I decided to put together some threads about the history of ISU athletics. I only have limited information at my disposal so feel free to add your input. I'm going to start with an overview of early football at ISU (pre 1900).

Football was first introduced at ISU in 1878 and quickly became very popular with students and faculty, not just to watch. At this point, most athletic competition was more in line with the intramural teams we have now. There are reports of the baseball games (which was by far most popular at the time) with Ames businesses, between different classes, and so on. It is reasonable to assume that football followed suit.

One football game reported in 1886 was between “Building” and “College” with Building taking a 14-11 win. Building was in reference to Old Main and their team consisted of people who were from that building. Later in 1889, “Building” won again, this time against “Cottagers”, which were cottage residents.

Injuries are frequent during these years. In 1874, numerous broken fingers, a dislocated jaw and some dental realignment were a result of some heated baseball games between the classes. To address the health and safety issues and promote athletic competition, in 1889 the Iowa Agricultural College Athletic Association was founded. This would be one of the first steps in creating the Athletic Department we have today.

The very next year, 1890, the first semblance of a conference is established in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletics Association. This association was made up of 16 Iowa colleges and the athletic competition resembled more a field day at a local elementary school, with tug of war and 3 legged race being a couple of the events.

The first university supported football game was held in 1892. Dr. Ira Brownlie is the coach as the ISU plays State Center (6-6 tie) and Des Moines YMCA. (8-0 win). They played on a field about where Parks Library is today, and it was used until 1914. Charles Deering would be ISU’s first letter winner. Interestingly, Ira Brownlie would be an 1894 letter winner indicating that he was not just the coach in the 1892 season.

For some reason 1893 seems to be a bit of a ghost season. One place indicates that there wasn’t any football that year, but multiple places show W.F. Finney as the coach that year. No record of who was played or what the scores were, but Finney is shown to have a 0-3 record. Also, W.S. Dawson was ISU’s second letter winner of all time.

The 1894 and 1895 seasons are two of the most influential and important seasons, ISU has ever had. In 1894 six game were played, against Iowa teams as we see the association ISU has with other Iowa schools for baseball work over to football. Iowa State beats Iowa (16-8 win) in Iowa City in the first ever meeting between the two schools in football. In addition, Iowa State had three shut outs that season and only one loss (Grinnell). Bert German was the coach for ISU. Not much found about him despite him having a nice record.

In 1895, Glen Pop Warner started his college football coaching career at Iowa State. While at Iowa State for the 1895 and 1896 season Pop Warner was also the coach for Georgia. Georgia likes to lay claim to being the first to hire Warner, often many publications even fail to mention Iowa State was one of the schools Warner worked at. The fact is that Warner coached his first college game for Iowa State on September 15, 1895 against Butte AC and continued coaching at ISU while switching Georgia for Cornell in 1897.

This excerpt is from Iowa State University History of Iowa State: Time Line, 1875-1899 (links to all sources are below)

Iowa State opens the season against the Butte Athletic Club in Butte, Mont. The Butte team, consists of Montana players paid by mine owners to entertain their workers. The game is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 15. Realizing that the Iowa State faculty would not sanction a Sunday game, Warner tells the faculty the game will be played on Saturday. Their train to Montana was briefly stranded by a freak blizzard forcing the players to forage for food. Arriving in Butte, Warner bets his entire Iowa State salary on the game ($175). Biased officiating against Iowa State causes Warner’s team to threaten a forfeit, but local officials warn that Iowa State will not get its guarantee unless they play the whole game. The officials in part, are intimidated by miners who shoot their guns in the air when a call goes against Butte AC. The game is played on a dirt field because ore smelters killed all the grass in town.

When the team returns to Ames after a 12-10 loss, Warner tells the faculty that the game had to be moved because of the weather and if Iowa State didn’t play on Sunday, they would not have gotten their expenses paid.

Nearly two weeks after Butte, The Chicago Tribune uses the headline “Iowa Cyclone Hits Evanstontown” after underdog Iowa State beats Northwestern 36-0 on Sept. 28. Iowa State adopts Cyclones as the school’s nickname. An article in the Chicago Tribune newspaper, headlined "Struck by a Cyclone: It Comes from Iowa and Devastates Evanston Town," reads: "Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday. At the end of 50 minutes' play, the big husky farmers from Iowa's Agricultural College had rolled up 36 points, while the 15 yard line was the nearest Northwestern got to Iowa's goal.".
The Cyclones also won their second straight over Iowa in Iowa City in 1895 with a shutout 24-0, as the team finishes the season 3-3.

The first game against Nebraska and Missouri was in 1896. The Cyclones shut out Missouri 12-0 and lost to Nebraska 4-12. There was no game against Iowa this year. The team finished 8-2 that season.

1897 was a shorter but sweeter season. The Cyclones finish 3-1 to end the year with wins over Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. The 1898 team finished 3-2 featuring a win over Minnesota. ISU lost 6-11 in the first meeting against Kansas. Willis Edson emerged as the star running back for the Cyclones. Edson would graduate from ISU in 1898, he will get a law degree and serve in the Iowa House.

1899 would be Warner’s last season at ISU. In fact he wouldn't be around the whole season. Joe Meyers, an 1895 Cyclone Letter winner, took over after Glen’s departure for Carlisle. The Cyclones would finish the season 5-4-1 with their first lose to Iowa. There would also be a loss to Minnesota and a 0-0 tie to Northern Iowa. The Cyclones would beat Nebraska in Ames 34-0. There will be 14 letter winners in 1899, by far the most yet in one season up till that point.

Iowa State Cyclones - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Iowa State Football History: The 1890's - Iowa State University Athletics Official Web Site - www.CYCLONES.com - The home of Iowa State Cyclone Sports
Iowa State University Time Line, 1875-1899
Football - Schedule - Iowa State University Athletics Official Web Site - www.CYCLONES.com - The home of Iowa State Cyclone Sports