In 2003, Duffy's Bar & Grille underwent a change of ownership and a facelift and was renamed The Ankeny Diner. With its buck-50 bottomless coffee, greasy-spoon menu and proximity to both I-35 and a bed — off exit 92; connected to the Best Western — the Diner remains a popular destination for travelers and truckers, the parking lot sleepover of their 18-wheelers visible to anyone cruising down SE Delaware Avenue at nighttime.
This is where a young Paul Rhoads met Bill Snyder for the first time, way back when it was still Duffy's.
"We used to stay [at the Best Western] and I went over for breakfast on Saturday morning and got to meet coach," Rhoads said this week in preview of Iowa State's matchup with Kansas State on Saturday.
Snyder would check in with Rhoads' father, Cecil, a legendary high school football coach in Central Iowa, and inquire about his players. Rhoads never had any players who fit the mold of what Snyder was looking for — although it stands to reason Snyder would have accepted the services of just about anyone with a few years eligibility back when he took over the worst program in college football, the Wildcats going 3-40-1 in the four years before Snyder was hired in 1989.
The Iowa State program Rhoads inherited when he was hired in 2009 wasn't as moribund as the Wildcats of the 1980s, but it came with a similar package of problems.
There's the location of the two schools, quaint college towns but lacking a big-city vibe. There's the weather. A lack of blue-chip prospects in the area, notwithstanding the Allen Lazards of the world, must be solved by the importing of JUCO players, often hit-or-miss prospects.
Ames and Manhattan, they're not easy places to win.
"I understand the challenges that go along with the Kansas State job in Manhattan, Kansas," Rhoads said. "I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for what he's done. Huge."
Said Snyder this week: "I do not know how much Paul and I are alike. I think he is a better football coach than I am. He is an awful good person that works extremely hard. I think the similarities are somewhat like that. Their players are accustomed to a demanding program. They work extremely hard and they play hard."
Yearly upsets and three bowls in Rhoads' first four years had expectations bubbling up before the season began, especially in a down Big 12. The Cyclones, instead of moving forward, have slipped behind schedule. Year 5 under Rhoads was not supposed to be the year for Iowa State to suffer the worst loss in school history, 71-7 at Baylor.
Instead of a jump in wins, like Snyder's Wildcats saw in his fifth year, the Cyclones currently sport their worst win percentage since 1997, when they went 1-10 in the third year under Dan McCarney.
There is time to turn it around, though, with five games left. A bowl game, technically, is not off the table. To get there, Rhoads needs to beat Snyder for the first time in his head coaching career (one of two teams he's never beaten, Oklahoma being the other). The four losses to the Wildcats have come on a combined 21 points.
"He's just a first-class, high-character, [high-] integrity professional guy, always has been, always will be," Rhoads said of Snyder, 74. "And i'll be glad when he retires."
|Matchup Preview | November 2, 2013|
|Iowa State Cyclones|
(1-6, 1-2 Away)
|Kansas State Wildcats|
(3-4, 3-2 Home)