With one simple hashtag, Iowa State’s energetic head football coach Matt Campbell has ignited a farming feud between Iowa’s two largest fan bases that had been percolating just below the soil.
And it’s freaking awesome.
Rewind to 1985. Ronald Reagan was President. Mike Tyson made his pro boxing debut. Steve Jobs resigned from Apple Computers. (Don’t worry, he’d be back.)
And farmers were struggling.
Hayden Fry was coaching the Iowa Hawkeyes at the time, and he decided to do something about it. Coach Fry shared how he decided to take action in an interview for the Iowa Farm Bureau,
“America needs to know that the farmers need help. And so I came up with the idea,” Coach Fry said.
Coach Fry slapped an “ANF”, America Needs Farmers, sticker on the Hawkeyes’ helmets on November 2, 1985, when his squad took the field in Columbus to face the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes had a fantastic season that ended with a trip to the Rose Bowl. Everywhere they went, that ANF sticker went with them.
The ANF movement went dormant for a bit after that, but it was later revived in 2010, and is still primarily an effort aimed at promoting awareness of the need for farmers in an ever-populating world. Just recently, in April of this year, ANF, as an initiative of the University of Iowa’s Athletic Department, partnered with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation to donate $32,250 to the Iowa Food Bank Association.
Iowa is, of course, home to one of the most well-known agricultural schools in the country, but that school is in Ames. Cyclone fans have grown a bit weary of what some perceive to be Hawkeye bluster and bravado.
For Iowa State fans, they feel kind of like the brother taking care of mom day in and day out, when their brother shows up one day a year and gets all the praise. Of course Cyclone fans love (and echo) the intent of ANF, but it looks like grandstanding, and that leads to resentment.
In 2014, a grassroots movement of Iowa State fans coined the acronym AHF, or Actually Helping Farmers. The movement grew on social media and soon AHF t-shirts popped up, which incurred some push back from the University of Iowa. Iowa sent a cease and desist order as the AHF logo on the t-shirts looked a lot like the ANF helmet sticker. Cyclone fans rallied behind AHF as a more accurate representation of the role their institution plays in Iowa’s agricultural economy, and it provided great fodder for debate between two passionate fan bases.
However, once again, things cooled off.
On July 23, 2017, at 6:25 pm, Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell tweeted the hashtag #AHF at the end of a tweet featuring a photo of his squad on a farm.
The team that plays together stays together!Thanks to Aaron Wendel showing us how special it is to represent CycloneNation. #FarmStrong#AHF pic.twitter.com/g7vj5OjeKU
— Matt Campbell (@ISUMattCampbell) July 23, 2017
And Hawkeye fans lost their minds.
AHF??? Absolutely No Class #ANC
— Steven C. Anderson (@hawkalums) July 24, 2017
Way to piss on an organization that actually helps farmers in the state of Iowa – an organization you don't know a damn thing about.
— Jonathan Moran (@Jonatha86856408) July 24, 2017
Oh Matt, you're reaching baby and especially for a coach. There are better ways to lead than hijack a proud tradition. Stay classy. #ANF
— lucygirll (@LucyGirll) July 24, 2017
Because let's be angry about a sticker on a helmet representing a good cause, and claim that we're the ones that actually help farmers. pic.twitter.com/lOiL2xVkKT
— BergHawk (@BergmanNate7) July 24, 2017
Did Coach Campbell know the significance of the acronym? Maybe. Probably. I think he’s sending a message: Iowa State University is not content with laboring in obscurity — agriculturally or athletically.
Iowa’s shadow looms large on those midwestern plains. Earlier this year, Brian Ferentz, Iowa’s offensive coordinator, sharply criticized Campbell’s recruiting methods and highlighted the Hawkeye’s commitment to holding on to in-state talent. Though indirectly, Campbell has fired back.
In-state talent doesn’t belong to Coach Ferentz, and agricultural support is not the creative property of the University of Iowa. Coach Campbell, along with a whole herd of Cyclones are tired of being called little brother. Hayden Fry may have had the first word, but Matt Campbell won’t let him have the last.