Tuesday, January 26th, the night after Iowa State took down Kansas in another epic showdown inside Hilton Coliseum, seemed like any other night in January in Ames. Cold, windy, quiet and dark. No students outside in tents, a pretty calm night at the bars, not a lot of life at all.
But if you drove down University Boulevard you would have witnessed a truly beautiful sight - a sight that is pretty rare this time of year. That sight was an illuminated Jack Trice Stadium in all of its glory. The lights were on, the scoreboards lit, the new south end zone displaying the future of Cyclone football.
And in that sight, in 21 degree temperatures, I got goosebumps, just as if the band was playing the fight song during a raucous night game in October. The excitement that is going to be felt on September 3rd ran through my veins. It may be January, but in Cyclone Country, football is on the minds of many.
This past fall was full of disappointment, heartache and really just a lot of things Cyclone fans are used to. Going into the fourth quarter, ISU held a 31-21 lead over number eight and undefeated Oklahoma State, only to see the Cowboys score 14 unanswered points and win in the final home game of the season. The following week, the Clones owned K-State in the first half, going up 35-14, and of course, blew that lead in the final minute to have the Farmaggedon bragging rights stay with the Wildcats for the eighth time in a row.
2015 was so close to success on so many levels, but it was not close enough for our beloved head coach to keep his position.
Just one day after the meltdown in Manhattan, Iowa State announced that Paul Rhoads would be relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Cyclones. Rhoads orchestrated some of the greatest wins in program history. During his time, Iowa State beat Texas TWICE, defeated Iowa three times (all in dramatic fashion), went to three bowl games (winning one) and beat number two Oklahoma State for the biggest win in school history in 2011.
All of those accolades and accomplishments, were eventually overshadowed by the 32-55 record over seven years, and the 8-28 record in the past three seasons. On November 28th, Coach Paul Rhoads coached his final game at Iowa State, putting an end to arguably the greatest tenure of any football head coach in Iowa State's history.
As one chapter ends, another begins.
It didn't take long for Jamie Pollard to find a replacement. On November 29th, Matt Campbell was announced as the new head football coach of Iowa State University.
Regarded as one of the hottest young coaches on the market, Campbell made a surprising decision to call Ames, Iowa the new home for him and his family. You know why Campbell decided Iowa State over other schools? The fans. The atmosphere. Cyclone Nation.
"Two years ago after we played the Cyclones in Ames, I called my wife and said, you simply would not believe this place. Their fans, the game-day environment and facilities are all incredible," Campbell during his introductory press conference on November 30th.
Coach Campbell recognized just how special this place is, and felt that he needed to be the one to take it to the next level.
In his short amount of time as a head coach, Campell has had a great amount of success on the field and on the recruiting trail. Less than two months into his reign at ISU, he has delivered on the recruiting front.
Campbell's inaugural recruiting class already has 22 commitments, 15 of which are ESPN three star recruits and one four star recruit. Iowa State's 2016 recruiting class is currently tied for 54th in the country according to Scout.com. In 2015, ISU finished as the 71st ranked class. With signing day just around the corner, it appears that the 2016 incoming roster has nowhere to go but up.
If you follow Coach Campbell or any of his staff on social media, you know just how passionate they are about their new home. New hashtags such as #AStormIsBrewing or #SoundTheSirens are just a few of the of the many examples of the new culture that Campbell's staff is putting into place. On the daily, the coaches post pictures from all over the country, visiting recruits, having meetings and when home, they stop by to catch a little Hilton Magic.
Troy Davis is finally taking his rightful place in the College Football Hall of Fame. There have been rumors of new, or alternate, uniforms on the way. AJ Klein, one of our favorite Cyclones of recent memory, is going to the Super Bowl. It is a great time to be a Cyclone and an exciting time to look towards the future.
Before we know it, Cyclone Nation will be clamoring to get inside Jack Trice Stadium on September 3rd. The tailgating lots will be full, smells of grilling and beer will radiate throughout Ames, and Coach Campbell will be there to lead a new age of Cyclone football out of the tunnel in front of 61,500 people.
Get ready Cyclone Nation, a storm is definitely brewing.