One True Champion


One True Champion.

The Big 12’s new slogan rolls off the tongue easily.

Say it slower by adding a pause between words and the Big 12’s new slogan starts to define itself as each word takes on its proper significance.

 One… True… Champion…

Italicize the middle word and the Big 12’s new slogan distinguishes the league from all of the other major conferences because of how it determines champions.

One True Champion.

Read that phrase aloud with a heavy emphasis on true.

One True Champion.

The Big 12’s tagline is built around the concept that …

  • playing everybody is a good thing;
  • trophies are awarded for who you beat, not who you don’t play;
  • champions are determined in competition, not through computer logarithms that randomly select opponents;

Round-robin schedules assure that the winners of regular-season titles in the Big 12 are true champions based on real results.

Power rankings and strength of schedule don’t matter as much in the Big 12. When everybody plays everybody, it’s about wins and losses (and, if necessary, head-to-head match-ups as a tie breaker).

In the ACC, SEC and Big Ten this fall, schools will not face five of their league peers on the gridiron. In the Pac-12, each of the dozen members will miss two of their conference partners on the football field in ‘14. The result is skewed schedule strength and debate.

All of the Big 12 schools play the other nine league members. No exceptions.

One True Champion.

There’s a beauty in that simplicity.

Spring season spurs Cyclones to 38th in Directors’ Cup standings

For only the second time in its history, the Iowa State Athletics Department finished in the Top 40 of the nation’s most-successful athletics departments from a competitive standpoint.

The 2014 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup final tally has the Cyclones in 38th place with 585.75 points. The school’s all-time best finish is 34th in 2010.

Iowa State had the fifth-best finish among Big 12 schools and tops in the state of Iowa.

The school earned 160 points in the spring season, which equaled its all-time record. The women’s track & field (60), women’s golf (51) and men’s golf (49) accounted for the spring points. ISU had averaged only 46 points in the spring season previously.

Iowa State also earned points from wrestling (64.5), men’s basketball (64), women’s cross country (63), gymnastics (59.25), women’s indoor track & field (51.5), men’s indoor track & field (46.5), men’s cross country (27), women’s basketball (25) and volleyball (25).


A decade of change from a Cyclone Athletics competitive perspective


Ten years ago, Facebook was launched as a social network site open only to students at Harvard. Today, it has more than 1,230,000,000 active members in countries spanning the globe.

 Ten years ago, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel was $1.90 (per AAA). Today, that cost has increased to $3.66.

Ten years ago, Lance Armstrong won his sixth Tour de France race. Today, his accomplishments are viewed with skepticism.

Ten years ago, Iowa State finished last in the Big 12 All-sports standings. This year, the Cyclones climbed to an all-time record fifth place.

ISU sponsored 18 sports in 2003-04 and it still does today. Fifteen of those programs had the same or a better league finish this season than they did a decade ago.

Here is a comparison of ISU’s conference standing then (10 years ago) and now (this year):

  • Men’s Basketball – 8th then, 3rd now
  • Women’s Basketball – 7th then, 5th now
  • Men’s Cross Country – 11th then, 2nd now
  • Women’s Cross Country – 11th then, 1st now
  • Football – 12th then, 7th now
  • Men’s Golf – 8th then, 4th now
  • Women’s Golf – 11th then, 4th now
  • Gymnastics – 2nd then, 2nd now
  • Men’s Indoor Track & Field – 10th then, 6th now
  • Women’s Indoor Track & Field – 10th then, 4th now
  • Men’s Outdoor Track & Field – 7th then, 9th now
  • Women’s Outdoor Track & Field – 11th then, 6th now
  • Soccer – 9th then, 4th now
  • Softball – 9th then, 7th now
  • Swimming & Diving – 5th then, 3rd now
  • Tennis – 12th then, 9th now
  • Volleyball – 8th then, 3rd now
  • Wrestling – 3rd then, 3rd now

Change can be good.

