Center of Cyclone Nation

Iowa State fans from around the area came out in full force for the Cyclone Tailgate Tour here Thursday at Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota.

Men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, football coach Paul Rhoads, wrestling coach Kevin Jackson, women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly, volleyball coach Christy Johnson-Lynch and Director of Athletics Jamie Pollard each attended the event, which drew the largest crowd of the season among all noon statewide stops at nearly 400 people.

John Walters, Voice of the Cyclones, served as Master of Ceremonies.

The Cyclones are 27th in the most recent Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings, which ranks the best overall NCAA athletic departments. Iowa State is currently just one of four schools in the country – Louisville, Michigan and Michigan State are the others – with back-to-back appearances in football bowl games, NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the NCAA volleyball tournament.

Taking the next step is now the goal.

“Things are going really well right now academically, athletically and publicly, and coming to an event like this in the middle of the day just reinforces that,” Pollard said. “If we were a stock, I’d say buy into it.”

This past season, ISU set all-time school attendance records in football (55,274 per game) and men’s basketball (13,393), while the women’s basketball team ranked second in the country at 9,970. Wrestling (2,455) was also sixth nationally and volleyball (2,532) was 11th.

“We’re putting a great product on the field because I have a group of guys that likes to give it up for you Cyclone fans,” said Rhoads, who has directed the cardinal and gold to 24 victories in his four years on the sidelines. “We’re thrilled about qualifying for the postseason in three out of the last four years.

“We’re the first staff in the history of Iowa State to do that in our first four seasons. At the same time, our expectations are to win in the postseason. We’re extremely disappointed that we’ve lost our last two bowl games.”

Following the completion of their ISU gridiron careers, A.J. Klein (Carolina Panthers), Jake Knott (Philadelphia Eagles), Carter Bykowski (San Francisco 49ers), Josh Lenz (Chicago Bears), Jake McDonough (New York Jets), Durrell Givens (Kansas City Chiefs) and Cleyon Laing (Toronto Argonauts) all recently moved on to the professional ranks.

Hoiberg, a former NBA player and front-office executive, also received plenty of attention for guiding his alma mater to a 62-39 overall record through his first three seasons at the helm. Prior to Hoiberg’s arrival in 2010, the Cyclones endured four straight losing campaigns and failed to reach the postseason since 2005.

“It’s been great going around the state the last couple weeks and having an opportunity to thank the fans for all their support,” Hoiberg said. “I like the direction we’re heading as a program. We lost six seniors off this year’s team, but I’m excited about the recruits we have coming in for next season.”

Starters Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang return to ISU’s 2013-14 lineup. In addition, newcomers Matt Thomas, Monte Morris, Richard Amardi, Dustin Hogue, Daniel Edozie and K.J. Bluford are all expected to make an impact. Iowa State’s hoops recruiting class is ranked 27th nationally by and 30th by ESPN.

Yesterday’s “Making a difference across Cyclone Nation” tour marked its first appearance in Fort Dodge since 2010. The sixth annual statewide event, which wrapped up last night with a visit to Clear Lake, also featured spirit squads, Cy, interactive games, inflatable attractions for kids and door prizes.