Pollard thinks BIG, and scores: One of the reasons no one saw the Gene Chizik hire coming is we all figured an up and coming, in demand, star coach like him would not be interested in Iowa State. Fortunately for Cyclone fans, Jamie Pollard does not think that way. You don't know if you don't ask.
Will Chizik lead ISU to Championships? We really don't know. I think he shows as much potential as you could possibly hire, and he has the backing that he'll need from the University, but it won't be easy. Yes, Chizik is a great recruiter when he's recruiting Texas kids to the University of Texas or Alabama kids to Auburn, but now he'll need to ask them to leave home and head to a place many couldn't find on a map: Ames, Iowa.
Does that make it impossible? No. But it won't make ISU the University of Texas either. What Cyclone fans should expect is for Chizik to improve the level of leftovers ISU takes from Texas, Florida and other fertile recruiting grounds. Occasionally, maybe Chizik and his staff actually steal someone who the big guys wanted.
Staff is also key, and $1.5 million will help a LOT. Chizik is a defensive guru. Expect Iowa State to improve right away. He's also smart enough to hire an offensive coordinator who can do more with less. ISU will not have Oklahoma talent anytime soon, so you have to work harder, be more creative, and out-think the Sooners (and half the other teams in the Big 12).
Hiring in Secrecy: I was fairly certain ISU had hired Brian Kelly. Partly because we spent several days eliminating virtually everyone else we thought it might be (see paragraph one); partly because ISU officially asked for permission to interview Kelly Saturday and announced a hiring the next day; and partly because Kelly wouldn't deny he was the coach! Conversely, there were several things that bothered me about the Kelly assumption, including the fact he'd be introduced to Iowa State fans just three days before his Central Michigan team played for a conference championship. Do you want a coach who would agree to that? We also had conflicting information. Some sources said "it's not Kelly", more said, "it is Kelly". Fortunately, I followed my gut and never went to air with a confirmed news story that it was Kelly. Some sources previously in the know at ISU no longer are.
Many of you have asked me how so many media outlets got it wrong. First of all, I think it's important to acknowledge that the local media did not get it wrong in a way that required a retraction. WHO-TV, KCCI, WOI and the Des Moines Register all reported that many signs pointed to Kelly, but some signs did not. All we can do is responsibly report everything we're hearing. We did the same thing on SoundOFF. It's an opinion show, and I said repeatedly that I think it's Kelly, but Shawn Terrell and I also pointed out some reasons to doubt that, such as Central Michigan players telling us shortly before the show that Kelly had not said anything to them about leaving. There was also the urban legend that Pollard was telling people the media had yet to identify the right guy. Maybe it wasn't legend after all.
I hate being wrong---even when giving a prediction---but Pollard is under no obligation to let the media in on his search. He has every right to try and keep it a secret, just as we have every right to try and figure it out. I think it will ultimately lead to more objectivity. If Pollard's not stroking anyone, you won't have to worry about compromised coverage, just as you shouldn't. That's good for everyone.
I do think the fact we were all off in our forecasting is a cautionary tale to slow down and take a breath. There's no reason anyone had to know before the day of the hiring. Afterall, many Cyclone fans were complaining about being left out of the loop, but you don't hear any backlash now. The most important thing is to get it right, and when you don't know for sure, say so. We did that.
I didn't learn from a reliable source that it was Chizik until 9:30 a.m. Monday morning. By then, my friend, John Walters, Voice of the Cyclones and WOI Sports Director, had already broken the news. Once it's out there, it's much easier to confirm. It's good for Iowa State that it got out there or you would have had a lot of people at the rally going, "Who is that?". Hardcore college football fans knew Chizik, but casual fans did not. The 9 hour heads-up gave everyone a chance to figure out that ISU had hired a guy fans should be excited to welcome. And they did.
If you'd like to learn more about what Chizik's like as a coach and person, I recommend the 5 minute 13Raw interview on the whotv.com sports page with Texas Longhorns sideline reporter Roger Wallace. You'll also find my live interview with Pollard and the 13Raw feed of the Chizik news conference and pep rally.
And that is most certainly enough Chizik for now, don't you think?