Cy-Hawk Hoops & Iowa Pride

The basketball edition of Cy-Hawk Week has come and gone, and as someone who’s a fan of college sports and the rivalry games that are a part of it, I don’t think we can be all that disappointed with this round of the in-state battle. 

Sure, if you’re a fan of the Hawkeyes, you’d like to see the Men’s team play a more competitive game than they did. I would also wager you would’ve liked to see Caitlin Clark and the women not have to scrape and claw for much of their game, but a win is a win and the Hawkeyes were able to get the job done on the road, which is never an easy task. 

I think Iowa State fans have a reason to be proud, too. Coach Bill Fennelly had three freshmen in the lineup and no Emily Ryan and pushed the Hawkeyes to the limit. The Cyclone men, meanwhile, were physical, quick and showed their athleticism by rolling past the Hawkeyes in front of a charged crowd at Hilton Coliseum. 

It’s not Michigan/Ohio State, Texas/Oklahoma, Alabama/LSU or any of the major rivalries in college sports that get more media attention – but the Cy-Hawk rivalry is one that means a lot to people in this state and I think it deserves a lot more recognition nationally than it might get. 

When you think about it, we have no pro teams in our state – so these games have a lot riding on them for both sides. The love of our team(s) divides us at least temporarily, but at the end of the day we’re all Iowans and we work side-by-side with fans who wear the “other colors” every day. Few, if any, other places can say that – and even as someone who didn’t grow up here or graduate from either school, I can appreciate the passion for the Cy-Hawk Series every time it comes around. 

One thing I will say – can we stop with the idea that it’s against the rules to cheer for players from either side who have found success at the next level?

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that thought process. If you really have a deep-seated hatred for your rival, naturally, you don’t want anyone who wore the black & gold (or the cardinal & gold) to have success. It is, though, hard to ignore some of the biggest stories in sports that have ties to Iowa and Iowa State. 

Who’s getting plenty of well-deserved attention in the NFL and NBA these days? Why, none-other than former Cyclones Brock Purdy and Tyrese Haliburton! 

Purdy, as of this writing, just had his fourth game this season of at least 300 passing yards, while completing 70% of his passes. Haliburton, meanwhile, has his star shining brightly in the NBA after he helped lead his Pacers to the championship game of the inaugural In-Season Tournament. 

On the other side – which players are second, third and fourth in the NFL in receiving at the Tight End position? Former Hawkeyes TJ Hockenson, George Kittle and Sam LaPorta, of course. (For what it’s worth, the only tight end above them is the future Mr. Taylor Swift). 

In basketball, former Hawkeye Keegan Murray is a key contributor to the Sacramento Kings and their resurgence, while his brother Kris is still navigating his rookie year in Portland. 

Even Iowa athletes currently in school (See: Clark, Caitlin) are such a big part of the national conversation in sports that it’s hard not to appreciate her role in putting the spotlight on women’s basketball in general, and the sport itself in the state of Iowa. 

You might be saying to yourself – “Hey Spencer, that’s easy for you to say because you didn’t go to Iowa or Iowa State – you don’t bleed (insert school colors here)!” – and you’re right, I didn’t, and I don’t.  

Look – I’m not telling you loyal Hawkeye fans to change your wardrobe or go out and learn the moves to the Juicy Wiggle, nor am I telling you Cyclone fans to don yourselves in black & gold and start singing “In Heaven There is No Beer” wherever you go. I’m just saying it’s perfectly acceptable, for the other 300-some days a year where the Hawks and ‘Clones don’t play, to appreciate those who represent the other colors and our state in a positive way. 

I thought former Hawkeye Tyler Kluver said it best on social media – it’s perfectly ok to “be proud of Iowa”. 

In the end, isn’t that what this is all about? Being proud of Iowa, and those who represent it well? No matter my allegiances, if you’re doing cool stuff and representing our state with class – I will be cheering for you. 

Spencer Wagen is the host of “Spencer on Sports”, heard weekdays from 4-6 PM on 1600 ESPN. Follow him on X, @SWOnTheRadio