Iowa State’s 2016 commits learned the fate of Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads in a group chat late Sunday morning as word began to spread on social media.
The group of 12 commits — nine high school prospects and three JUCOs prospects — often communicate in a chat, and when word began to trickle out that Rhoads had been fired, messages began pouring in from members of the group located across the country.
There are many side effects of a coaching change, and the dozen prospects who have pledged to Rhoads and the Cyclones in recent months are now in the midst of one of those. Several commits spoke to AllCyclones.com and all shared uncertainty about their future.
The three JUCOs — Kamal Hardy, Derrick Achayo and Clifford Fernandez — are set to sign as mid-year transfers in 24 days, and while all said they remain committed to Iowa State despite the coaching change, they have questions.
“As far as I know, I’m still committed,” Fernandez said. “I’m worried with a new coach coming in with a new staff what happens to the people that committed and the players who were thinking of coming. A lot of us are still on board. We all say we’re still ISU, we just have to see how everything turns out.”
The common question is whether scholarship offers will be honored by a new coach, which most commonly is the case in a coaching change. Other questions center around relationships and whether or not particular assistants remain on the new staff.
Most recruits who spoke to AllCyclones said while they remain committed, they are beginning to listen to schools again, attempting to keep their options open depending on how Iowa State’s coaching hire and their offers pan out.
“There’s people who love Iowa State and they just want to wait and see what happens,” Achayo said of the 12 commits. “The JUCO kids who are coming in January, they’re kind of scared right now because they don’t know what’s going on and some of them closed their options, so they’re trying to see if they can get more options back again.”
“If they bring in a whole new coaching staff that’s not familiar with me at all and bring in another guy, I’m behind,” Hardy added. “I would consider them. I’d see what they have to say, but that would be a short relationship that I’d have with them. I’ve kind of opened up my options right now. I’ve kind of opened back up. That doesn’t mean I’m decommitting. I’m waiting, seeing what’s going on.”
Iowa State has been expected to have a smaller class of around 18 signees, but that could change depending on attrition from the current roster following the team’s season finale Saturday against West Virginia.
A new coach will likely have his own recruiting board while also mixing in prospects who the Cyclones have recruited dating back as far as last fall. Iowa State’s hire will have nearly two months to finish off the 2016 class ahead of Signing Day on February 3, but will likely have two weeks or fewer to replenish immediate impact needs for the team with mid-year JUCO transfers who sign in mid-December.
Both high school and JUCO prospects now begin the wait-and-see period as the Cyclones finish the season and then move forward. Much of what happens with the 12 commits will depend on building a quick relationship with the new coach.
“It was a shock to me so we’re going to see what happens and hope for the best. I’m still a Cyclone,” high school commit Kendrec Grady said. “I’m sad for coach, he really showed me he wanted me to play for him, so I guess I’ll have to see how the new coach feels. I just want to play where I’m wanted and needed.”
With Rhoads coaching the final game of his seven-year tenure Saturday, that process is just beginning to unfold.
“All of us at the moment, we’re saying we’re sticking with ISU until we find out further notice what’s going to happen next,” Fernandez said.