Hlas column: For sale: College sports trophies, tradition, taste

Not the people's choice
Not the people's choice

The statewide approval rating for the new Cy-Hawk Trophy is about 3 percent.

You can get 4 percent of the population to say Miami Hurricanes football doesn’t deserve NCAA sanctions. You could probably get 5 percent to claim to be the offspring of Moammar Gadhafi.

This new trophy for the Iowa-Iowa State football game, though, was the best unifying force this state has seen since we stormed the steps of the state capitol and demanded the legalization of deep-fried sticks of butter.

Democrats and Republicans, Cyclones and Hawkeyes, tambourine-players and elephant-trainers — all have been in accord since Friday’s unveiling of the new Cy-Hawk. They really don’t like it.

The trophy depicts a farm family hovering around a bucket of corn. It’s not what you would call football-related. It is, however, the result of a partnership between the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and Learfield Sports.

It’s yet another example of what happens when everything has a price. More and more, it’s looking like that’s the case with University of Iowa sports, as well as college sports everywhere. Iowa State is every bit as culpable in this Cy-Hawk deal.

So we’ve seen Iowa and Iowa State make a business deal with Iowa Corn, which has done the nearly impossible in making fans long for the old Cy-Hawk trophy.

We’ve seen the playing surface in Carver-Hawkeye Arena turned into Mediacom Court/Mediacom Mat.

And we’ve seen Hy-Vee step in to present “The Heroes Game,” the football contest between Iowa and Nebraska. Because it’s essential for a new conference rivalry to have a special name and a trophy, as long as cash can be transferred to the participating schools.

The trophy portion hasn’t been revealed yet. Hy-Vee didn’t become Hy-Vee by being dumb, so it has probably monitored the reaction to the new Cy-Hawk and will realize people like a little football and not so much Norman Rockwell in their football trophies.

We’ll take nothing for granted until we see the Heroes Game prize, of course. If this summer has taught us anything, it’s that smart and successful people can be tone-deaf when it comes to the oxymoron of creating new traditions.

The Big Ten Conference scaled new heights in pomposity when it named its football divisions “Legends” and “Leaders.” But the league is far mightier than public-opinion, and it knows what’s best for you. So in a world full of Norths and Souths and Easts and Wests, you will accept Legends and Leaders and you will like it. Or else.

There was no real demand for a “Heroes Game.” But since a supermarket chain was willing to contribute to Iowa and Nebraska to sponsor some trumped-up moniker for the yearly contest (and give some money to the American Red Cross in the bargain), it’s a “Heroes Game.” Rah rah.

As a gag, I asked readers of my blog, The Hlog, to name the Tennessee Tech-Iowa game of Sept. 3.

Entries included “Tech the Money and Run,” “America Needs Cupcakes,” “Non-copyright Infringement Golden Eagles vs. Hawks,” and “Kinnick’s Annual Seatback Test.”

I gave first-prize to “The Paycheck Bowl,” because it’s concise, and because both Tennessee Tech and Iowa will make nice sums of cash that day.

Next year, I’ll hold a similar contest but sell it to a corporate sponsor, like Google, Apple, or Chico’s Bail Bonds. The winning entry might turn out to be lousy, but at least I’ll get a little something out of the deal. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Monday, Scott Dochterman and Marc Morehouse had me join them on their "On Iowa" podcast to discuss this zany Cy-Hawk story. To listen, click here. 

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