College football fans across the country are learning what Cyclone fans have known since day one of the Matt Campbell era: Iowa State has found themselves a great football coach.
Toledo fans knew this to be true long before Cyclone fans did, as evidenced by his 35-15 record and 2 MAC West Division titles. And though he walked into a great situation at Toledo, one rebuilding season was all that was needed to resurrect an Iowa State program mired in mediocrity.
The 2019 off-season has dropped national relevancy and meaningful expectations on the doorstep of Cyclone fans for the first time in over a decade.
Nearly every outlet has picked the Cyclones to finish 3rd, behind Oklahoma and Texas. Watch-list season resulted in numerous Cyclone players landing on various preseason award lists. The Big 12 media selected 4 players from the ISU defense to their pre-season First-Team All-Big 12 Defense. Athlon named 15 Cyclones to their pre-season All-Big 12 list, tied with Texas for the most in the conference.
To top it all off, Matt Campbell’s off-season resulted in him garnering attention from NFL teams, being placed near the top 10 on coaching “power rankings”, and being in the discussion as a candidate for national coach of the year.
In summary, Iowa State has a young, up-and-coming coach with a great coaching staff, one of the most talented rosters in program history, a fan base that has longed for sustained success (hell, sustainably not being below-average works for me), and an athletic director willing to pony up the money required to make Iowa State a place where winning football can exist.
This new reality for Iowa State fans has been, well, difficult for some to adapt to. The common refrain has been something to the tune of “we can’t have nice things”. And that is understandable, as all the positives mentioned above certainly not do not guarantee a 9-win season. It does mean, however, that this football team will be in every single game they play, and that both the floor and ceiling have been raised for this program both now and beyond this season.
A Cyclone football program on the rise also means that other fan bases may be staring (mostly staring north, one staring west) a new reality in the face as well.
That new reality may or may not lead to admiration for Matt Campbell and the Cyclones. And quite possibly a little jealously. Which may or may not spark a need for some fans (or fan sites) to compare long-term successes from stable programs to Iowa State’s history of mediocrity to make themselves feel better.
It may even cause some to contradict their own words of “Matt Campbell is a good coach” by saying “when he’s done it for 10 years in a row, then I’ll think he’s a good coach”. It might also lead them to say that Matt Campbell is on the cutting edge and their coach is “getting left in the dust” stylistically, and then contradict themselves by saying that Iowa State is only successful by copying their playing style.
Heck, it may even result in an entire article about this new reality.
Cyclone fans, in the event any of the things above come to fruition, here is my advice on how to handle it: Soak it all in with a smile on your face.
Things are finally looking up for a historically downtrodden program. We have a tremendous young football coach building a program on the foundation of player-driven leadership, and an athletic director who is 100% committed to making Iowa State a home to winning football.
Embrace this new reality, and enjoy watching the storm sweep up those who can’t accept it.