Through the years, the recruiting landscape has changed, and Iowa State has battled to keep pace with schools in the Big 12 and around the country. The Cyclones have moved further into some territories in recent years and in last season's class they found success on the JUCO recruiting trails.
As Rhoads readies for his seventh fall camp, he went one-on-one with AllCyclones.com at Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday to talk about Iowa State's recruiting philosophy, satellite camps, social media and more.
You had a pretty successful 2015 class with six JUCO signees. Has your recruiting philosophy changed at all in regard to JUOCs?
I think the success that we’re having has probably positioned us to put a little bit more emphasis there. There’s always going to be immediate needs that you’re going to recruit the junior college route and then there’s going to be the weighing of, 'Is this junior college player better than this high school player?' I still love the opportunity to develop kids over a five-year time or a four-year time as opposed to a two-year time, but we’re having success with the junior college players and we certainly have a number of them on our board right now.
Since you started at Iowa State, how much has recruiting changed in those six, going on seven years now?
We’ve expanded where we recruit. We’ve always addressed the [junior college] recruiting need, but as we just stated, if the best player is a two-year guy versus a four-year guy then we’re going to be a little bit more willing now to accept him than we maybe did four, five, six years ago. I think character continues to grow in importance to me in Ames, Iowa, with what our culture is. It was always important, but our ability to find out the things we need to find out and how to find them out is at the forefront of our thoughts.
You held a few satellite camps this summer in both Texas and Florida. Did you feel like those were a positive move forward in recruiting for Iowa State and how do you think those will change recruiting?
Yeah, they have been a positive, and as long as the rules stay in place, we’ll continue to utilize it. I would say that we would even expand on it a year from now if it’s still in place. I doubt it will be in place to be honest with you. I think they’re going to get taken off the books and it’s something else that hurts Iowa State University in the process. We got to put the brand out there, we got thorough evaluations and we got a chance to showcase our personnel to these kids which I think is a piece of recruiting as well.
You’ve talked about the handwritten letters and phone calls in the past, but I know social media and mailings have really changed recruiting. How much emphasis do you put on that now?
I think our people do a fantastic job of getting those [mailings] out there and I think they remain innovative in the process. It’s not just a matter of, ‘OK, this is the Sports Illustrated cover week, this is the Wheaties box week’ and all that. ‘What’s the next neat idea that we can come up with?’ We fully utilize social media, we use the direct mailings and I’m still a believer in personal handwritten notes that I just got done writing well over 100 myself in my vacation time to kids on our recruiting board. There’s something about picking up an envelope that’s personally hand addressed and you know that a note is accompanied with it. It means a little bit more.
What are the biggest challenges in recruiting to Ames or Iowa State in general? You mentioned today that the average kickoff temperature during your tenure is 62 degrees, but are there particular challenges you encounter?
Getting them here.
The biggest challenge remains getting them to Ames. Unofficially to get someone to spend the money to come take a look where another place they can get in a car and drive an hour and a half and get there and take a look. Officially, when we’re paying for it for them to take a look and the piece I continue to take a stand on is a parent or guardian not being allowed to accompany them on a flight on our expense. Basketball has that in place. Basketball can bring a player in from Miami, Florida, with both parents and pay for all of that. I can’t do the same thing. So Iowa State basketball has an advantage over what Iowa State football does.
You’ve mentioned when your son graduated high school you might consider getting Twitter. Where are you at with that?
We’ll see how it unfolds. I still don’t have a handle or whatever they call it.