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History of Cy 

Athletic teams are often recognized by their mascots, who are believed to bring good luck. Iowa State University is home to the Cyclones.

The story of Cy the Cardinal goes back to the early 1950s when an Iowa State mascot was only a glint in the eye of Chev Adams, president of the former Collegiate Manufacturing Company of Ames, and Harry Burrell, Iowa State sports information director. The two struggled to think of a way to make a mascot costume that would remotely resemble a column of wind.

To solve the problem, two contests were held: the first, a student-run challenge to decide once and for all what form the new mascot would take; the other, a nationwide contest to find a fitting name for the character. The consensus among the students – led by Pep Council president Chuck Duncan – confirmed that you “couldn’t stuff a Cyclone,” so they settled on a cardinal bird based on the school colors, cardinal and gold, and on existing organizations, Cardinal Key and Cardinal Guild.

Collegiate Manufacturing designed the first cardinal costume – after receiving a green light from Alumni Association director W.E. “Red” Barron and Cyclone Club director Ray Donels – at a cost of $200.

Seventeen people submitted the name “Cy” in the nationwide contest. The first to submit the name was Mrs. Ed Ohlsen of Ames. “Cy the Cardinal” (his official name) debuted at the 1954 Homecoming game and has become the enduring symbol of Iowa State athletics.

Virgil Petty (’57 farm op, DVM ’64) was chosen out of pity by the athletic club to be the inaugural Cy after just being cut from the varsity basketball team. He tried out the costume – made mostly from chicken wire and aluminum – at Brown’s Sporting Goods several times before the big game. Petty needed the practice – the overwhelming 8 1/2-foot height and bulging chest of the bird costume made maneuvering cumbersome at best.

That first year, Petty says, students from rival schools kept intercepting the costume before games (it was so large it had to be packed and shipped by train to away games) and holding it for ransom.

Over the last half century, Cy has undergone several makeovers, redesigns, and life changes. He was reportedly “plucked to death” during the 1961 migration to Missouri, and it took almost a year to replace him.

In 1972, on the way to the Liberty Bowl, the vehicle carrying the Cy costume was in an accident near St. Louis. The costume was bent, mangled, covered with oil, and splattered with battery acid but eventually made its way to Memphis, where a costumer and cleaning establishment worked tirelessly to repair the mascot. Cy made it to the game just in time.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a miniature "Baby Cy" made appearances at many athletics events. Several years afer the smaller "Cy" was discontinued, "Clone" debuted at Hilton Coliseum in January of 1989. The more agile mascot complemented the traditional Cy for several years.


Iowa State Fight Song

"O we will fight, fight, fight for Iowa State, and may her colors ever fly.

Yes, we will fight with might for Iowa State, with the will to do or die, Rah! Rah! Rah!

Loyal sons forever true, and we will fight the battle through, and when we hit that line we'll hit it hard ev'ry yard for I.S.U."



The cannon, operated by members of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, is traditionally fired after every Cyclone touchdown or field goal. Additionally, it has been fired on kickoffs and was formerly fired during the Cyclone Marching Band’s playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” 


Hilton Magic

The now famous moniker for Iowa State’s home basketball facility was coined by Des Moines Register writer Buck Turnbull on Feb. 14, 1989, after the Cyclones stunned third-ranked Missouri 82-75. The morning newspaper included a headline that read “Hilton Magic Spells ‘Upset’ One More Time.” 

In the article, Turnbull called for more Hilton Magic in an upcoming game with Oklahoma State. Cyclone fans responded and ISU defeated the Cowboys 90-81 and a nickname was born. The Hilton Magic term received great notoriety during a 39-game homecourt winning streak in men’s basketball from 1999-2002.


Sweet Caroline

Made popular in recent years, Iowa State fans sing Sweet Caroline By Neil Diamond in between the third and fourth quarters of football games when the Cyclones are ahead as well as post-game after significant victories. 


Victory Bell

One cherished tradition of Cyclone football is the ringing of the Victory Bell after each gridiron triumph in Ames. It has graced the Iowa State University campus for more than a century. The bell was originally used to signal changes in class periods and student curfews. It was moved to Clyde Williams Field early in the 20th century and eventually Jack Trice Stadium. The bell was cast in 1890 by Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co. of Troy, N.Y.