I normally sleep with one of those Sharper Image clock radios---the kind where you can press one of several sound options: tropical rain forest, thunder storm, ocean waves, first day of kindergarten, midnight carjacking, light rain, or New Age music. I go with light rain, but right now our family is staying right on the beach, so Friday night I left the sliding glass door open, and went with actual ocean.
I'm not sure if that's the reason I didn't hear the phone ring around 7:30 a.m. Or 8. But I did hear it at 8:30. Iowa State hired Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. (Auburn?! )
It's not the home run hire many fans hoped (Gary Patterson), but it's not the bad idea many feared (Mike Stoops? Wrong Stoops. If you can't win big at Arizona, good luck at Iowa State).
Rhoads is not a "sexy" hire, but he's a solid, safe one. The one big negative, and it's a real concern, is the lack of head coaching experience. There's just no way to know except witness the trial by fire and hope for the best. Not all good coordinators and assistants make good head coaches.
Most everything else fits nicely.
Rhoads is an Ankeny native. He wants to be at Iowa State. Unlike Gene Chizik, Rhoads won't use ISU to get what he really wants (well, being a head coach is what he really wants, so the previous sentence is a bit of an oxymoron, but you get my point. He won't use ISU to get what he wants somewhere else). He's invested enough to care what happens to the Cyclone football program after he leaves it. Rhoads' reputation and character suggest he'll keep promises. (Winning back the trust of the burned is never easy, but it can be done. Even Jennifer Aniston seems happy these days.)
Rhoads was an assistant on McCarney's first staff at Iowa State. This is more important than you might think at first blush. It will heal the division in the Cyclone football program. There are hundreds of former Dan McCarney players living in Central Iowa. Since Mac was forced out, most have supported Iowa State football, but not Jamie Pollard. Those players will be firmly behind this hire, and therefore Pollard. For the first time since Mac left, there will be no backroom sniping.
Rhoads is only 41. He's a proven defensive coordinator, and unlike Chizik, he's done it at a place without 5-star athletes at every position (Pitt). Rhoads also specializes in pass defense, which you may have noticed, comes in handy these days in the Big 12. The man Rhoads hires as offensive coordinator is his most important decision.
I don't know if Rhoads will lead Iowa State to championships. Odds are he won't, it's one of the harder jobs in college football, but I do believe he'll immediately return Cyclone football to tolerable viewing, and eventually you'll see Iowa State back in minor bowls. Who knows, if he hires the right staff (not his under-qualified buddies), the Cyclones just may get to that previously unattainable "next level". There's no way of knowing. No head coaching track record to even take an educated guess.
Rhoads first task will be to re-recruit the current players. He'll get it done. Rhoads is a charismatic recruiter to begin with, but those Cyclones don't want to leave, especially when the reality of sitting out a year sinks in. One or two may stray, but the rest will come to realize it's more important to embrace the school and its people than the head coach. The school will always be there, the head coach could start yelling "War Eagle!" at any time.
Those of us who choose to live in Iowa love this place. We even find ways to love the things we hate---like the weather, state fair, and SoundOff. We don't like being used. Rhoads won't have one eye on the door. Iowa is home.
Jamie Pollard tried "sexy". It was a disaster. Time to get back to someone who will roll the sleeves up and go to work. Paul Rhoads will do that. He won't sell tickets on sizzle, so he'll need to look a lot better in his first two years than Chizik did in his. That won't be hard.
If I know Cyclone fans, and I think I do, they're already talking up the positives and downplaying the negatives. Good for them.
Paul Rhoads deserves a chance.