College Football

5 Things: Iowa football vs. Iowa State

Beer, pettiness and a bit of regret: it must be rivalry week

Caricature renderings of Iowa and Iowa State mascots Herky and Cy appear on
Caricature renderings of Iowa and Iowa State mascots Herky and Cy appear on "Hawkeye Beer" and "Cyclone Beer" which was solid in 1980. (Nathan Ford/The Gazette)
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There’s been a lot of debate — more on the east side of the state than anywhere else — as to the value of the Iowa-Iowa State football game. As other high-profile programs announce Power 5 series, the Cy-Hawk rivalry goes under the microscope again.

A couple realities: first, this rivalry series is not going away anytime soon because it’s a moneymaker for both schools. Second, what would either fan base have to complain about if it went away?

Let’s look at 5 Things: Iowa vs. Iowa State

1. Embracing the petty

Let’s be fair here. Both Iowa and Iowa State fans use this week as Hate Week. It’s all over social media and in person. For the vast majority, it’s friendly hate, if there is such a thing — A House Divided flags and posters, friends and significant others playfully ribbing each other. For others, it can get more personal and more than a little nasty.

The pettiness — again, both playful and otherwise — has extended to the coaching staffs of both teams, too, though far more overtly at Iowa State. The back and forth started over the summer, when Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz referred to Iowa State and Minnesota as “the guys in Ames” and “the guys in Minneapolis” when discussing recruiting on a Des Moines Register podcast.

“The guys in Ames” took off like wildfire on social media and prompted a few T-shirt ideas.

Then came “the team out East” stuff. It seems as if Cyclones Coach Matt Campbell and the various ISU social media accounts have embraced not saying “Iowa” when referencing the Hawkeyes. The main ISU Athletics twitter account even tweeted a photo of a countdown clock that said “Beat Team Out East” instead of the traditional “Beat Iowa” phrase.

Whether or not it’s simply to rile up fans and get people talking, there seems to be fine people offering petty jabs on both sides.

Campbell acknowledged the non-football aspect to the rivalry on Monday out west.

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“I love the rivalry piece of college football,” Campbell said. “I think that’s what makes our sport really unique and really special. We certainly have done that.

“The traditions of what’s happened here in the past has certainly been really unique to watch. We’ve got a lot of respect for them and their program, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big game and a big rival football game as we get into it. It’s something we certainly talk about a majority of the year and put a lot of emphasis on it, especially as we get closer to the game and try to be our best as we get into this week.”

2. In Iowa there is no beer

Did you know there once was “Cyclone Beer” and “Hawkeye Beer”?

It’s undeniable that a major tenet to this rivalry is beer. At tailgates all around Jack Trice Stadium, the cases of Busch Light probably will outnumber the people in attendance. Not that beer is required or necessary to enjoy the game or the day, but it’s there and enjoyed by many. At one time, there even was beer with Herky and Cy on the can.

In 1980, Jos. Pickett & Sons Brewing Company brewed the initial pair of local beers that led to Iowa Sports Premium a year later for St. Louis entrepreneur Steve DeBellis. DeBellis contracted with small breweries on several occasions to make private label beers. That year, it was “Cyclone Beer” and “Hawkeye Beer” and featured a disclaimer on both cans that said “not associated with” Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. Pickett & Sons Brewing Company’s founder, Joseph Pickett, also designed Millstream Brewery and its first recipes — a connection for those who enjoy that local brew.

DeBellis told the Des Moines Register in 1981 that “we’re adamant about making sure we get no endorsement from the universities” after Iowa Sports Premium included Drake and Northern Iowa. That story also said DeBellis and the brewery got the go-ahead to use caraciture versions of Herky and Cy because then Drake AD Bob Karnes said “we can’t keep them from using the logo.”

Of course, there’s no way such a product could exist in 2017 without a mountain of cease and desist letters coming from Iowa and Iowa State, and it likely would be a non-starter if one of the many microbreweries in the state asked to use either mascot in a logo.

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But just imagine being able to sing “In Heaven there is no beer,” while holding up an actual “Hawkeye Beer.”

3. Take it Easley

Nick Easley had a heck of a game on Saturday against Wyoming, catching four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys. Easley is a walk-on, though he’s making a pretty solid case for a scholarship — and in today’s social media age, we’ll all probably get to see video of it when he gets one.

Headed into this week’s game, then, it’s relevant to once again mention Easley initially was going to walk on at Iowa State. Instead, he ended up in Iowa City and playing for a team he rooted for as a kid.

He’s not the first — and probably won’t be the last — athlete to initially pick Iowa State and switch allegiances. Remember, Dan Gable did it. Not that Easley is Gable, but still.

“I’ve known my whole life Iowa has done a good job with walk-on players and had a lot of success stories,” Easley said.

4. David Johnston

On Saturday, Iowa will play Iowa State at 11 a.m. at Jack Trice Stadium. On Sunday, former Northern Iowa running back David Johnson will start for the Arizona Cardinals — and on many Iowa and Iowa State fans’ fantasy football teams — at the Detroit Lions at noon.

Johnson has done a ton of preseason media and ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In another interview, with The Postgame, Johnson retold a story that had circulated around UNI when he was a Panther about his recruiting process with both schools.

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Iowa wanted him to walk on because the Hawkeyes didn’t have a scholarship available for him. As crazy as that sounds in retrospect, it’s a step better than Iowa State, which spelled his name wrong.

“They were kind of disrespectful,” Johnson said to The Postgame. “They had my last name wrong: David Johnston.”

Everyone missed there.

5. Against the spread

In last year’s 5 Things for this game, it was pointed out that unexpected things happen in this series, and, essentially, that Vegas has been unable to get a hold of this rivalry.

Just maybe, Vegas has it figured out this year.

Depending on where you look — for our purposes, VegasInsider.com — the line opened at Iowa favored by one and has moved to Iowa by 2.5 as of Monday afternoon. The Hawkeyes have now been the betting line favorite 17 straight seasons over the Cyclones. Obviously Iowa covered last year, but the line headed into this game suggests Vegas thinks it’s a bit of a tossup.

If we know anything about the Cy-Hawk Series it’s to expect the unexpected. If you happen to be reading this in a place where betting on football is a legal enterprise, I don’t know that betting this game would be advisable.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

 

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