"Espirit de corps"

Our founder was so moved by the high morale he witnessed at the Greater Des Moines Cyclone Club's annual Meet the Coaches Night on Monday that he just had to write about it. Here's his take on the message as well as some other tidbits from the podium.

There was no question who the star of the show was on Monday night when the Greater Des Moines Cyclone club gathered approximately 1,000 citizens of Cyclone Nation together for its annual Meet the Coaches Night. 


The event is both the culmination of the summer Cyclone Club circuit and the kickoff to the coming school year's athletic season, and it's always a lot of fun.  Just about anybody who is anybody in the 515 area code and is associated in some way with the Cyclones is there.  The A-list of the Iowa State coaching ranks are usually the headliners.  But this time they were upstaged, by new athletic director Jamie Pollard. 


And they were only to happy to oblige their new boss. 


Dan McCarney said that he already believes Pollard shares the same characteristics of the three best athletic directors he's been around: Bump Elliott, Pat Richter, and Gene Smith.  Cael Sanderson pointed out that Pollard isn't inclined to settle for asking if something can be done, but takes the next step of providing a vision for how it will get done.  Emcee John Walters discussed the immense impact Pollard has already had on the Cyclone Nation, despite being on the job for just over 300 days. 


And Pollard himself again invoked the legacy of Dr. Hilton when rallying the troops to the Cardinal-and-Gold cause.  Point blank he put it this way: either we do this ambitious master facilities plan and raise the necessary revenue for it or we fail.  There is no middle ground.  That means everyone must do their part. 


This was my sixth straight year attending this event.  I've been there after ground-breaking bowl wins.  I've been there after Big 12 championships.  I've been there after national scandals.  I've been there when the athletic director was booed from the back of the room. 


Yet the excitement level in the room last night was unmatched by the previous five I had attended.  In fact, it reminded me of beating Iowa or Nebraska or Kansas.  As Bill Fennelly put it last night, it's time for Cyclone Nation to stop apologizing for what it doesn't have and instead start bragging about what it does have.  And Fennelly believes that with Sanderson, McCarney, and Greg McDermott, ISU has as good a coaching roster in those sports as any in the country. 


And he just might be right. 


There is a sense of movement, that things are happening, that ISU is on the cusp of something special, and there is a sense that people want to and better get in on the ground floor of that foundation. 


To be honest, Pollard didn't lay that foundation.  It's always been there, yet I don't think enough people recognized it.   That's always frustrated me about the Cyclone Nation, an inability to visualize how good it really could be. 


With a rare few exceptions for people who just have an axe to grind against me for reasons known only to themselves and their therapist, I have thoroughly enjoyed being around the Cyclones the last four years.  I'm not a businessman, which is why I'm not running this thing anymore.  But I have become a fan.  So many of you people are the kind of down-to-Earth, salt-of-the-Earth, everyday Iowans that people want to hang with and work hard for.  Being there last night, my first Cyclone function since moving to WHO, reminded me of that.  And it reminded me of why I'm sticking around when financially I no longer have to. 


I'm a firm believe in the Biblical principle "you have not because you ask not."  Like other effective leaders, Pollard isn't afraid to ask, let alone demand.  At first I was skeptical that enough of you were there to rise to his challenge.  But after being there last night I sense that a "failure is not an option" mindset is taking shape.  And necessity is always the mother of invention. 


As my dad used to tell me "the reason there was so much bravery at the Alamo is because there was no back door." 


There isn't a back door for Cyclone Nation anymore.  Pollard has locked it and thrown away the key.  Either we go forward, or we fail. 


That's an easy choice to make it if you ask me.


P.S…Pollard also unveiled two other billboards, one for the 515 and the other for the 319.  These billboards feature McDermott and Sanderson saying "we chose the Cyclones, how about you?"…If you're a little short on the cash flow, consider hitting up Mike Lacy of the Gridiron Club.  He and his wife donated thousands of dollars to the Cyclones last night at the always-entertaining auction…Another star last night was former ISU wrestler Frank Santana, who owns the venue at 7 Flags in Clive the event was held at.  This year Frank donated the venue, as well as proceeds from the cash bar, to ISU…one of my favorite lines last night came from Sanderson, who said "I'm really impatient when it comes to winning."…McDermott told the crowd his father, a die-hard Hawkeye, is having a hard time coming to grips with his taking over at ISU.  McDermott told his dad he needed to come around "unless someone in Iowa City is going to pay for you're a—in a nursing home later on."…Fennelly, always a hit on the Cyclone Club circuit, wondered aloud if he should take a hint that he was the only coach there last night who didn't get an extension or a raise…Fennelly also said that when Pollard asked him for his feedback on hiring the new men's basketball coach he said ISU needed the basketball version of Dan McCarney.  And he thinks that's just what ISU hired in McDermott…McDermott took a lot of good-natured ribbing about his anemic returning roster…he also hopes the coming home-and-home with Minnesota can be an ongoing series.


P.S.S…McDermott said that Corey McIntosh and Mike Taylor were "probably the two best players at their positions left in the country at the time we got them."  He also said Wesley Johnson is a player to keep your eye on…For the first in the seven years I have covered the Cyclones, a football coach at ISU spoke openly about winning a Big 12 championship.  McCarney told the crowd that playing in the Big 12 Championship Game come December 2nd is what they're shooting for between now and kickoff against Toledo in 37 days.  McCarney also said he will take the players going with him to Kansas City for the Big 12 Media Days (Bret Meyer, DeAndre Jackson, and Scott Stephenson) over to Arrowhead Stadium, which is the site of this year's Big 12 title game, to show them what their ultimate goal is this fall…Injury-wise, McCarney said that Jason Scales, Milan Moses, and Stephenson are good to go, and that Jon Davis is way ahead of schedule.  In fact, Davis – who tore his Achilles tendon less than five months ago – is already running the necessary times for wide receivers during conditioning.  However, he was cautious about how much Davis would play this fall…Some of the questions that McCarney said needed to be answered in fall camp include: who is the backup quarterback, can a senior-laden offensive line be dominant, who starts next to Shawn Moorehead and Brent Curvey on the defensive line, is a very fast and athletic (but inexperienced) linebacker corps ready for primetime, and what three players will join Jackson in a secondary that needs to be as good as it was last season?


(Steve Deace founded Cyclone Nation in 2002.  He hosts "Deace in the Afternoon" each weekday from 4-7 p.m. central time  on 1040 WHO in Des Moines.  You can listen online at whoradio.com.)

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