McCoy medals in loaded field


It’s been a good week on the course and on the field for several Iowa State teams and athletes.

Junior Nate McCoy birdied three of his final five holes to earn medalist honors at the VCU Shootout. The West Des Moines native fired an 8-under par 208. He became the first Cyclone to win a major tournament since 2004. McCoy won in a field that included the NCAA’s second- and sixth-ranked players (both from Wake Forest).

Linebacker Jake Knott was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after the Cyclones’ shutout of Northern Iowa last week. Knott is the first ISU sophomore to win a league offensive or defensive honor since Todd Blythe in 2005 (vs. Texas A&M). The only other Iowa State sophomore defender to win the league’s weekly award was Reggie Hayward vs. Iowa in 1998.

Another sophomore, Aliphine Tuliamuk, earned the league’s Female Cross Country Runner of the Week award. In her 2010 debut, the native of Kenya placed fourth as an individual in the highly competitive Roy Griak Invitational.

The soccer team defeated Kansas (2-0) last week to open Big 12 play with a victory for the first time in three seasons. All of the goals and assists came from freshmen. Seven of the team’s 11 starters and eight of the 11 players who have scored a point this fall are freshmen.

The women’s golf team, ranked 49th nationally by Golfweek, has placed second (Wolverine Invitational) and fourth (Mary Fossum Invitational) to open the fall season. Punpaka Phuntumabamrung finished sixth and tied for fourth in those tournaments to lead the Cyclones.

Be sure to check later this morning for the future Big 12 football schedule rotation.

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Winning at UT on coach’s task list


The “to do” list for Iowa State volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch gets shorter each year.

Certainly, there is always another goal out there. The sixth-year Cyclone coach, in fact, feels her program can realistically compete for an NCAA Championship.

But, one pretty significant goal – winning at the University of Texas – could be checked off the list Wednesday night when the ninth-ranked Cyclones play at the No. 13 Longhorns.

“It’s a big task,” Johnson-Lynch said Monday. “We have not won there during my tenure and I hope we can go down there and play well.”

Johnson-Lynch took the reins of dormant program in 2005 and created a national power in short order. Her clubs have played in a NCAA Regional Final, reached the NCAA Regional Semi-Finals three years in a row (one of eight schools to do so), defeated 17 ranked foes and she won 100 matches as coach faster than any of her predecessors. The seven All-Americans in school history all played for her and attendance has skyrocketed 409 percent since her hiring.

But, beating Texas on the road has never happened. The streak is at 16. One thing about Johnson-Lynch and her club is that they like challenges and Wednesday night is the latest one.

The Cyclones did defeat second-ranked Texas at Hilton Coliseum last year and, with that win, came confidence.

“It’s safe to say Texas remembers that match,” Johnson-Lynch said. “That might be some video they watch to get fired up (this week).”

The opportunity to cross one more thing off her task list, however, is the type of motivation Coach Johnson-Lynch thrives on.

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Orr’s statue will be larger than life


Well, he really is larger than life.

After a visit to the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt Amrany on Friday to view a “statue” of Johnny Orr, I can confirm the final product will be bigger than the real-life former Cyclone basketball coach.

Orr, who played professionally for a couple of seasons, listed a height of 6-3 on his player trading card. The statue of Orr – which will eventually be placed on the concourse at Hilton Coliseum – will measure 7-feet-6 inches tall from the tip of his raised hand to the floor. Tribute statues are often created a bit larger than life and Orr’s larger stature seems appropriate given his big personality and charisma.

Sculptors Lou Cella and Oscar Leon have been molding clay for the Orr statue since July. Lou and Oscar are artists at a studio, which has also created statues of Michael Jordan, Gordie Howe, Carlton Fisk, Ty Cobb and many others. During our visit, we saw in-progress work for statues of Jerry West and Scottie Pippen.

Fellow athletics department staff member Nick Britton and I went to Chicago last week to review the clay piece. Now approved, that clay will be shipped to a foundry where several wax coatings are the next step before bronzing.

As announced previously, the Iowa State Athletics Department is creating a sports-bar like facility in the former basketball offices at Hilton Coliseum for donor functions. The facility will be named Johnny’s and is a tribute to the former Cyclone coach. The 700-pound statue will greet visitors at the entrance of Johnny’s and be placed so fans can take photos with it.

Plans call for Johnny’s to open in January and the statue will be unveiled at that time.

