The search has begun.
Those were four of Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard’s first words Monday after he explained his decision to fire coach Paul Rhoads after seven seasons at the helm of the Cyclones. Not that there was any question, but the search for Iowa State’s next football coach is indeed well underway.
Iowa State will use Parker Executive Search to gauge interest from and vet potential candidates, and if Pollard’s history over the course of the last decade is any indication, the search will be completed swiftly.
“As far as timing, I’ll take my chances because we’re proven that we’re pretty effective on how we do a search process,” Pollard said. “I think we’ve certainly had a history of not letting the grass grow under our feet in search processes, so I think we’re equipped institutionally to move forward.”
Pollard has made the bulk of his hires within one week of the position opening, most recently introducing basketball coach Steve Prohm one week to the day after Fred Hoiberg was introduced in Chicago. This move could take more time as it comes in the midst of the final weeks of the college football season, similar to the process Pollard faced when coach Dan McCarney exited in 2006.
That hiring process, the longest of Pollard’s tenure, took 21 days.
Iowa State hasn’t set a deadline, nor was Pollard interested in discussing what the athletic department is searching for in terms of philosophy or which side of the ball a potential candidate might come from. Early indications based on speculated candidates point to an offensive-minded coach.
“We’ve got to find somebody that gets our culture,” Pollard said. “I’m not going to get into that particular part of it [about offensive style]. 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.”
What exactly fits that culture?
“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.”
Pollard’s descriptions seemingly fit that of Iowa State’s coaches for most of the last two decades in McCarney and Rhoads, though with new ideas and a potentially new plan of attack on the recruiting trail.
Current players on roster are looking for the same thing.
“I can only hope that he’s the same type of coach that Coach Rhoads is, which I think is going to be hard to replace,” sophomore receiver Allen Lazard said. “Just knowing how much he cares about me and cares about my teammates and Iowa State in general, I just want him to be a genuine guy.”
Iowa State, which must pay Rhoads a $4.5 million buyout within 60 days, is prepared to pay up for a new coach. In addition to there already being 13 FBS openings, two non-Power 5 institutions, Houston and Memphis, have made it a more competitive market in offering their coaches between $2.5 and $3 million per season to stay.
“I worry about what we need to do, not what others need to do. If we get the right person, all that stuff takes care of itself,” Pollard said. “It’s clearly a seller's market more than a buyer’s market and that always scares you because what that could mean for the price of getting somebody, but we’ll cross that bridge when we cross that bridge.”
Iowa State will use three primary selling points in making its pitch to prospective candidates: A fan base that set an attendance record in 2015 despite five wins in the previous two seasons; facilities that it feels are on par with many schools across the country; and a roster that Pollard called the most talented in his decade in Ames and one which Rhoads said will be bowl eligible in 2016.
“We have a lot to sell,” Pollard said. “We’ve just got to find that leader that can take us over the hump and get us to that next level of football.”