Hilton. When I walked into Hilton, I had goose bumps. Seeing all of the great fans together in the greatest arena was an unexpected treat. Never in my life have I been so proud to be a Cyclone. After the storm passed through, our guys not only beat the hated Buffaloes, they made them look silly on national television. Now that was a sweet day.


8 – Football Season Ticket Sales


Number 8 has Jamie Pollard written all over it. Pollard asked Cyclone fans for help. He asked them to buy 30,000 season tickets for next year's football season. This week Cyclone Nation set an ISU record. Cyclone fans surpassed the 27,707 mark and now they are well on their way to the goal of 30,000 that Pollard originally set. The great thing is that it's only May.


7- The Return of Adam Haluska


I'm not afraid to admit that I looked forward to this event as much as any sporting event in my life. This was before my prime CN days, so before the game a group of friends and I went to a local establishment for what us college guys call "FAC." I could tell at that very moment that we stepped in the door that Hilton would be in rare form that evening. Normally at FAC you see girls in short skirts, Frat boys with popped collars and some idiot wearing flip-flops in 20 degree weather. Not on December 9. Instead of the norm, the bar was blanketed with red. The band playing at the bar paused between every song to start an inappropriate chant towards our neighbors in Iowa City. Then it was game time. We couldn't drive so Cy-Ride escorted us to Hilton. The bus ride from Welch to Hilton was insane. It was literally like Cyclone Alley in a bus. Hilton didn't let anybody down either. The crowd welcomed Mr. Haluska back to his old stomping grounds, but for the most part did it in a tactful matter. The team followed up with a 72-60 victory that turned out to be the most impressive of the year for an underachieving Cyclone team.


6- March 15 – Talk About "Madness"


Okay, so the Clones got snubbed by the NIT. Cyclone fans were in enough pain. What does CBS Sportsline columnist Gregg Doyel do? He goes Biggie Smalls on us. He slit us down the back and threw salt in the wounds. Doyel wrote a story accusing Iowa State of doing some shady things involving scheduling and recruiting through a California based company named D-1 Scheduling. The funny thing is that hardly anything has come from this story as of yet. On March 15 Doyel's story wasn't the only bad news for Cyclone fans. Just two hours after Doyel's story ran, Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock announced that they were going to the NBA. Coincidence? I guess we'll never know. 


5– 23-3 – Cyclone State


This was probably the best thing to happen in the past year in Cyclone athletics, but not the biggest. Why is that you ask? It's simple. Cyclone fans should expect to beat Iowa at home. Dan McCarney has burned this next stat into everybody's brain. Iowa State has won 6 of 8 against the Hawkeyes. The Clones made this one look easy. After Drew Tate went down in the second quarter, Iowa State never looked back. At the time, it looked like a monumental win in this program's history books. It was a great win, but not the stepping stone to an unforgettable season. Nonetheless, it turned out to be the happiest day of the year for most fans. The atmosphere was amazing and the stomping was on national television. You can't ask for more than that against your in-state rival. 


4 – Cael Takes Over


On March 29 a legend (Bobby Douglas) moved on and a young, vibrant gold medalist in Cael Sanderson took the helm of the Iowa State wrestling program. Not many schools can say that they have an Olympic gold medalist leading an athletic program. Now Sanderson will thrust a shot of energy into a program that had the best recruiting class in the country last season. With Brands and Gable returning to Iowa, wrestling will once again be huge in the state of Iowa. Get ready Cyclone fans; this is going to be fun. I don't know about you all, but I'll take the undefeated champ.


3- Morgan Fired


Wayne Morgan's dismissal at Iowa State is an extremely interesting story. So many variables make this one of the most complex issues seen in Cyclone country. Why was he fired? Was it because the new sheriff in town wanted his own guy? Did the D-1 scheduling conflict have anything to do with this? How about Stinson and Blalock? According to Pollard, it was simply that he didn't see Morgan being the guy that could take this program to the next level. 


"The fact that we didn't make the NCAA tournament, or the NIT, contributed to this decision, but I want to emphasize that clearly it is not the only reason for making this decision," Pollard said at his press conference announcing the firing of Morgan.