In the case of ISU Athletics, the last decade has been one of continued improvement.

Half of ISU’s teams were Top 25 this year (a decade ago, only two)


People love to rank things.

Where are the best places to live or eat? What is your favorite team? Who are you preferred music groups or entertainers?

In college sports, the focus revolves around the Top 25. With that as the foundation, how did Iowa State Athletics fair in the 2013-14 athletics season?

Half (9-of-18) of the Cyclone teams registered Top 25 finishes in their final polls or in their national championship competitions.

Here is the full list:

  • Cross Country (women’s): 7th in the final USTFCCA poll;
  • Basketball (men’s): 9th in the final Associated Press poll;
  • Wrestling: 12th at the 2014 NCAA Championship;
  • Outdoor Track & Field (women’s): 15th at the 2014 NCAA Championship;
  • Indoor Track & Field (women’s): 20th in the final USTFCCA poll;
  • Gymnastics: 21st in the final GymInfo poll;
  • Golf (women’s): 23rd at the 2014 NCAA Championship;
  • Indoor Track & Field (men’s): 23rd in the final USTFCCA poll;
  • Golf (men’s): 25th at the NCAA Championship;

The volleyball (27th in the final AVCA poll) and men’s cross country (32nd in their final poll) teams just missed the Top 25 cutoff.

Consider this for perspective… one decade ago (2003-04), gymnastics and wrestling were the only Top 25 programs at Iowa State.

It’s been a good 10 years of progress.

What will it look like in another quarter century?

The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) claims to be the oldest collegiate athletics conference in the nation. It began play in 1888.

Today, the NCAA Division III league features nine schools today, including seven from Michigan. The non-Michigan schools are St. Mary’s and Trine, which joined the conference more than 100 years after its founding. It was definitely Michigan-centric at the start.

But, it’s a new day with conference affiliations as memberships cross state borders more than ever before. The days of seven schools in Michigan joining hands are long gone.

There are positives (“bigger geographical foot print” touted by some) and negatives (loss of “traditional” rivalries and/or forced creation of “new” rivalries) as conference borders expand.

The point of this blog isn’t to suggest that one model is better than the other, but rather it’s a refresher on what “was” and what “is” from a conference alignment standpoint.

Twenty-five years ago (1989), there were nine leagues playing big-school college football. Geography was a key factor in aligning the schools.

Most interestingly, 25 schools were football independents in ‘89. That list included Miami, Florida State, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Rutgers and Boston College among others. This fall, there will be six independents in Division 1A.

The number of states represented in each league has mushroomed in the last quarter century.


Atlantic Coast Conference: schools from 5 different states

Big 8 / Southwest Conferences: schools from 8 different states (6 in the Big 8 and 2 in the SWC)

Big Ten Conference: schools from 7 different states

Pac-10 Conference: schools from 4 different states

Southeastern Conference: schools from 7 different states

This fall

ACC: 9 states represented; Big 12: 5 states; Big Ten: 11 states; Pac-12: 6 states; and SEC: 11 states

The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC have all added representation from new states in the last 25 years. The Big 12 today has fewer states in its membership than what the Big 8 / SWC had a quarter century ago.

Is bigger (as in “footprint”) better? It is a personal preference. The real question is, what will things look like 25 years from now?

Several linemen distinguishing themselves in the engineering lab


Iowa State boasts one of the nation’s best engineering colleges. It offers 12 different majors and five minors to more than 7,000 undergraduate engineering students at ISU.

The Cyclones’ undergraduate engineering program ranked 20th–best among public universities according to the 2013 U.S. News & World Report “America’s Best Colleges” rankings. The program’s job placement rate (six months after graduation) is a staggering 95%.

 A number of current and recent Cyclone football players decided to take advantage of that academic discipline’s significant reputation.

Three offensive linemen headline a pack of aspiring engineers, who double as Cyclone football players.

