Cy the Cardinal was introduced as Iowa State's mascot during the homecoming pep rally in 1954. 

It’s time to finally address the bird in the room: Cy.

Admittedly, I have done very little research into what eldritch creature our school mascot intends to be, but I assume Cy is meant to be a cardinal, seeing as our school colors are “cardinal and gold.” There are many issues with this that I will address in this article, beginning with Cy’s butchered representation of the beautiful cardinal.

Now, I’m not sure that when the school found the cryptid known as Cy in the wild and hired it to do their bidding, they were fully aware of what a cardinal looks like. Cardinals are indeed red, bipedal creatures with wings. However they do not, in fact, have teeth. What’s more, Cy appears to only have an army of front teeth as its constantly grimacing smile, which begs the question: what does it eat? I’m not sure I want to find out.

What’s more, hinging the mascot on matching the school’s color rather than the school’s team name seems like a mistake. Is an ominous, ever-smiling anthropomorphic teeth-bird really harder to tame than a small dust devil?

Granted, a dust-devil is not the same as a cyclone, but it is a good first step. In order to have a cyclone as a mascot, we would need bigger stadiums to house and maintain it ⁠— perhaps with the help of the engineers of Iowa State, a weather generator could be built to create our own pet cyclone. Unfortunately, I believe weather-manipulating doomsday devices aren’t budgeted in until fall of 2025. Bummer.

What are the pros of having a dust devil or cyclone join us at our sports events? For starters, they have no teeth and are therefore not capable of consuming the fans (at least, not in that manner). They also symbolize manifestations of pure chaos, which is reflected in how our team often plays. However, if this suggestion does not appeal to Iowa State, I have a few others.

One that I believe makes more sense is to change the mascot to the goldfinch. As stated earlier, our school’s colors are known as “cardinal and gold.” I argue that a goldfinch is more apt, however, as it is also the state bird. This would rival our rivals, the Hawkeyes, for having a team named after “the Hawkeye state.” This is where the mascot’s relevance ends. It is not, as one would assume, a giant floating eye of a hawk. It is instead a “hawk” with a haunting grimace of solely front teeth. Its name, Herky, sounds like an affectionate name for the process of a cat coughing up a hairball. Clearly, Cy and Herky are related in some manner, which potentially adds to their intense rivalry.

With this in mind, we could theoretically eliminate two bird(ish) mascots with one stone. If we treasure our rivalry and maintain the irrelevance of the mascot to the team name, we could have truly legendary-sounding battles. The most tame example would be to become the Iowa State Mongeese and the University of Iowa Snakes, showing the intense eternal feud of these two awesome animals. Alternatively, we could become the Iowa State Leviathans and University of Iowa Behemoths, mythical Biblical creatures of land and sea locked in an eternal struggle.

While I may not have convinced readers that Iowa State needs to engineer a self-sustaining cyclone, I hope I may have convinced some that it’s time for a cooler, better representative to protect our school’s honor.

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(3) comments

Steve Gregg

I predicted something like this would happen when the Daily brought that tank of nitrous oxide to its office.

Marybeth Foster

It's too bad you didn't check out the archives on this subject. There's a great bar in Lawrence, Kansas that had the original logos of the original Big 8 teams. Indeed, our mascot was Cy the Cardinal, because we were the Iowa State Cardinals. In fact, he looked somewhat like Jay at KU. Cy's had some interesting makeovers over the years. Perhaps you would want to see pictures of Clone, our second mascot for a few years. That might be more to your liking.

Jake Pierson

I was thinking when I read this that ISU was once the Redbirds and that is why Cy was created albeit after the fact. I tried look it up to see but didn't find anything. I will admit I spent about 3 minutes on it. Maybe I heard or remember wrong.

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