CYCLONE VALLEY: The Demise of Student Turnout


Much has been made in recent days about the inability of Iowa State students to consistently fill in their allotted seats at men's basketball games. This dilemma is nothing new and has been a frequent gripe of alums for the better part of the last five years, but it's always been my contention that there were multiple layers of this argument and each side is right. You have the current students, guys like myself who were in school when Cyclone Alley first began, and the old guard who ushered in the Hilton Magic era of Cyclone hoops. At its essence, it's really a "chicken or the egg" argument, but the bottom line is that everyone wants butts in seats, regardless of the opponent, and Wednesday's student turn out against Texas Tech is never acceptable.

For several years, we've all heard that Cyclone Alley "sucks" and has to go. Alums see a 70% full student section and a watered down enthusiasm, and Cyclone Alley is the easy scapegoat. Current students counter that they suffered through four years of Greg McDermott and a last place team in '10-'11 and losing basketball is all they know. Like I said, both sides are right, but we're arguing different things.

I attended ISU from 2003-2007, so I was there when Cyclone Alley first started. You had the option of sitting on one side, which was Cyclone Alley, or the other side of the arena, which was just a general student section. Naturally, like most of my peers, we dabbled in both sides, but it became clear that sitting in Cyclone Alley, meant dealing with douchebags on Cyclone Alley Central Committee and being policed for egregious offenses like swearing, drinking a little ripple and God forbid, painting your chest. Keep in mind, this was a student section at Iowa State that was renowned for that type of behavior. Roy Williams and Eddie Sutton didn't loathe playing in Ames because they were going to get doused with polite criticisms and well-mannered cheers and jabs. No, opposing coaches, players and fans hated playing in Ames because our fans were ruthless, and boundaries were regularly crossed.

CAC would have none of that. First it was abolishing the "You Suck" chant after clapping five times during the opponent introductions. Then it was the handbook on what was acceptable and what was not as it pertained to student behavior during games. Then it was the party patrol that roamed the aisles, seeking out students who were drunk or snuck a flask in. This was all done by students mind you, not campus security. Sitting in CA was akin to sitting with your grandparents in most of our eyes, which really turned individuals like myself off. When you had the choice of sitting in CA or the regular student section, it was never in question which side was more raucous, better attended and just plain more fun. I'll give you a hint, it wasn't the side where the students were all wearing the same shirt.

Add all of this up and it's easy to see why alums my age hold some resentment for Cyclone Alley.

Fast forward to this year, I will readily admit that I don't think the CAC leadership is the problem anymore, and it does have a lot more to do with shitty basketball, which I've always conceded, but current students have to understand where we're coming from on this issue. For those that were students in the 80s and 90s, they just see empty sections and assume Cyclone Alley is to blame.

Like I said, all sides are right. I thought the atmosphere against Kansas this year was awesome and the signs and costumes were outstanding. The balcony section of Cyclone Alley, though, remained mostly uninhabited.

Winning basketball will not only bring the students back, but the alumni as well. The fact is, we have what will likely be our first NCAA tournament team at Iowa State since 2004-2005, and potentially a team next year that could contend for the Big 12 crown. The basketball is better and exciting. Fred Hoiberg has done his part, now it's time for the students and all fans to do theirs. Hilton Magic was always just as much about the fans as it was the game.

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