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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 1, 2008

Cyclone Alley crowd

In the Alley

by Erin Rosacker

Official T-shirt ... check. Face paint ... check. Mardi Gras beads ... check. Destination: Hilton Coliseum. Mission: Hilton Magic.

It's gameday and the sections behind the Hilton baskets are filled with cardinal-clad students standing throughout the game, waving towels (or mini megaphones, or bandanas, or whatever). It's called Cyclone Alley and it's a group of roughly 2,800 students with one focus -- Iowa State basketball.

A program coordinated jointly by the athletics department and the ISU Alumni Association, Cyclone Alley is in its fifth season. These students pledge allegiance to Cyclone basketball and adopt a code of conduct that emphasizes sportsmanship. The section of frenzied fans has become a big part of the gameday experience.

"Just after five seasons, it's gone from nothing to -- I would say -- one of the best student sections in the country," said Kurt Beyer, assistant director for student programs and the alumni association's adviser to the group. "I think it's great, I think it changes the whole atmosphere of the game."

Organizing that many students into one cohesive bunch falls to Cyclone Alley's central committee, a 12-person crew that plans everything from game "props" to bus trips. Committee members monitor the crowd and lead the masses in scripted chants, rituals and visual effects meant to distract opponents at the free-throw line.

Cyclone Alley

It starts early

After the final buzzer of the basketball season, planning immediately starts for next year. The outgoing co-chairs hand-pick their replacements, then the new co-chairs begin the interview process to fill out the rest of the central committee.

A secretary/treasurer is designated to manage the funds, and three subcommittees are formed: operations, events and marketing. This year, there are three central committee members on each of the subcommittees.

"The passion for this committee is like no other. They eat, sleep and breathe Cyclone basketball," said Shellie Henry, director of student programs.

They better, because they're going to see a lot of it.

Aside from weekly committee meetings, subcommittee meetings and designated office hours at Fisher-Nickell, central committee members must attend all ISU men's and women's home games (excluding break contests) and other Cyclone Alley events. To put that into perspective, that's 26 trips to Hilton from November through March.

"I think the Cyclone Alley committee is unique," Beyer said. "They're the most active and involved about what they're doing during the season. They really, really get excited about it."

Committee work

The events committee organizes bus trips, game watches (gatherings at a local establishment to watch away games) and a student ticket pick-up for the popular Kansas and Iowa home games (students must redeem a voucher to get tickets for these games, which regularly sell out). Five buses are lined up to take 250 Cyclone Alley members to the men's basketball game at Nebraska Feb. 2 -- a bargain at $15, which includes transportation, a game ticket, a special T-shirt and a box lunch. A trip to the women's March 5 game in Lincoln also is in the works.

The marketing committee sends out weekly e-mails to Cyclone Alley members highlighting upcoming events. It also creates and distributes the "Alley Rally" roster and information sheet at the games.

The operations committee handles many gameday chores, including distribution of props -- things like megaphones, yellow raincoats or blinking sunglasses. Members also coordinate one timeout promotion for each game, including the fan-favorite dizzy bat race and full-contact build-a-burger contest.

Ideas for the props primarily come from the students, along with some test marketing during the season to see what goes over well. The committee sends out an electronic questionnaire to Cyclone Alley members at the end of the season, asking for suggestions and feedback on what worked and what didn't.

"We ended up using some of the ideas," said Maggie Scholbrock, a sophomore on the operations subcommittee. "People really wanted hats this year, so that's one of the things we're going to do at an upcoming game."

What items got the boot?

"You won't see any foam fingers or foam sticks," Beyer said. "They are always at the bottom of the list."


Being a part of the Cyclone Alley central committee is billed as a "leadership opportunity" for students. Members must juggle the responsibilities of being a student with their committee assignments.

"I was a regular Cyclone Alley member before this. This is my first year on central [committee], and I wouldn't go back," said Katie Lorber, a junior on the marketing subcommittee. "It's so much fun to be involved."

Beyer said the central committee members put in a lot of work to pull off a successful season. Planning timeout promotions; ordering, storing and transporting giveaways; and cleaning up after the games are among the time-consuming tasks that fall to a handful of people.

"They put in a tremendous amount of time," he said. "In the spring, especially, they're at Hilton all the time."

Is it overwhelming?

"Maybe it was when I started, but I don't really remember now," Lorber said. "It's a lot of time, but it's worth it."

Cyclone Alley members

Photos by Erin Rosacker.


"Just after five seasons, it's gone from nothing to -- I would say -- one of the best student sections in the country. I think it's great, I think it changes the whole atmosphere of the game."

Kurt Beyer, assistant director for student programs, ISU Alumni Association