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2011 non-league schedule finalized


Iowa State will open its 2011 football season on a Saturday night.

Northern Iowa will be next fall’s season lid-lifter on Saturday, Sept. 3. The Cyclones and Panthers were originally scheduled to play on Sept. 24, 2011. The last time Iowa State opened its home season on a Saturday was 2005.

In addition to moving UNI to the first game, Iowa State also agreed to drop its game with Utah (originally set for Thursday, Sept. 1). It will not be re-scheduled.

Both the Cyclones and Utes will be playing nine-game conference schedules beginning next season and needed to drop a non-league game. With the departure of Colorado and Nebraska from the Big 12, future conference schedules will include a full round-robin, nine-game slate. Utah is moving to the Pac-10, which already plays a nine-game conference schedule.

Iowa State’s 2011 pre-league slate will now include: Northern Iowa (Sept. 3), Iowa (Sept. 10) and at UConn (Sept. 17).

Big 12 administrators hope to finalize the conference portion of future football schedules soon. League meetings are being held this week.

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Restoration crews on-site at Hilton

It’s easy to forget that Hilton Coliseum was 10-12 feet underwater several weeks ago. At that time, the flooded parking lots and floating basketball court were real life pictures of the damage.

Since then, staff and contracted vendors (ServiceMaster, for example) have been working tirelessly to get the building cleaned up and, hopefully, in game mode. Much progress has been made but a great deal of work remains.

The goal – and we feel that our current timeline will allow – is for the women’s and men’s basketball teams to open their seasons in Hilton Coliseum in early November.

Officials from FEMA spent several days on campus recently to evaluate flood damage across campus. They will continue their efforts to assess the damage in weeks to come.

After Environmental Health and Safety deemed the buildings clean, dry and safe, “control” of the building was shifted from ServiceMaster to Facilities Planning & Management (an Iowa State University unit) to Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis. That building team is working to restore the facility to working condition.

In certain areas, the power is on at Hilton, but the task list to get the building opened is long. It is likely that some of the behind-the-scenes areas (locker rooms, media room, training rooms, etc.) in Hilton will be a bit makeshift for the coming seasons.

Walking through the facility earlier this week reminded me that countless individuals have invested countless hours to get Hilton Coliseum ready for action. It was good news, however, that construction teams are finally on site and ready to tackle the restoration.

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Departure details set for Huskers & Buffaloes


News broke earlier this week that financial details for Nebraska and Colorado to leave the Big 12 Conference at the end of the year have been finalized. That is good news.

There hasn’t been much debate about the Cornhuskers’ end date as a league member, but the Buffaloes’ transition was up-in-the-air prior to Tuesday. What’s clear is that both schools wanted to leave ASAP and that is positive for the league as well.

When the Big 12 announced earlier this summer that the conference would remain together with 10 schools, our administrative staff had a debriefing meeting right away. Director of Athletics Jamie Pollard said that many details would be ironed out in the coming months, but football scheduling jumped to the top of his priority list.

The uncertainty of league membership for 2011 (read Colorado) certainly hampered future football scheduling. In fact, various draft schedules were recently studied by ADs. Some versions included CU and others did not. Now, the league can move forward quickly to finalize future schedules. That will be a high priority at Big 12 meetings next week.

Losing the Huskers and Buffaloes changes the Big 12 for sure. It is interesting, however, that the remaining 10 members have combined for 27 of the league’s 31 bowl appearances the last four years, all 37 men’s basketball NCAA tourney bids the last seven years and 30-of-33 women’s basketball tournament appearances the last six seasons.

The Big 12 will, indeed, survive and likely prosper moving forward.

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Items to ponder prior to Saturday night


Here are some things to ponder as the Cyclones prepare to host Northern Iowa Saturday night.

UNDER THE LIGHTS – Iowa State’s record at night in Jack Trice Stadium is 23-10. The Cyclones have won four in a row. The Panthers and Cyclones have played in the evening four times previously and the crowd of 56,795 in 2007 is the largest in stadium history.

AFTER 16 – Paul Rhoads’ record as head coach is 8-8. The last Cyclone coach to register a winning record after 16 games was Clay Stapleton. He was 9-7 in 1958-59. Since then, Johnny Majors (6-10), Earle Bruce (6-10), Donnie Duncan (8-8), Jim Criner (6-10), Jim Walden (5-11), Dan McCarney (5-11) and Gene Chizik (5-11) have walked the sidelines. Duncan was at .500 after 16 games, but his club lost the next week to Kansas. A win Saturday means Rhoads would join Stapleton with winning records at this point in their careers.

