There’s been a fair amount of talk in the days since the Texas Tech win about changing the culture surrounding the Iowa State football program. In fact, FoxSports.com had a piece on this very subject, titled Steve Sarkisian and Paul Rhoads–Changing a Culture. It was an enjoyable read and, for the most part, I agree that it looks and feels as if the culture is indeed changing. Without significantly detouring the discussion, we have a head coach who understands the importance of the staff who surrounds him and *gasp* lets them coach. He takes risks and understands what it takes to win at Iowa State. And, thus far, he’s shown that his teams can secure some big wins in situations where previous Cyclone squads may have folded under the pressure.
If we agree on the premise that the culture is beginning to shift in a positive direction, this begs the question: How do we know when the culture has actually changed, or at least significantly changed? In my mind we first need to identify what culture we are talking about. There is a team culture and a fan culture- the latter being the more difficult to change, in my opinion. Without being in the locker room or on the practice field, one could look at a season like last year’s and a game like last Saturday’s and conclude that the team culture has drastically changed. But what about the fans? How will we know when the fan culture has changed?
I believe that games like the one we witnessed last Saturday provide the perfect barometer. When Iowa State was rolling and the Cyclones were up by two, three, then four scores, all was well. But I ask you this: What was going through your mind when Texas Tech scored 7 then 14 points before half? Were you still confident with a 10-point halftime lead at home? Or were you thinking, “Uh-oh, here we go again”? While some may not admit it after the fact, I’m sure that most fans were just like me, with a blank stare on their face and a sinking feeling in their stomach.
And there it is- the current state of the fan culture exposed in that moment. Not that you’re supposed to feel good about giving up a couple of quick TDs just before half. But that occurrence, especially with a 10-point halftime lead, shouldn’t cause the large majority of fans to immediately contemplate how the game could be lost. Which brings me back to my question: How will we know when the fan culture has changed? In my mind, it’s when most of those “uh-oh, here we go agains” turn into “no biggie, we handed that one to them.”
That’s how fans of a program with a winning culture think. Many of us have friends or family who cheer for the university on the other side of the state who seem to have an unnatural and sometimes irrational level of confidence in their team. That confidence wasn’t borne out of thin air. It came from winning. It’s a cumulative effect, and as we experience more wins like last Saturday’s and fewer kicks to the stones, the culture will continue to shift.
So if you want to know when we’re “there” from a fan culture standpoint, rewind your internal dialogue the next time IOWA STATE 24 – TEXAS TECH 14 happens. What’s on your mind?