top of page

Iowa History Daily: October 16 - Cy the Cardinal's Debut

Iowa History Daily: On October 16, 1954, Cy the Cardinal made his debut at an Iowa State pep rally. While the Cyclone nickname dates back to 1895, the hard-to-depict mascot didn’t appear for nearly a half-century before becoming endeared to generations of Cyclone fans.

The Cyclone name for Iowa State’s athletic teams dates back to 1895, when after the school’s football team beat Northwestern by a score of 45-0. The Chicago Tribune’s headline boasted “Struck by a Cyclone: It Comes from Iowa and Devastates Evanston Town. Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday.”

While the school utilized the Cyclone nickname and the colors cardinal and gold, Iowa State struggled to depict the force of nature as a physical mascot. Choosing to use a cardinal as inspiration, as a part of the 1954 homecoming festivities a contest asked students to name the new bird themed mascot. 17 people submitted the winning entry of Cy. The first to submit the name, Mrs. Wilma Ohlsen, won a cardinal and gold stadium blanket.

The first Cy stood approximately 8 feet (2.4 m) tall with a bulging chest made from chicken wire and aluminum. Due to the size and weight of the original costume, physical requirements for students who wanted to fill the role of Cy needed to stand between 5’11” to 6’2” and weigh between 175 to 210 pounds. During the mascot’s early years, only one student served as Cy.

Over the years, redesigns of the Iowa State logo and Cy continue to evolve the mascot. Today,four to six students share mascot duties and appear at over 200 events per year. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryDaily


bottom of page