AMES, IOWA — Less than 24 hours after putting the final bow on the 2015 season, Iowa State players filed into the Bergstrom Football Complex early Sunday afternoon for an abrupt team meeting.
By the time players emerged 30 minutes later, the reports had been confirmed by Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard: Matt Campbell is their new coach. Campbell, who signed a six-year deal worth $2 million in the first season, landed in Ames later Sunday with his family and will be introduced Monday.
“Just like anything it’s a quick turnaround,” linebacker Levi Peters said. “We played a game yesterday and we have a new head coach today. You’ve got to stay positive and you’ve got to be ready for the next challenge.”
The first step will be meeting their new coach.
The 36-year old Campbell, who is the second-youngest FBS head coach, became the head coach at Toledo in 2012. In four seasons at the helm there, Campbell led the Rockets to a 35-15 record, including 9-2 this season.
“He wins games, I know that,” receiver Allen Lazard said. “From what Jamie Pollard told us this afternoon, he’s a very genuine guy who is family oriented, he cares a lot about his players and stuff.”
Iowa State moved swiftly in its search for a new coach, eventually sealing the deal with Campbell just seven days after firing coach Paul Rhoads. Pollard and associate athletics director David Harris extended an offer to Campbell on Saturday and the highly sought after up-and-comer met with Missouri later Saturday night according to one source.
By late Saturday Campbell had agreed to take the Iowa State position and by late Sunday his plane descended upon the Ames Municipal Airport.
“I couldn’t be more excited to receive the opportunity to coach at Iowa State,” Campbell said in a statement. “Two years ago after we played the Cyclones in Ames, I called my wife [Erica] and said, ‘You simply would not believe this place. Their fans, the game-day environment and facilities are all incredible. I could see us living in Ames and me coaching the Cyclones some day.’”
While Campbell knows well about Iowa State, his future roster is still in the learning phase about its new head coach as it moves forward. The Cyclones will return players with 140 starts on defense and 134 starts on offense, many of whom were redshirt sophomores or younger in 2015.
The roster is comprised of talent that Pollard called the best he’s seen in his decade at Iowa State and is a group that Rhoads said would reach a bowl game in 2016.
“I expect to win a lot of games next year,” Lazard said. “We’re a very talented group up in the locker room. Hopefully we can only add to that with this recruiting class and what the coaches can do with that. I think we have a pretty tight bond up there and if we just stick together and work hard there will be a lot of success.”
What attrition Iowa State might have following the coaching change remains uncertain, but Peters has pleaded with teammates to give the new staff a fair shake.
“These tough times, they’re not going to last. You need to get over them and keep rolling,” Peters said. “We plan on keeping everybody. I told everyone to have an open mind about this and be ready to do what this new staff wants and do what they ask.”
When teammates do have questions, so far they've been able to turn to running back Mike Warren, who was recruited by Campbell and his staff to Toledo out of high school before eventually picking Iowa State late.
So, what kind of coach are his teammates getting?
“He actually cares about you, really laid back, chill guy,” Warren said. “I think he has every piece to the puzzle.”