Monday, April 28, 2008
10. Iowa State Cyclones
We go from the plains of West Texas to the northernmost nowhere that is Ames, Iowa. This is a surprise to some, I'm sure, because if there's one thing the Cyclones do well, it's not football. But overall, Iowa State's athletic department is actually in fairly good shape. The Cyclones are basically Missouri with worse football and no baseball, and that overall strength gets ISU the #10 spot.
Competitiveness: Look at Iowa State's football program, and you think that the whole department is a joke. But in women's basketball, Iowa State is a perennial contender, and is almost always in the NCAA Tournament. Volleyball is now a consistent finisher in the top half of a difficult conference, gymnastics is always in the Top 20 nationally and I haven't even begun to talk about the Cyclones' wrestling program, which was the national runner-up last year. Beneath the surface, there's a lot to like about Iowa State.
Championships: Surprisingly, the Cyclones only have two titles in wrestling, easily their best sport. But ISU has three crowns each in men's and women's basketball, plus another two in gymnastics. That's a pretty solid amount. Iowa State has yet to have a period where it's not a threat to win something, and it doesn't just win in one sport.
Facilities: These might be the worst in the Big 12. Jack Trice Stadium is nothing but a glorified high school stadium. The Hilton Coliseum is used for all indoor sports, and while it is a decent facility, it was built in the 1970's. As such, it lacks the charm and tradition of venerable old buildings like Gallagher-Iba Arena and Allen Fieldhouse, and it lacks the modern amenities of places like Reed Arena and Mizzou Arena. It does have a strong Cyclone fan base, but that's another category.
Fan base: And here we have said category. The Cyclone fan base is supportive throughout good and bad of its teams, which is either a testament to how loyal ISU fans are to their beloved cardinal and gold, or a testament to how little there is to do in Ames, Iowa and the state of Iowa in general. Most likely, it's the first one, because there is Des Moines, which has some entertainment value.
Coaches: I'm not sure how, but Iowa State has some good coaches. Bill Fennelly is an excellent women's coach, also known as the man who was Brenda Frese's final boss before she went to Maryland. Gene Chizik is supposed to be a very good football coach, and Greg McDermott has similar credentials in men's basketball. Volleyball has experienced a rising from the ashes under Christy Johnson. With the exception of Fennelly, these coaches have been at Iowa State for three years or less. If they stay in Ames, the future could be bright.
Important sports: Football and baseball are almost or actually are non-existent in the race, but Iowa State has a solid basketball past that isn't too distant. With the right leadership, it's not hard to see these programs becoming relevant again. The solid past and possibility of a good future have ISU as the best of the bottom of the barrel in the Big 12.
My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Cross Canadian Ragweed.