As Albert Einstein famously said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
For the majority of my life, that phrase appropriately encapsulates how I've felt about Iowa State football. However, Matt Campbell seems to be embracing one of my favorite mantras, which is why I'm more excited than ever for the future of Cyclone football.
In fairness to Jamie Pollard, Iowa State's athletic director embraced this concept during the coaching search, too. Prior to Campbell, ISU had hired three middle-aged defensive coordinators without head coaching experience, and outside of a few select seasons, results have been sub-optimal.
Campbell's coaching résumé speaks for itself, but I was particularly excited about simply hiring a young, enthusiastic, up and coming, offensive-minded head coach. Nothing that's occurred in Campbell's first five days on the job has dampened my enthusiasm for the new regime.
While there's an argument to be made that none of the recent events have any correlation to proven Power 5 success, I would argue that Iowa State is not a typical Power 5 job. To succeed here, things must be approached differently.
To this point, every staff member hired by Matt Campbell worked with him at Toledo in some capacity. Yes, that's a MAC staff, and there's not a whole lot of major conference experience there. You know what, though? They've won. They know how to win, and that's been a fairly foreign concept to Iowa State for a majority of the program's history.
Anyone who's ever managed a group of people will tell you that often times their performance was judged, fairly or not, on the performance of his or her subordinates. Campbell clearly trusts these guys, so why not dance with the ones that brought you?
We've seen coaches hire assistants that weren't the right fit, and in this profession, you don't often get too many chances to correct that mistake. At Iowa State you sometimes get more chances than you should.
Let it play out. A young, energetic staff full of recruiters may be just what the doctor ordered. Only time will tell, but these guys are certainly a change of pace from assistants past.
Coaches using social media? What a novel idea!
Here it comes!!!! pic.twitter.com/453fuF9xdZ— John Kuceyeski (@Coach_Kuz) December 1, 2015
It's been pointed out that Campbell doesn't run his own Twitter account, but I don't care. Just seeing tweets like this roll across my timeline gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Recruits take note too. Knowing that their coaches are on Twitter and excited to be doing what they're doing goes a long way.
You're not going to win or lose games because you're on Twitter. But for an athletic department with such a great marketing staff, it always seemed like such a missed opportunity during the Rhoads era. Fred Hoiberg was a fantastic Twitter user. Every Big 12 coach is on Twitter with one exception: Bill Snyder. And let's be honest, if he truly knew how to use a computer or smart phone, he'd probably do it too.
And there's this:
Hearing new Iowa State staff is already speaking to Nike about developing some all-black/grey alternate uniforms, similar to Baylor.— Trey Scott (@TreyScott247) December 3, 2015
Only a few years late to the alternate uniform party aren't we? Who cares? We might finally be headed there. It's about damn time.
"We're the Big 12 Option in the Midwest."
Take a look at these two maps. The first delineates the hometowns (or JUCO locations) of every commitment in Paul Rhoads' last two recruiting classes.
The second identifies the hometown (and JUCO locations) of all of the recruits I can link to the new staff after five days on the job.
Someone will undoubtedly tell me that there's no way we can compete in the Big 12 without Texas and Florida talent. Some will argue that we were hardly competing anyway. Whatever your opinion is now, we're about to find out the truth in the coming years.
Color me excited though. If marketed properly, the whole "Midwest Big 12 Option" campaign makes total sense. Other Midwestern schools that have been successful scour the region for local talent and sprinkle in additions from around the country, yet we've consistently felt compelled to try and compete with every other Big 12 school for Texas recruits and every school around the country for Florida recruits. Why?
Even though Midwest recruiting has been underutilized in recent memory, the dividends have been strong. Jake Knott, A.J. Klein, Jauan Wesley, Allen Lazard, Cory Morrissey, E.J. Bibbs, Jake Campos, Carter Bykowski and Rodney Coe are all examples of players recruited within a few hours of Ames.
Why not find kids closer to home that want to play in the Big 12? Iowa State will face disadvantages in whatever region it chooses to recruit. But there's talent all over the country, and superficially, Iowa State would resonate more to a recruit familiar with the Midwest than a recruit that's used to beaches and year-long summers.
If Campbell can use his Ohio/Michigan/Pennsylvania area contacts and continue to recruit the I-35/Big 12 corridor, I think he may be able to recruit on a higher level than we've ever seen. Throw in a 20% junior college contingent each class and we may finally have found a successful recruiting recipe.
New Era > New Era Pinstripe Bowl
To my fellow Cyclone fans, I implore you to embrace the new direction in which Coach Campbell is trying to take the program. Join in the enthusiasm and try to shed the trends of old. Things are different in Ames.
Nobody will chastise you if you choose to withhold judgement until you see the on-field product, but I can promise these next few months will be more enjoyable if you jump on the Campbell train.
We Cyclone fans are a resilient bunch. Regardless of the nut kicks and heartache, we're still here. For the first time in my life, things are finally headed in a different direction and things are being done differently. Maybe this will be the staff that gets us off the mat, or maybe it won't.
All I know is that I'm excited to see something new. I'm excited to see a new mindset around the program, and while there's no promise of a better tomorrow, I'm choosing to throw my full support behind a staff with a clear vision. A new vision that's different from the past.
And new is always better.