WOODY: Cyclone vs. Hurricane

Mar 20, 2022; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Izaiah Brockington (1) and Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Hunter (11) react to a play agains the Wisconsin Badgers in the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This is it. This is what it’s all led to. One game to rule them all. 

The Sweet 16 between the Hurricanes of Miami and the Cyclones of Iowa State. For those of you who have been listening to the podcasts on the Cyclone Fanatic Podcast Network, you’ll know that one of the ways I decide one of my brackets (of many) is to pick who would win in a fight between actual mascots. Not Cy vs Bevo. Digging into the origin of the name, then theoretically pitting one Cyclone vs. one Longhorn. 

And let me tell you, it is going…not well. I am currently in the 10.7th percentile in the ESPN Bracket Challenge. But you know who correctly predicted a Villanova-Michigan and Iowa State-Miami Sweet 16? This guy. You know who got nearly everything else wrong? Also this guy. 

But the time has come, by popular demand, to answer the question: Who would win, a Hurricane or a Cyclone? 

There are three main approaches one can take in this powerhouse matchup. 

Frequency of Ferocity

For all intents and purposes, these are exactly the same thing. They’re both caused by a rapid heating and cooling cycle around warm equatorial waters, thus causing a giant pressure differential, thus causing crazy-strong winds and precipitation to occur. 

Hurricanes, by my extensive weather and meteorological background, are that phenomenon that occurs in the South Atlantic into the Caribbean Sea. Cyclones occur in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. (As a bonus point, a “typhoon” is the same thing but occurs in the North Pacific). To make things less clear, they’re sometimes referred to as each other, where some sources will say, “South Pacific Hurricanes,” to translate it for an American audience. But for differentiation’s sake, any large tropical storm in the Atlantic/Caribbean is a Hurricane and in the South Pacific/Indian is a “Cyclone.”

There are different categories of tropical storms. And if these tropical storms have gotten to the Sweet 16, they’re probably the strongest of such storms. Which would mean they are Category-5 storms (wind speeds of over 157 mph). That has happened 21 times in recorded history in the “hurricane” region (according to Wikipedia…it’s good enough for this purpose). In the “Cyclone” region, there were 23 such instances in recorded history. 

Advantage: Cyclones

Origin and Real Fear

The Iowa State Cyclones have a very clear origin of their name. As with a weirdly high number of team mascot names across the country, it came from a sportswriter in one specific instance. 

“On Sept. 28, 1895, the Iowa Agriculture College (now ISU) football team beat Northwestern 36-0. The next day, a Chicago Tribune headline announced: “Iowa Cyclone Devastates Northwestern, 36-0.”

The sportswriter reported, “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 14 yard line was the nearest Northwestern got to Iowa’s goal,” according to ISU Historian Earle D. Ross in his 1943 book, History of Iowa State College.” – The Iowa State Daily

Now, this seems to be a bit of a misnomer here. A “cyclone” can sometimes be thought of as a tornado, which is definitely common in Iowa. They are both spinning storms of terrifying strength. But thinking a cyclone is a tornado is sort of like thinking that the ice cream alternative treat is pronounced: “sher-bert.” Because people think it doesn’t make it true. There is no second “r” in sherbet. Go warsh your car after spilling sherbert on it. Same thing. 

Iowa is several thousand miles and two hemispheres away from actually being afraid of a Cyclone. 

The Miami Hurricanes, on the other hand, have a less firm origin story but a much more real existence of the name. According to the University of Miami website:

“It [the name “Hurricanes”] began in controversy. Some reports say the 1927 football team held a team meeting to select Hurricanes, hoping they would sweep away opponents just as the devastating storm did on September 16, 1926. Another version holds that Miami News columnist Jack Bell asked end Porter Norris of the 1926 team what the team should be called. Told that the local dignitaries and University officials wanted to name the team for a local flora or fauna, Norris said the players wouldn’t stand for it and suggested “Hurricanes” since the opening game had been postponed by such a storm. From time to time, opposition has arisen to the name that would “reinforce Miami’s negative reputation as a weather-beaten community living constantly under the threat of destruction.” But as one UM official rationalized in the ’60s, “Does anyone think Chicago is overrun by bears just because the town has a football team by that name?”

Are people in Chicago afraid of bears running around the streets? No, they’re not. Because that never happened (and may we pray that it never does). But if it did happen, wouldn’t you be terrified of it happening? And the mention of “Bears” would make you soil yourself. So the fact that Miami is named the Hurricanes makes a ton of sense. 

They pulled a Batman and weaponized what they feared. 

Advantage: Miami Hurricanes

The Gut Test

Since everything you’re going to find is a dead heat (since, in reality, a cyclone and a hurricane are exactly the same), we need to find a tiebreaker. We could look at the actual mascots then, which would be an Ibis vs. a Cardinal — which would be fine, except Miami isn’t the Ibises (Ibises? Ibi?) and Iowa State isn’t the Cardinals. 

This leads me to the final decider. Who do you like better? 

Easy answer. The scrappy kids from the midwest. 

Ultimate Advantage: Cyclones

Note, I understand that Hurricanes/Cyclones are awful and terrifying in real life. And by no means am trying to diminish their severity. This is all meant in jest. 


Jeff Woody