What of Iowa-ISU Rivalry if Big 12 Folds?

June 8, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

This is something I have wanted to talk about on my radio show Monday and Tuesday, but we were unable to get around to it.  We will still talk about it, but I want to write about it in the mean time.

If the Big 12 folds, and Iowa State is left behind (which seems plausible to likely), and joins a conference like say, a retooled  Mountain West, what does that do to the Cy-Hawk Rivalry?

On it’s face, perhaps not much..but we need another component to the scenario to make it cook a little bit:  What if the Big Ten invites Nebraska and Missouri to the league?

I think all three of these scenarios are not just possible but have some gravity to them…meaning, they are not far fetched..then again in today’s expansion debate climate, nothing seems too crazy.

I think there is a chance that by next week at this time, the Big Ten will have invited at least one new team to the league.  That could end up being Notre Dame and leaving it at that, however that seems more remote.  That could end up being an invite (and acceptance of the invite) to Nebraska…and then likely Missouri, if not in concert with one another.

I’d say that’s the more likely scenario.  I totally believe that Nebraska and Missouri have been vetted by some persons unofficially representing the Big Ten, and I don’t care if Jim Delaney denies it.  I don’t believe the 810 WHB report from May was some snipe hunt, and the emails that came out between Delaney and Ohio State’s president confirm that not everything Delaney told the media back in mid-May was 100% accurate.

I’ve even received a few emails from Nebraska partisans that have said the Huskers were extended an invitation last night (Monday, June 7th) but I have zero corroboration on that, so I am NOT saying I think that happened…just more smoke in the system to wade through.

BUT…I do think that there is a decent chance that Nebraska is going to be the first school to join the new Big Ten.  If that happens, I think the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry as we know it will forever be changed.

Those of you reading this item that live out of state, or even in eastern Iowa, you may not care all that much or you may not think it’s a big deal.

However, those of you reading this item in central Iowa, which is about 25 to 30 percent of you, you understand that living in the 515 makes this rivalry altogether something different and unique for you pretty much every day of the year.

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Before I moved to Des Moines, I really didn’t get it.  I grew up in eastern Iowa (West Branch) and there were a handful of Iowa State fans.  Iowa was also starting its 15 year winning streak against the Clones on the gridiron.  There wasn’t any smack talk and there were no message boards as Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet.

More recently, I lived in Kansas City (back in the mid to late 1990’s and from 2002-2005) and while I did come across some ISU fans, things were pretty tame because we focused more on being fellow Iowans in the middle of KC than we did our school’s identities.

I had friends that lived in Des Moines that told me “Try living up here, then you will understand.”

We moved to West Des Moines in May of 2005 and have been here ever since and I hope to never leave.  I love it here, love living in the state of Iowa (for at least nine months out of the year) and it’s great.

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The fan rivalry with Iowa State is also quite a bit of fun and only rarely annoying…such as when a few ISU fans have run smack at me when I have been out eating dinner with my family…but most of the interactions have been good natured, even when I have walked through the parking lots of Jack Trice Stadium before and Iowa-ISU football game.

However, I have always said that a conference game against Northwestern is more important than an out of conference game against Iowa State, because the conference game goes in the hunt for the championship column, whereas a loss to Iowa State doesn’t necessarily take you out of the BCS Bowl picture, as we saw in 2002.

If Nebraska joins the Big Ten, what you have is a border state rival, one that many Iowa fans view with some degree of contempt to begin with, that is also in your same league.

There is a good number of Husker fans that live in the Des Moines metro.  I think the Hawkeye-Husker rivalry would take up more air time in Des Moines sports talk radio circles than the Cyclone-Husker build up, because that series has hardly been a rivalry over the past…well….forever.

Iowa State has six wins against Nebraska since 1961.  That series is as closely contested as Iowa’s series is against Ohio State; the Hawkeyes have beaten the Buckeyes just seven times since 1959.  I don’t know about you, but I would hardly refer to Iowa’s series with Ohio State as a rivalry.

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I think the Nebraska fans in central Iowa would rise up and begin calling talk shows with more fervor and frequency.  I think Iowa fans in central Iowa will respond in kind, and I think that over time, the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry will fall back a few notches.  I think that over time, the Iowa-Nebraska game would mean more annually to Iowa fans than the Iowa-Iowa State game.  Being that it would be an annual conference home and home game (likely), it might not take much time at all for that game to overtake the Cy-Hawk game.

In eastern Iowa, where the Cy-Hawk game is on the radar but is not at the boiling point like it is in the close confines of central Iowa, I think that might happen almost instantly given the conference tie in.  The Iowa-Nebraska game would also become the hottest ticket every other year for an Iowa home game, period…and the Nebraska fans would have a lot to do with that.

If this came to pass, it would be great if the Nebraska and Iowa State games could be played in Kinnick in separate seasons; one year Iowa State is in town, the next year Nebraska is in town.

Then if Missouri is also added to the mix, I don’t think it would take too much time before bad blood between our two states would fester and that game would become another great rivalry…which could diminish the Iowa-Iowa State game even more.

I have said for years that if the Iowa-ISU game went away, it wouldn’t be all bad.  I would miss the smack talk and the year round fun we have with it in central Iowa, but Iowa always has everything to lose and little to gain in that game.  If they win, they are supposed to win.  If they lose, it’s “What’s wrong with Iowa?”  People on the outside don’t understand the dynamics of it, even when they have fierce rivals on their schedule.

But if Nebraska joins the Big Ten, which I think could happen soon, the intensity of the Cy-Hawk rivalry will likely diminish in the eyes of Iowa fans…however, I think it would heat up even more in the eyes of ISU fans, as if they joined a revamped Mountain West, the Iowa game would be one of their rare annual games against one of the ‘big boys’ from a super-conference…

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