clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Iowa State Should Look for in its Next Head Football Coach

What are the most important factors for the next football coach at ISU?

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday marked the last day for Paul Rhoads as Iowa State's football coach, after he lost to Kansas State on Saturday in the only way Iowa State has known football for the past seven seasons -- heartbreaking. His tenure started off with historic wins over Nebraska, Texas and the program's biggest win against second-ranked Oklahoma State. In all, Rhoads led ISU to three bowl games in his first four years, a bevy of blowout losses, and too many close losses to count.

What did it in for Rhoads and his career at Iowa State was the lack of victories against inferior opponents that ISU was "supposed" to beat. Those included losses to UNI, North Dakota State, Kansas, Toledo and bowl games against Rutgers and Tulsa. He could never win the close games, as it came down to lack of execution and poor in-game adjustments.

What also bothered me during Rhoads's tenure was the fact he never had an identity to call his own. Every coach has a bread-and-butter play or a strength they can go to in crunch time. Although Rhoads loved to ride his Harley, he never stepped on the gas when he needed to, and it came back to bite him in close affairs.

The cupboard isn't bare at ISU, as Rhoads has recruited a multitude of junior college players and young depth at the skill positions. The offensive line needs to regroup and we lose the back end of our secondary, but other than that, the new man roaming the sidelines will have plenty to work with.

You can read CYHusker's take on early candidates to replace Rhoads here.

Take a step into Jamie Pollard's shoes for a moment, as the following factors are some of the most important traits that Iowa State needs to look for in Iowa State's 33rd head football coach.


Does Pollard go after an up-and-comer, or does he reach for a veteran coach who has years of experience on the sidelines? In my opinion, he needs to find an adept head coach who knows the daily rigors of running a program, and one with years of experience. This team can't afford any breakdowns, as they don't have a horde of four-star recruits in the two-deep.

There is a lot more to being a head coach than just X's and O's. You have to manage your time effectively with weight training, food and nutrition has become ever so important, recruiting is a grind and of course the number one focus -- teaching fundamentals.

I would like to see Iowa State go the Bill Snyder route. Kansas State has won by not beating themselves (and scheduling cupcake opponents along the way). What's made Snyder great is bringing in 2-star recruits and walk-ons and teaching them the fundamental, "right" way of playing football. At the end of the day, football is all about blocking and tackling, and there is none better than the Vampire.

Offensive Minded

This one is pretty obvious, as the Big 12 gives you one option if you want to compete. If ISU doesn't hire an offensive-minded coach, then they'll get left in the dust. The Cyclones matched up against FOUR conference opponents this year that ranked in the top 10 nationally in offense. The only way to beat those teams is by scoring more points, not stopping them.

Do we go spread attack? The answer to that is tricky, because you have to work with the athletes that you have. Currently, ISU's roster is made for a power-run game behind Joel Lanning and Mike Warren. The Cyclones don't have the horses to run a five-wide system right now, and to be honest it isn't the right fit at this institution. Remember, we aren't a recruiting hotbed like Texas or Florida.

Midwest Ties

This plays in line to so many different factors. Gene Chizik was not a man to nest his family in Ames, Iowa. He was born in the South and didn't belong in cardinal and gold. Paul Rhoads had ties to Iowa, and the Cyclone family. Dan McCarney grew up in the Midwest and coached in Iowa City and Madison, Wisconsin.

I think this will go a long way down the road if we as fans want to keep our next head coach for years to come. If it is an outsider that isn't used to the cold and the demographics of the state of Iowa, he may bolt for the next job where he feels more comfortable. It's hard to find an established coach inside the state of Iowa, but as long as he is from the Midwest, the long-term ramifications won't be a problem.

System Recruiter

What makes you great as a coach in any sport is recruiting players for your system. ISU never had a distinct system under Paul Rhoads. He came into Ames saying he wanted to "run the ball", and then turned into a spread attack with a semblance of the run game. Then, it was a mess with Messingham's Pistol offense, and a pass-happy attack that never got the wheels rolling with Mangino.

Whomever this coach is needs to recruit the only other way Midwestern teams win - in the trenches. Offensive line and physicality have been a mantra in Iowa City for decades, and the Hawkeyes win because of it. No state has more corn-fed boys than Iowa does, and this new coach will have to focus on stacking offensive and defensive lines with talent for years to come.

Former Head Coach

Pollard can't afford to go the coordinator route this time. He has the facilities, financial backing and a generous television contract in a Power 5 conference to go after a current head coach. I find it so important that this coach has experience, whether it be in the MAC, Conference USA or some other smaller conference.

It will also be imperative to find a coaching staff tailored towards the Big 12 recruiting landscape. In other words, Wayne Bolt and Robert McFarland aren't qualified as coordinators.


We throw out the word sexy a lot with coaching hires, and in my honest opinion ISU needs to go after the most non-sexy coach we can find. Jerry Kill would be a perfect fit for this program, but his days of coaching are over. His teams played smash mouth football and fit the style we need. Jamie Pollard has said since day one that he wants to mirror the Wisconsin football program. What they do better than anybody else is run the damn ball.

The goal is to find a coach that will love Ames, Iowa, who can recruit to this state, and is great at teaching fundamentals. Paul Rhoads was a motivator, but he wasn't the world's greatest developer. Molding young recruits into Big-12 caliber athletes takes time, but it can be done here at ISU.

Whoever the new coach is, he will have to understand the landscape of what Iowa State football is, and what it isn't. Does he have to have ties to the program? Honestly I'm ready for some new blood that will bring in his own kool-aid flavor, and I'm looking forward to drinking it for years to come.