HOME SWEET HOME – The Cyclones begin a three-game home stand Saturday. The last season that ISU had more than three home games in a row was 1985 when Iowa State opened 3-3 during a six-game stretch at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones had three-game home stands in 1986, 1987, 1989, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2003 and 2007. Iowa State won all three games in the home stands of 1986 and 2002.

A-ROB IN COMPARISON – Alexander Robinson has climbed to eighth in career rushing at ISU with 2,590 yards. Just 11 yards ahead of him is Stevie Hicks. The only player ahead of Robinson on the Iowa State career list who has fewer than 600 carries (Robinson has 552) is Ennis Haywood with 2,862 yards on 572 attempts.

WEAR CARDINAL – Finally, it’s “Color it Cardinal” night at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday and Iowa State fans should be wearing their cardinal-colored apparel proudly.

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Big 12 gridiron power on display

After three weeks of college football action, fans in the Big 12 will, once again, see some of the nation’s top teams and players.

Three of the Top 10 teams in the USA Today coaches’ poll (Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma – yes, the Cyclones will face all three in a four-week stretch coming up) reside in the Big 12. Additionally, Missouri and Oklahoma State sit 24th and 25th.

Thus far, Big 12 schools have registered a 7-4 mark against teams that went to bowl games last year. Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma have all played two bowl teams and each has posted at least one victory. This week, the Sooners travel to Cincinnati and Central Florida visits K-State in match-ups of bowl squads from a year ago.

Since the formation of the Big 12 in 1995, the league has produced more consensus All-Americans (81) than any other conference. More of the same is likely.

Current NCAA statistics underline the star power in the Big 12 as the nation’s second (Daniel Thomas, KSU) and third-best rushers (Kendall Hunter, OSU), No. 2 passer (Brandon Weeden, OSU) and leading receiver (Justin Blackmon, OSU) all play in the Big 12.

It’s pretty safe to say that league fans will be watching some of college football’s premier teams and players in the coming weeks.

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Corrective measures must start in practice


Coach Paul Rhoads explained after Saturday’s football game that improvement on a week-to-week basis with his defense would be a key to the season. He knows that season statistics to date don’t show the type of improvement he is seeking

While the Cyclone defense has mixed in several new starters this season, his club has also dealt with missed games for anticipated starters Matt Tau’fo’ou, Ter’Ran Benton, David Sims and Bailey Johnson.

The opening three opponents – Northern Illinois, Iowa and Kansas State – all featured ground-hugging, physical offenses. Not surprisingly, the Cyclones have struggled to slow the slow the run game of its opposition.

Iowa State foes have largely stayed out of long-yardage situations offensively and that is a combination of ISU’s national ranking of tied for 100th in tackles for loss and the fact that opponents have yet to be called for a holding call on 197 offensive plays.

Rhoads said in the post-game interviews that the corrective measure must emerge on the practice field. That starts today as the Cyclones begin preparation to host Northern Iowa, the 11th-rated rushing offense (238.0 per game and 7.0 per attempt) in the FCS level of college football.

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Freshmen impact soccer squad


Sometimes, coaching transitions take time as teams get adjusted to new staffs and different styles of play. What generally eases that transition, however, is when new coaches evaluate, recruit and sign their own players.

College women’s soccer doesn’t have an NCAA-mandated recruiting calendar and because of the timing of prep, club and college seasons, soccer coaches can’t assemble their own teams as quickly as other sports.

Three years ago, Coach Wendy Dillinger took the reins of the Cyclone program. But, the current season is the first one in which “her” players have earned prominent roles.

Iowa State’s 5-1-2 start is pretty exciting when you consider that five of the seven women who have scored goals this season are freshmen. Emily Goldstein and Brittany Morgan lead the team with two goals each and both are rookies. Of the top five players on the stat sheet for total shots, four are freshmen. Goalkeeper Maddie Jobe has authored three shutouts in her five starts and, yes, she’s a freshman, too.

Dillinger’s club will get a test tonight as Iowa brings a 6-1 record into the annual Cy-Hawk Series match-up. The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. in Ames and it will be the real home debut for the Cyclones, who had to host an earlier game this season off campus. As you recall, the ISU Soccer Field was flooded this summer and Friday’s game is the first time Iowa State gets to perform on its real home.

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