"I don't' believe that I see the trends of a basketball program that can compete on an annual basis for Big 12 Championships and put itself in the NCAA tournament. I don't see the foundation there that has the ability to annually do that," Pollard said.


Whatever the reason was, it had an enormous impact on the rest of the "off" season. Not only did Morgan have a press conference of his own pleading his innocence to members of the media, an exodus of players would follow him out of Ames. It's a common thing to have some players leave when a coach gets fired, but not six, four of which were major contributors in the previous season.


Wayne Morgan's record during his first three year's at Iowa State was 55-39, one of the best marks in the history of the program. It just wasn't good enough.


2- Greg McDermott Hired


Greg McDermott was obviously no stranger in Ames when he was hired. Ever since his "argument" with Wayne Morgan in Cedar Falls a few years ago, most Clone fans were trained to dislike the man that is now leading the basketball program. His name had been in the mix after Morgan was fired, but the hire was definitely a curve ball.


Wisconsin Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter was supposed to be the man. Everybody, including this site, believed he would be Morgan's successor. Pollard, like we all should have expected, threw us a big-time surprise. 


On the morning of March 22, just four days after Morgan was fired, McDermott was hired to take over the program.


"I wanted someone who had a sincere passion to be the next coach, someone who was committed to bringing back Hilton Magic," said Pollard of McDermott in his opening press conference.


That's what Pollard wanted. That's what Pollard got.


"I'm one of you. I'm a farm by from Cascade, Iowa. Iowa State has the greatest fans in the country. I left a special place to be here. Iowa State is special enough that I could leave home," said McDermott in his press conference.


The hiring of Greg McDermott was special in a number of ways, but the most important thing is McDermott's ability to relate the fans, something I believe Coach Morgan lacked. Like McDermott said, he is one of us. He knows Iowa folk. That's what he is. He's extremely charismatic and in my opinion was the perfect hire for Iowa State.


Next year's team will be depleted with departures from top players in the program, but McDermott is on the right track. He's bringing in his guys and will have a defensive oriented team in the future, something the program under Morgan lacked.


"Next year's Cyclone team is going to defend. It's all about the team next year," said McDermott.


Normally when a team is as disappointing at the MBB team was last year; excitement would be tough to find on the horizon. Greg McDermott has changed that. Cyclone fans are excited to move on and they are pumped to win again. Greg McDermott is the man who will get them there.


Why am I so confident? Because Jamie Pollard says so. That brings us to the number one story of the year.


1 – Pollard to ISU


Why can't ISU get to the next level? That's a question Cyclone fans have been asking for years. The answer has two parts to it. Leadership and more importantly vision.


Take a look again at my top 10. Notice what about half of them have in common. They wouldn't have happened if Jamie Pollard had not been hired. Wayne Morgan would still be coaching the basketball team, Greg McDermott would be somewhere else and ISU wouldn't be anywhere close to selling 30,000 season tickets in football.


Pollard isn't only an AD; he's like one of the guys. He'll talk to fans outside of the stadium not because he has to, but because he wants to. He'll say what he thinks even if you don't care. He gets it. Finally, we have a leader who gets what this job it truly about. Being an athletic director is all about the people who support you.  Without them, athletics on any level wouldn't exist.


Pollard didn't take this job to run a mediocre athletic program. The man has a vision for Iowa State.


"One of the main reasons that I came here is that I firmly believe that this place is primed to go to a whole new level that people can't even imagine. One of the best things about Iowa State from an athletic standpoint is that we haven't' been to the promise land yet as an entire department," Pollard told CN early in his tenure at Iowa State.


He's right. Iowa State has been so close for so long. With extra money pumping into the department, with youthful, exuberant coaches leading the programs and most importantly a charismatic leader who accepts winning and winning only, the sky is the limit for Iowa State.


Jamie Pollard is the man who can do it. Jamie Pollard is the man who will do it.


Let's just hope we can keep him in five years when he transforms ISU into a national power.


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