Will Iowa State use a search firm? Yes. Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard said Monday that Iowa State will use Parker Executive Search, the same search firm it used to interview basketball candidates during the summer and ultimately hire Steve Prohm. The firm helps Iowa State vet candidates and gauge interest. When the Cyclones used it in June, they provided Parker with 20 or so candidates and eventually interviewed around seven before making a decision.
How much is Iowa State willing to spend? This answer isn't clear, but Iowa State better be willing to be competitive in a seller's market. There are already 13 FBS jobs open and more are set to open in the week ahead as the 2015 regular season ends. Two lower-level schools, Memphis and Houston, recently offered their head coaches $3 million/season to entice them to stay rather than look around. Whether Iowa State will need to go to those lengths is uncertain, but they'll almost certainly be paying north of the $2.2 million/season that Paul Rhoads had been making.
"We’re certainly going to be competitive for what we need to get done," Pollard said. "I’m not worried about that at all."
So, what's the timeline for getting a coach? This is another question that doesn't have a clear answer but does have indications. Pollard said Iowa State hasn't and won't put a deadline on making a hire, but if history is any guide, the Cyclones will attempt to move quickly. Pollard has often made quick hires, hiring Rhoads within a week or so of Gene Chizik's departure. With that said, this situation is a bit different coming in the midst of the season. When the Cyclones made a similar move from Dan McCarney to Chizik, the move took 21 days. A search of that length might be costly, but this one could go a bit longer than some other Pollard hires.
"The most important thing is that you can find the right person and then hopefully close the deal on the right person," Pollard said.
Will Rhoads' $4.5 million buyout affect things? No. At least that's what Pollard says. Iowa State has been very particular about the ways in which is spends money under the watch of Pollard over the course of the last decade. That has set the athletic department up well financially, and Pollard said it has prepared itself for a moment like this, when it must pay Rhoads $4.5 million within 60 days. That money shouldn't affect who Iowa State can target or how much it can spend.
Does the new coach need to have Iowa State ties? No. This aspect of a coaching search — a candidate having some sort of ties to the location or university — is overstated, Pollard said. Iowa State isn't necesarily looking for a coach with ties to the Midwest or Iowa State.
What will Iowa State sell? Three things. Iowa State will sell its fanbase, which, despite eight wins in three seasons, has continued to support the program to the effect of 50,000+ fans at 32 consecutive home games. It will sell the facilities, including the $20 million Bergstrom Football Complex and $60 million south end zone expansion that it believes puts Iowa State on par with other schools. Finally, it will sell the talent. The Cyclones have 13 key contributors who are redshirt sophomores or younger, a group that Pollard said is the best talent in his decade in Ames and one which Rhoads said will be bowling in 2016.
Is there a specific style of coach? No, at least not publicly. If Iowa State is looking for a certain type of offense or a coach with ties to a cetain side of the ball, Pollard wasn't interested in revealing it. There is some feeling Iowa State might (or should) target an offensive-minded coach, and many of the rumored candidates do have those ties. With that said, this part remains somewhat unanswered.
"I’m going to go back to saying we’ve got to find somebody that gets our culture," Pollard said. "I’m not going to get into that particular part of it. We’re looking for a coach that we feel fits this culture and understands it and has a plan for how they’re going to attack one of the best leagues in the country."
OK then, who are they looking for? Well, there are a lot of names out there. There are coodinators (Scott Frost and Kendall Briles) and head coaches (Matt Wells and Dino Babers). But since names haven't truly revealed themselves (in the form of interviews), let's take a different route. Iowa State is looking for someone who fits its "culture." What does that mean? "I think our culture is very wholesome, I think it’s very Midwest, I think it’s very sincere and grounded," Pollard said. "People want to know who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’ve got to be approachable."
That might rule our someone like Bo Pelini but points in the direction of a similar personality to Dan McCarney or Paul Rhoads, except a candidate with new ideas and a new approach (maybe an offensive mind). For now, the question of who Iowa State is truly targeting is one question left unanswered.