Iowa State Twitter was not a fun place to be yesterday. If coaching hot takes and emotionally charged posts were the overcooked and overpriced steak in this dinner, and thoughts on the news of a Cameron Lard commitment were a solid side of runny mashed potatoes, that would make the national media commentary on the state of Iowa State's football program the recommended glass of shitty wine pushed on you by your waitress that ruined any remaining good tastes of the meal.
We've all heard it before, right? Iowa State is a "coaching graveyard" and that term reared its ugly head again yesterday when the Associated Press' Luke Meredith posted this piece yesterday that the NCAA used on their own website as well. Even when posts aren't as blatantly disparaging or insulting, the subtle jabs and ignorant posts were rampant on the twittersphere.
Here's just a few of the tweets I'm talking about that I pulled from our fellow and former Big 12 brethren.
Not sure what ISU's plan is to find someone better than Paul Rhoads.
— OurDailyBears (@OurDailyBears) November 22, 2015
Really? Look, I love Paul as a man, but to say that the best we can do is 8-28 over the last three seasons and six consecutive seasons under .500 is just utterly ridiculous. I also understand that your recruiting ground is fertile, but your first four coaches after joining the Big 12 went a combined 35-101. Over that same time span Iowa State was 56-86. Even Briles started 8-16 before your recent run of success. You're also only 8-6 against little old Iowa State and it took winning the last three to get there. Don't forget where you came from, Baylor. It's not a good look.
On Paul Rhoads' dismissal, which isn't necessarily a mistake, but will reveal a new, uncomfortable reality for ISU: https://t.co/ODm7bk2Vwu
— David Ubben (@davidubben) November 22, 2015
The tweet here isn't as bad as some of the context of this article. Specifically the part where Ubben says that Iowa State is the least desirable coaching vacancy. I'm not here to argue that Iowa State is the dream destination for the best of the profession, but there are certainly arguments to be made that it's on par or better than Maryland, Illinois, UCF, North Texas and Hawaii. Ubben later doubled down with this bit of brilliance:
KU is a better job than a lot of people realize. Just stuck in a gigantic hole. Easier to win there than KSU/ISU https://t.co/c6I9E2gRwz
— David Ubben (@davidubben) November 23, 2015
I wish he'd elaborated more on this. I'd like to think all three of these jobs have their challenges and would be fairly similar going forward. I'd love to see why he thinks it's easier to win at Kansas than Iowa State.
Felt like it's fitting to say Paul Rhoads "lasted 7 seasons at ISU." Making 3 bowls in that stretch there ain't bad. https://t.co/NTjnyl9IgC
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 22, 2015
Go ahead and take a gander at this gem. They couldn't even bother to do the adequate research to spell Rhoads' name right in the title (have to actually click the link to see that), but please, Bruce, tell me more about how "making 3 bowls in 7 years ain't bad here." Oh, is it real fitting to say he "lasted seven years"? Our last 4 coaches have now averaged more than 7 years as Head Football Coach. That even includes 5-19 Gene leaving on his own volition after just two seasons. Let's not act like we turn over coaches like we turned over the football in the last 10 minutes in Manhattan last weekend.
Paul Rhoads is out at Iowa State. That is going to be a really hard job going forward
— CC Machine (@CCMachine) November 22, 2015
Ok, this one actually isn't too disparaging, I just like it because it perfectly encapsulates the Oklahoma-Iowa State history. Just a quick, succinct beating.
So what's my point?
Iowa State certainly has its challenges. Geographically, it's horribly positioned for the Big 12. As heavenly as Iowa is, it's not littered with as much high school talent as the states that surround the old Big 12 South schools. That's not to say the Midwest is devoid of Division 1 talent, though, as other Midwestern schools have had success properly utilizing the available local talent, specifically in the trenches and linebacking corps. It's all about understanding your limitations and maximizing your talent with appropriate systems.
There's not an abundance of history and tradition to build on. But from 2000-2014, they have a better winning percentage than other Power 5 schools like Washington State, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Vanderbilt, Indiana and Duke. While I understand that's not exactly a gauntlet of excellence, it's not like Iowa State is the epitome of incompetence.
IT'S A COACHING GRAVEYARD, WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO GO THERE?! This is my favorite take on the Iowa State job. Let's start with Dan McCarney. Did he have to take a step down on the coaching ladder after his tenure in Ames? Sure, but college football doesn't typically recycle failed head coaches like the NFL does. He also landed on his feet specializing in defensive line play which he eventually parlayed into a National Championship with Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators and another head coaching gig at North Texas. Not to mention he was given 11 years to make his mark at Iowa State when many programs would have pushed him out after starting just 6-27 in his first three years.
GENE CHIZIK WON A NATIONAL TITLE BUT COULDN'T WIN AT IOWA STATE! Gene also went only 33-19 at Auburn and 19-19 without a certain Heisman winner. Did we ever stop to think that maybe Gene was just meant to be a defensive coordinator and that he's not a great head coach? Not to mention he hired arguably the worst supporting cast that Iowa State has had in my lifetime.
Johnny Majors and Earl Bruce both enjoyed success elsewhere after relatively successful stints at Iowa State. Not to mention that Iowa State and its fans are extremely patient in waiting for success and in recent years have sought to give the program advantages that it hasn't previously had in terms of fan support and financial benefits that have led to impressive facility upgrades like the SEZ, indoor practice facility and additions to the Bergstrom Football Complex.
There's also the nine game conference hurdle to jump through in the rugged Big 12. But Coach Rhoads and the Cyclones beat all but two Big 12 teams in his tenure. And Kansas State was certainly beatable. College football is cyclical for almost all programs. Even the best programs have their ups and downs. While the round robin gauntlet certainly isn't advantageous for Iowa State, it's not a program killer. The Cyclones just simply can't afford to throw away games that it should win as we've seen this year. If not for a missed chip shot against Toledo, failure to kneel the ball at the end of the Kansas State game and inability to get a third down stop in the second half against Oklahoma State, the 2015 version of the Cyclones are bowl eligible with a winnable game remaining and for 90% of Cyclone fans, that's good enough.
Look at last year, if the Cyclones take care of business against an FCS team, and not let games like Tech, Kansas State and Texas slip through their fingers, then that team was a bowl team. Even with the inexplicable performance at Kansas. The same exercise could be performed on the 2013 season (see UNI, Iowa, Texas, Tech and TCU). If Iowa State and Paul Rhoads could have capitalized on opportunities in front of them, we'd be singing a completely different song, but they didn't.
I'm not here to argue that there aren't inherent disadvantages to being the head coach at Iowa State, but they are certainly not insurmountable and they're nowhere near as dire as the lazy national media portrays them to be with their regurgitated drivel.
So to the next head coach, whomever you may be. Grab your Power 5 head coaching position by the balls. Utilize the 3rd largest stadium in the Conference with state of the art weight training and indoor facilities. Maximize the potential of the talent available to you. Enjoy what is arguably the most loyal and patient fanbase at a major program and understand that we're not asking for National Championships and conference titles. Simply show progress, get to bowl games and make your mark on a program which has very few peaks and a boat load of valleys. You will have the fans' undying support and the community will give you every opportunity available to it to help you succeed. Good luck and Go Cyclones!