  • Daniel Burton (who started 8 games as a freshman) is majoring in mechanical engineering and earned Academic All-Big 12 distinction last fall;
  • Jake Campos (a highly touted freshman redshirt) is majoring in biological systems engineering; and
  • Kyle Lichtenberg (a 19-game starter as a Cyclone) is finishing up his degree in electrical engineering after earning Academic All-Big 12 honors three times.

Current Cyclones Ben Boesen (TE, construction), Robby Garcia (DL, civil), Ryan Glenn (OL, construction), Mitchell Harger (OL, aero), Brandon Harbach (RB, civil), Josh Jahlas (DB, civil) and Jared Weaver (LB, aero) are also engineering students.

There is a good partnership brewing between the football players and the engineers. In multiple cases, they are one in the same.

Cyclone programs surpassing old standards


Breaking norms is challenging. It’s easy to become complacent and accept your position.

A number of Iowa State coaches have not accepted the norm and are successfully writing new scripts for their programs.

Take a bow, Andrea Grove-McDonough, Andrew Tank, Christy Johnson-Lynch, Christie Martens, Fred Hoiberg, Tony Minatta, Martin Smith and Duane Sorenson.

Those Iowa State coaches helped their programs to finishes in the league standings this year that were at least two spots higher than what the school averaged in the prior 17 years as a Big 12 member.

Grove-McDonough’s women’s cross country team won the Big 12 championship last fall. That program has an average league finish of 6.7 during its tenure in the Big 12. So, the first-place finish in ‘13 was a 5.7-spot improvement over the program’s long-term norm.

  • Tank’s men’s golf team was fourth this spring (9.3 avg.); thus a 5.3-spot gain;
  • Johnson-Lynch’s volleyball team was third last fall (7.0 avg.); thus a 4.0-spot gain;
  • Marten’s women’s golf team was fourth this spring (7.9 avg.); thus a 3.9-spot gain;
  • Hoiberg’s men’s basketball team was third last winter (6.8 avg.); thus a 3.8-spot gain;
  • Minatta’s (assistant in ‘13) soccer team was fourth last fall (7.8 avg.); thus a 3.8-spot gain;
  • Smith’s men’s cross country team was second last fall (5.5 avg.); thus a 3.5-spot gain;
  • Smith’s women’s indoor track team was fourth last winter (7.4 avg.); thus a 3.4-spot gain;
  • Smith’s men’s indoor track team was sixth last winter (9.2 avg.); thus a 3.2-spot gain; and
  • Sorenson’s swimming & diving team was third last winter (5.3 avg.); thus a 2.3-spot gain.

 Several other Iowa State sports also surpassed their historic averages, but the group above improved at least two spots.

It is quite rewarding to see the steady improvements that are taking place in many programs at ISU.

Another benchmark barrier surpassed by Cyclones


Iowa State Athletics has broken through another barrier.

The Cyclones reached the first division of the Big 12 All-Sports rankings for the first time in program history.

ISU was fifth in the 2013-14 standings, trailing Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma. The Cyclone women’s cross country team was league champion for the third season in a row.

The fifth-place overall finish marked the third year in a row that Iowa State jumped two spots in the cumulative all-sport standings. Thirteen of ISU’s 18 sports finished in the upper division of the team standings.

In the 18-year history of the Big 12, the Cyclones average finish in the conference all-sports ranking has been 10th. ISU finished last in the standings seven times in an eight-year period (2002-09) before registering marks of 8th, 9th, 9th, 7th and 5th the last five years.

It’s been a steady climb for Iowa State and the accolades should be given to the hundreds of student-athletes and staff, who have made it all happen.

“I’m travelling well, mate.” — Sam Daley, ISU golfer


Sights and sounds from a remarkable weekend of walking 54 holes with the Iowa State men’s golf team at the NCAA Regional Championship in Columbia, Mo.

