Saturday, August 20, 2011

College football season approaches.

In college football there are many rivalries. Some, like the Ohio State-Michigan game or the Iron Bowl, are known to even non-fans. Others, like the Friends of Coal Bowl, are glorified advertisements for a product and I doubt even the most ardent fans refer to the game by the purported title. And some are in-state or perhaps neighboring state games where the rivalry is only important to fans in the area.

The Cy-Hawk Trophy used to fall into the last category. There are a number of reasons for this. First, Iowa and Iowa State did not play each other in football between 1935 and 1976. So the rivalry is not very old. Second, the schools are not in the same conference so the game doesn't have much relevance to conference standings. Perhaps most importantly, there are a lot of years when neither team is very good. Iowa State is almost always in the bottom third of its conference and Iowa, while more successful than Iowa State, is usually not in the top third of its conference. Since the game isn't a match up of two powerhouses, it doesn't get a lot of attention.

What is unusual about the rivalry is that it has apparently decided to change itself from one of intrastate importance into a glorified advertisement for a product. How is it doing this? By changing its trophy. Since the rivalry restarted in 1977, the teams have played for this trophy:

[Picture no longer available. But it was a sight to behold.]

It is fair to say that this trophy did not rival the Little Brown Jug or Old Oaken Bucket in college football lore. It may even be fair to say that the trophy looks like a sixth grade shop class project. However, I thought it had a certain, amateurish, charm.

The Cy-Hawk trophy has been retired and replaced by this.

The new Cy-Hawk football trophy was unveiled Friday at the fair.

If you look at the picture, then I probably don't have to tell you that the reason for the trophy change is that the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board are the new sponsors of the game/trophy. Some might suggest that this trophy looks like it was designed by Bob Vander Plaats or that it looks like a statute you might find at a garage sale. However, as the Des Moines Register reports, Craig Floss disagrees. Mr. Floss is happy to inform you that the new trophy is "literally a work of art representing the people and characteristics that are uniquely Iowan." It is unclear what about the picture is uniquely Iowan there are reports that non-Iowans grow corn, stand, kneel, and wear clothing. Perhaps it is uniquely Iowan to do all three.

Who is Mr. Floss? Is he a noted art critic? No, he is the chief executive officer of Iowa Corn. By pointing out his job title, I do not mean to suggest that he doesn't know anything about art. Note that Mr. Floss said the trophy was "literally a work of art." Mr. Floss did not say that that it was a work of good art.

I am still looking forward to the upcoming college football season. As a former Iowan who did not attend either of the two institutions, I hope that both Iowa State and Iowa have good seasons (neither is expected to win their conference). I just wish they hadn't turned their game into an advertisement for something besides their respective schools.

Disclosure: I believe, but am not completely sure, that one of my uncles was the president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association back in the 1970s. In any event, several of my relatives grow corn and I hope they continue to prosper doing so.


  1. Your relatives are also known to be clothes-wearing kneelers, so I think that pretty much blows this post out of the water.

  2. A minor point missed during the laughter about "clothes-wearing kneelers" is that there is nothing about the trophy to indicate even what sport it relates too. It appears to be more a "husking corn while kneeling with clothes on talking to -- family?" award.


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