Cy the mascot, ‘D1 Half-lete’

Editors note: The identity of the current Cy will not be released due to the anonymous requirements for the current students within the Iowa State Mascot Squad. 

Cy, the mascot, is an Iowa State staple with a storied history that leaves an impact on the university and those who portray him. Who are the people behind the signature cardinal feathers?

Cy is the spirit of Iowa State, which makes sense because they are a part of the Iowa State University Spirit Squad alongside the cheer squad and dance team. It may be a surprise to hear, but Cy is not just portrayed by one person. Cy can be portrayed by up to six students at any time. 

“You’re a part of the campus now, almost the same as the campanile is central campus, ” a current Cy, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

Becoming Cy

If you’ve been enrolled as an Iowa State student, you’ve most likely received an email at the beginning of each year titled, “Want to Become Cy?”

Becoming Cy requires an intense audition process. The auditions have previously included: a 90-second pre-prepared skit, two minutes of uninterrupted dancing, charades and a fitting session. 

Former Cy and current Iowa State Mascot Coordinator Carley Fulcher said she never planned on becoming Cy but thought it would be cool to say she put on the Cy suit. After getting information about the audition process, she quickly became hooked. Fulcher spent all of her Thanksgiving break sophomore year preparing her skit.

A day in the life of Cy

Responsibilities come with joining the mascot squad. Cy goes to most home athletic events, travels for large sporting events and attends a variety of non-athletic related events both on and off campus.

When attending athletic events, Cy is considered a student-athlete. When attending paid appearances such as weddings or promotional events, Cy is considered a marketing department employee. 

Active mascot squad members must keep their identities hidden to ensure the character’s integrity.

“D1 Halflete…It’s half the work, twice the fun,” one of the current Cys said.

Cy’s beginnings

The Iowa State Cyclones got their nickname from a Chicago Tribune article detailing Iowa State’s win over Northwestern football in 1895. They were “Struck by a Cyclone.” The name stuck and has held true for over 100 years. 

The nickname for Iowa State was challenged in 1954 when a local college souvenir supplier set out to create a costume representing the university. Making a costume representing a weather event proved challenging, causing the supplier to push for a new name. 

Because the beloved title was far too important to the university, the Iowa State Pep Council held a contest to find a new mascot. The winning result was a cardinal, chosen because of the school’s cardinal and gold colors. 

The original costume cost $200 to make, a stark contrast to the current estimated price of $3,000 per head. The eight-foot-tall bird was named “Cy” later that year at the national “Name-the-Bird” contest. 

Highs and lows of being Cy

Former and current mascot squad members have many stories to tell about their time acting as Cy. Gary Eoekhout, former Cy and 2006 Iowa State graduate had a mixed bag of experiences during his tenure as Cy. Eoekhout said a railing broke during a game at Hilton, and he fell about 12-13 feet from the scoreboard onto the concrete. He still woke up as Cy the next day.

“I had to go to the bowl game the next day,” Eoekhout said.

Heat exhaustion also poses a real risk to the mascot. A current Cy said the suit could get up to 30 pounds after a sweaty event. There has been no successful way of combating this. 

The team has tried fans inside Cy’s head, but those “dry out your eyeballs,” Fulcher said. They have also tried cooling gel packs that fit under the suit, but they become dead weight after a short amount of time. 

Transitioning back to being a normal student after performing as Cy can be just as difficult for the mascot team. 

“All of a sudden, you get out of the costume, you’re all hot and sweaty, you walk out of the locker room and you aren’t hearing, ‘Cy, come here!’; you’re just another person,” a current Cy said. 

But the Cy experience does not only consist of injury and identity crises. Eoekhout said he was able to travel from California to Westpoint for athletic events as Cy.

“I loved it; I loved being able to give back to my school and Cyclone nation without the pressure of being in the limelight,” Fulcher said. “I’ve never wanted that; I’ve always just loved the anonymity of it.”

The lifelong bonds formed with fellow student-athletes (or “halfletes”) also contribute to the meaningful experience of being Cy.

“Cy expanded my confidence; it let parts of my personality that were in there come out in bits and pieces,” Fulcher said.