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Five Iowa State Cyclones we don’t hate

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The strangest rivalry in the midwest results in some interesting realizations.

Dude beat Nebraska. Automatic thumbs up.
Dude beat Nebraska. Automatic thumbs up.
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Farmageddon is a weird rivalry. Kansas State fans hate the way Iowa State fans whine about every whistle (or non-whistle), and sometimes we hate their basketball team as a whole (but usually not everyone on it), and we really hated finally losing to them in Bill Snyder’s final game in 2018 after a decade of domination.

Of course, they hate losing to us ten straight times — twice — since the start of the Snyder Era, and they think we’re sort of smug about the 25-5 record since 1989.

But for the most part, it’s a collegial rivalry as long as the teams aren’t actually on the field together. So it’s probably no surprise that the difficult thing about choosing the five Cyclones we don’t hate was narrowing it down to just five. For whatever reason, even when they’re good Iowa State seems to generate likable enemies. But through the magic of mathematics, we have condensed the opinion of our staff down to a reasonable list of five names.

5) Fred Hoiberg

Hoiberg arrived in Ames long before he ever put on a Cyclone uniform, having grown up in town. Once he hit the hardwood at Hilton, he was already a star. He averaged in double figures every year of his career, cracking the 20-point average as a junior and making the All-Big 12 team as a senior.

Of course, none of that bothered us much. In Hoiberg’s career, Iowa State was only 5-3 against the Cats, and 3 of those wins happened after K-State’s long descent into madness had already commenced. In 1993, Hoiberg’s popularity was such that he received write-in votes in the Ames mayoral election, giving him the nickname he’s had ever since: The Mayor.

Hoiberg then spent a decade in the NBA, mostly as a reserve with a penchant for draining threes. That skill would become important later, as the Mysteries of 3sus largely began once he took over as Iowa State’s head coach in 2010. Again, K-State fans weren’t too bothered when Hoiberg turned Iowa State’s fortunes around because K-State was back to making post-season appearances with some regularity; the only year the Wildcats didn’t do so while Hoiberg was the Cyclone boss was entirely K-State’s own fault.

Plus, there’s this.

Then he went to the Bulls, but things didn’t work out. Importantly for our narrative here, one of the reasons often given as to why he wasn’t successful in Chicago was that he was perceived as being too nice. Now he’s at Nebraska Cornhuskers, so we might eventually have to take him off this list — although, let’s be honest, who has ever been bothered by Nebrasketball?

Interestingly, Hoiberg’s sudden illness when Nebraska faced Indiana Hoosiers during the first round of the Big Ten tournament this year was one of the major factors which led to sports being cancelled. The Mayor only had the regular ol’ flu, but the concern about his condition sent shockwaves through the sports media world that night. The next day, basketball was canceled.

We can’t blame Fred for that, though. Not when we have Rudy Gobert to scapegoat.

4) Cael Sanderson

The dude went unbeaten in college. Unbeaten. 159-0. Four NCAA titles. Oh, and a gold medal.

As a coach at Penn State, he’s won eight more NCAA titles. To top it all off, in 2011 — after being retired from actual wrestling for nine years — he came out of retirement to have a go at the World Championships and still finished fifth.

Since K-State doesn’t have wrestling, we have nothing to hate Sanderson for. He’s a legend, and absolutely everyone in the wrestling world — including the professional entertainers demographic — loves and respects him.

3) Troy Davis

Again, an example of a world-class Cyclone athlete who never did anything to hurt K-State; the Wildcats were 3-0 against Iowa State during Davis’s tenure. That, of course, leaves us to look at the record, and it was astonishing. Davis ran for over 2,000 yards twice. And he did this to Missouri:

And despite this, the Cyclones couldn’t get out of the Big 8 or Big 12 cellars the entire time he was there because Iowa State couldn’t stop a light breeze.

He was drafted by the Saints, but didn’t have success in the NFL. Moving to the CFL, he set the single-season rushing record for Hamilton in 2004, then was traded to Edmonton midway through the following season and helped the Eskimos win the 2005 Grey Cup.

2) Jack Trice

You probably knew this name would be here. Trice broke the color barrier at Iowa State in 1923, when the school (along with K-State) was still a member of what is now the Missouri Valley Conference. The Wildcats never got to face Trice, as by the time K-State and Iowa State played their 7-7 tie on November 11 of that year, Trice was dead.

During the second game of the season, On October 6, the Cyclones visited Minnesota. In the first quarter, Trice broke his collarbone, but continued playing. In the third, after attempting a tackle, he was trampled by three Golden Gophers. He was unable to get up, and was sent to a local hospital. The doctors there said he was able to travel back to Ames, and so he did along with his teammates, but two days later he was one in by massive hemorrhaging.

Jack Trice Stadium is the only Division I FBS stadium named after an African-American. Really.
Jack Trice Stadium is the only Division I FBS stadium named after an African-American. Really.
Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

4.000 students and faculty attended Trice’s funeral. Some Iowa State players accused the Gophers of racial violence. The Cyclones refused to play Minnesota again for 66 years, but surprisingly it took 24 years of effort to get Cyclone Stadium named for him.

Yeah, nobody decent could hate Jack Trice.

1) Seneca Wallace

Once again, a Cyclone great who did K-State no harm, losing both games he played against the Wildcats by a combined score of 100-10. That included the 2001 game, which is the one pre-BCS Bowl Snyder season everyone would like to forget.

Wallace transferred to Iowa State from Sacramento City College in 2001, and started all 25 games in his junior and senior campaigns. He threw for almost 5,300 yards at nearly a 60% clip, and rushed for just under a grand in his two seasons. As a senior, Wallace started the year by almost leading the Cyclones to a massive upset over #3 Florida State at Arrowhead before finally falling 35-31, and a little over a month later he led Iowa State to a 36-14 drubbing of #20 Nebraska.

Two weeks after that, following a bye, he did this thing:

The aftermath of that win over Texas Tech saw Iowa State’s record rise to 6-1 and their AP poll ranking move into the top ten for the first time... ever. It also kicked the Cornhuskers out of the poll for the first time in 348 weeks. That right there is reason enough to love the guy.

But then the wheels fell off. Losses to #2 Oklahoma and #7 Texas dropped the Cyclones back down to #22. A win over Missouri only temporarily stanched the bleeding, as a loss to #12 K-State dropped them out of the poll, and a loss to #17 Colorado dropped them to 6-5.

And then they lost to Connecticut. That would be “first season in FBS Connecticut”. Finally, the season crashed into a cliff with a loss to #18 Boise State in the Humanitarian Bowl. That 1-6 nosedive to conclude the season was a horrible thing for Wallace to endure, and the fact that six of Iowa State’s seven losses were to teams in the top 20 probably didn’t make it feel any better.

Wallace was drafted in the fourth round by Seattle, and spent 10 seasons in the NFL. He only started 22 games, and saw quite a bit of action as a receiver during those years.

Honorable Mention:

Jeff Hornacek, Jamaal Tinsley, Mike Warren (you know, the guy who fumbled twice to get Paul Rhoads fired), Dan Gable, Tyrese Haliburton, Joel Lanning, Sage Rosenfels

Next week: Oklahoma.