The end of the Paul Rhoads era ended in bitter fashion as the Cyclones dropped their season finale to the West Virginia Mountaineers 30-6. Rhoads put on his hard hat toward the end and Cyclone players lined up to give him their best. No one in Cyclonenation doubted Rhoads’ passion for Iowa State. It was second to none. The problem Rhoads faced is that passion doesn’t translate to wins on the gridiron.
Over the past three years, Rhoads regressed from the first four and at times seemingly failed to make adjustments to optimize Iowa State’s chance at winning the game. That being said, as noted in his press conference, Rhoads did make his mark on ISU football team—on and off the field. Three of the program’s six wins over ranked opponents on the road took place during the Rhoads era (2010 Texas, 2011 Texas Tech, 2012 TCU) and he led the Cyclones to their only win against an AP Top 2 team in 2011 vs. the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The program was trending upwards until the disastrous 2013 campaign, followed by a 2-10 2014 and this season’s 3-9 record. Getting to the point—the program was becoming stale with Rhoads at the helm and a change needed to be made going forward.
Speculation by sources including local media pointed to Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck, Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo, and finally Toledo’s Matt Campbell. It took ISU Athletics director Jamie Pollard just one week to bring in the next head football coach at Iowa State. His decision: Toledo’s Matt Campbell. Many compared the Campbell hire to Pollard’s men’s basketball hire earlier this year in June when he hired Steve Prohm from Murray State. A young players’ coach with experience. In his press conference, Campbell seemed enthusiastic, genuine, and passionate about being in Ames. In fact, he even shared a moment with Cyclonenation that he aspired to coach in Ames after Toledo visited Jack Trice Stadium in 2014.
In the coaching carousel of college football, Campbell was about the best Iowa State could have hoped for. In a season that head coaches are seemingly being fired everywhere, very few candidates carried the “sexy hire” tagline. Campbell faces the enormous challenge that is Iowa State football. He brings a 35-15 record from MAC powerhouse Toledo, as well as strong Midwestern ties in recruiting. 4 days on the job as Iowa State’s head coach and he has already offered at least four prospects from Ohio and Michigan and has picked up a commitment from the state of Iowa.
One can’t help but wonder what the ceiling is with Campbell orchestrating the football program? Cyclonenation is full of realists. They know Campbell is not going to take the Cyclones to the College Football Playoff in 2016-2017, however, they have seen the talent that the team possesses in QB Joel Lanning, RB Mike Warren, and WR Allen Lazard. This team has a nucleus of young talent and Cyclone fans do expect to reach the postseason year in and year out with an upset or two along the way.
What is concerning is when (or if) Campbell leads ISU to constant 6-6, 7-5 records, (just as former head coach Dan McCarney did in the early to mid 2000’s) are Cyclone fans going to get fussy again and want more? Time will tell.
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