Iowa State’s athletic teams have been known as the Cyclones since 1895.  On September 28 of that year the Iowa state football team—who admitted they were only hoping to score—surprised Northwestern University’s team by scoring 36 unanswered points.  The Chicago Tribune described the game the next day:

“Struck by a Cyclone…Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday.  At the end of fifty minute’s play the big husky farmers from Iowa’s Agricultural College had rolled up 36 points, while 15 yard line was the nearest Northwestern got to Iowa’s goal.”


Original Cyclones. 1895.


The team was immediately christened the Cyclones, and the name has remained for over 100 years.  However, in 1954 one man was agitating for a change in the team’s name.  That was Chev Adams.  Adams, the president of Collegiate Manufacturing, contacted sports information director Harry Burrell with the suggestion that his firm create a mascot for Iowa State.  An Ames company, Collegiate Manufacturing was then the leading supplier of college souvenirs—pennants, blankets, and stuffed animals—in the nation.  The problem was how to create a stuffed costume that resembled a whirling column of wind.  Adams wanted the school to change their nickname, but Burrell was reluctant to alter a tradition of such long standing.  Instead, the Pep Council held a contest to determine what the mascot should be.  A cardinal was chosen, in reference to the school’s colors of cardinal and gold.


Cy meets the Cheer Squad.  1954. 


Collegiate Manufacturing designed and built the new mascot with input from the Pep Council and the cheerleading squad.  The cost was $200.  The eight foot bird was introduced at Homecoming, October 16, 1954.

 He remained nameless while a national “Name-the-Bird”contest was held.  Wilma Beckman Ohlsen of Ames was the first of seventeen people to submit the name of “Cy.”  She received a personalized “I” blanket as first prize.



Cy and Mrs. Ohlsen. 1954.