The Cyclones entered the tournament seeded 9th (of 14 teams) in the region. Only 5 schools would advance to the NCAA Championship. Iowa State had not participated in the national meet since ’53.

Three days before departure, ISU learned that freshman Nick Voke (who led the team with 8 rounds in the 60s this year) had broken his collarbone. Coach Andrew Tank had to steady his team and reshuffle the line-up. At that point, the No. 9 seed seemed high.

STEPPING UP   That would be sophomore Collin Foster. The Waukee native – who played as the No. 5 man much of the season – was both steady (75-73 in the opening rounds) and spectacular (68, with a holed wedge for eagle, on Saturday). Foster’s tie for 26th was critical and impressive.

BEST ROOKIE   That would be true freshman Ruben Sondjaja. In his first season of college golf, Sondjaja fired rounds of 72-70-70 in the NCAA Regional Championship and his three-round total of 4-under par was good for a tie for 17th. His finish was the best of any true freshman in the field.

CONTRIBUTING IN MULTIPLE WAYS   When Voke was injured, Tank called freshman Jack Carter to take his place. Carter had already gone home for the summer. Knowing his score in the final round could be a tie-breaker, Carter shot a season-low 73. Additionally, Carter’s uncle (a Columbia resident) hosted a team dinner Friday night and that rib-fest hit the spot for all.

QUOTE OF THE TOURNAMENT   When I asked junior Sam Daley how his round was going one day, the sweet-swinging Aussie said, “I’m traveling well, mate.” After laughing at the description of his play, I agreed that he was definitely traveling well. His rounds of 74-72-66 showed a steady progression and the 66 included 4 birdies in the last 7 holes. That was, indeed, traveling well!

QUOTE II Coach Andrew Tank: “I have been hoping for a round like this all year where it really clicks. For it to actually happen on the most important day of the season is so rewarding.” To put it into perspective, Iowa State’s 18-under par score in the final round was a school record and came in arguably the most-important day (with an NCAA Championship berth on the line) in program history.

EAGLE HUNTER   You might have needed to see it to believe it. In the final round, Scott Fernandez blistered a 6-hole stretch in 5-under par. Remarkably, he putted for eagle on three straight holes. Fernandez drove the green (with a 3-wood) on the 334-yard (card yardage) 8th hole and then reached both the 575-yard 9th and 530-yard 10th holes in 2 shots.


All in all, it was 54 holes of drama and excitement for ISU golf. The NCAA Championship starts Friday in Hutchinson, KS. For the first time in 61 years Iowa State is in the field.

Time for some interior decorating at the Golf Performance Center


The Iowa State men’s and women’s golf teams moved into a fabulous state-of-the-art practice facility last spring.

 It is an incredible complex for golfers. For prospective recruits, it’s impressive eye candy. For current Cyclones, it’s a combination training facility, study hall and team hang out.

During the interior decorating phase for the facility, Iowa State coaches Christie Martens and Andrew Tank considered lots of options and brought many ideas to the table.

There was one conversation with Tank in which he talked about having a wall to showcase team accomplishments. It sounded like a good idea.

And, in the last 2 weeks that “wall” is primed to come to life with a couple of very significant additions.

You see, Martens’ team tied for 6th at the 2014 NCAA West Regional to advance to the NCAA Championship for the first time in program history. They start play in the national championship event Tuesday in Tulsa.

Tank’s squad tied for 4th at the NCAA Columbia Regional Saturday to make the NCAA Championship field for the first time since 1953. The Iowa State men begin competition Friday in Hutchinson, Kan.

The Cyclones are one of 11 schools nationally (Alabama, Cal, USC, UCLA, Oklahoma, Stanford, Washington, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are the others) to advance both of their golf teams to the pinnacle event of the year.

Both teams earned a souvenir flag after advancing through their respective regionals.

When they get home in a couple of weeks, I suspect those framed flags will be prominently displayed on the “wall”.