Skip to main content

Peterson: With immediate eligibility, transferring within the state of Iowa could become a thing

So, you wonder, just how common is it when a high-profile athlete transfers from one of our state universities to another?

Not very.

The most recent, Iowa State women's basketball player Kylie Feuerbach to Iowa, is at least the fifth to switch allegiances in hoops.

If there was a football player of significance who did it, please inform me and I’ll relay that information to others who couldn’t come up with anyone. Anyone in wrestling beyond Steve Knight of Clinton, who started at Iowa and finished at Iowa State?

Surprised that someone would switch sides in the sometimes-nasty world of Cy and Hawk? Don’t be. High-profile athletes transferring has become as common as allegations of tampering that go along with some of them.

With the NCAA granting immediate eligibility to first-time student-athlete free agents, and often immediate eligibility for second-time transferring athletes, leaving one program for another isn’t likely to slow.

Whether it’s CJ Fredrick at Iowa or Iowa State’s Rasir Bolton, the transfer portal is loaded with college athletes looking for a fresh start. It’s like a used-car lot — everyone looking for something shiny with low miles and lots of under-the-hood potential.

This immediate eligibility climate could even make changing colors within the state of Iowa more of a thing, although I don’t think anyone’s expecting that to happen with Fredrick or Bolton.

Stacy Frese left Iowa and became a star at Iowa State. Adam Haluska left Iowa State and became a star at Iowa. Alex Thompson started in Iowa City and finished in Ames. Tom Norman played at Iowa State before transferring to Iowa.

What about Dan Gable? Yeah, it happens with coaches, too, and we’ll get to that after discussing athletes who switched sides during their careers. Let’s start at the beginning:

Tom Norman

Norman transferred from Iowa State to Iowa in 1975 after his freshman season.  He was recruited by Maury John but never had the opportunity to play for him because the late coach resigned after learning he had cancer.

"I really liked Iowa State," Norman told The Register’s Rick Brown. "It was just the coaching situation at the time. Ken Trickey was a bit tough."

Norman, whose brother, Ron, played for Iowa in the late 1960s, sat out the 1975-76 season, then played three seasons for coach Lute Olson.

Stacy Frese

Frese started her career at Iowa, then finished at Iowa State, where she was among the players to jump-start a program that’s always among the Big 12’s best.

C. Vivian Stringer recruited Frese, of Cedar Rapids, to Iowa in 1995, then left to coach Rutgers after Frese’s freshman season.

"She was the one who had recruited me, so that was a big part of (me being there)," Frese told the Register at the time. "It was a big change. If you're an athlete, and you're not happy and you think you can be happy elsewhere, it's a chance you take."

At Iowa State, Frese joined up with her sister, Brenda, one of Bill Fennelly’s assistant coaches.

Adam Haluska

Haluska to Iowa drew headlines, too.

The former Carroll High School star averaged 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds for Larry Eustachy's Iowa State team as a freshman in the 2002-03 season. That was before Eustachy resigned after photos surfaced of him partying with college students after a game at Missouri. Wayne Morgan became the coach, and Haluska transferred to Iowa — after his father initially said his son would remain a Cyclone.

"There were things going on behind the scenes at Iowa State that me and my family were unhappy with," Haluska told the Iowa City Press-Citizen after announcing the transfer was finalized. "I don't want to go into them.”

Alex Thompson

It was news when Thompson accepted a scholarship offer to play for Steve Alford at Iowa after starring at Ames High School. He played 66 games during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, and then he made news again.

He was coming back home, choosing to finish his college career playing for Greg McDermott as a Cyclone.

"I just felt like (Iowa) wasn't the best fit," Thompson told the Register after transferring.  "I played there two years. It just wasn't a good fit.

"I'm just excited to play for coach McDermott, and excited to be part of what he's trying to build at Iowa State. I was really impressed with what he had to say."

Kylie Feuerbach

The former Cyclone and new Hawkeye told the Register's Tommy Birch that reuniting with Iowa star Caitlin Clark was a big selling point. 

Clark, a former star at Dowling Catholic coming off a huge freshman season for Iowa, played with Feuerbach on the All Iowa Attack AAU team. Their team won a national championship. 

“She can make things happen,” Feuerbach said. “I like her as a person, outside of basketball. As a player, she’s an amazing player. She can do a lot of things and I’m just really excited to be able to play with her again along with a lot of the other girls.”

Feuerbach's move was a big deal because her parents and brother attended college in Ames and Feuerbach’s grandfather played basketball for the Cyclones in the 1940s. Feuerbach was part of a celebrated freshman class at Iowa State.

Dan Gable and other coaches

It’s happened with coaches, too. Dan Gable was a legendary wrestler at Iowa State. After that, he was a legendary Iowa coach.

Dan McCarney did it the other way. He played and coached football at Iowa, then later became one of the most respected Iowa State head coaches, regardless of sport, while leading the Cyclones between 1995-2006.

And don’t forget Bobby Elliott. He played and coached at Iowa, then became a very good Iowa State assistant for McCarney and Paul Rhoads.

So the next time you see someone from either school in the transfer portal, you have every right to wonder if it’ll end up as a Cy-Hawk switch. It’s happened before, and yes, it’ll happen again, considering nearly everyone these days gets immediate eligibility.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.