Monday Musings: Time to adapt

I am a big fan of the WWE and guess what? I’m not even the slightest bit afraid or embarrassed to admit it. I love the drama and storylines (admittedly, sometimes they are extremely corny and over the top) pushed into every program. I love the athleticism that the performers showcase. I love the (perceived) violence. My favorite aspect about sports entertainment though would have to be the wrestler entrances. I’m getting jacked up right now just thinking about some of my all-time favorites (The Rock, CM Punk and Hollywood (not Hulk) Hogan to name a few).

Quickly, before “Mr. Make Fun of Pro Wrestling Guy” chimes in; I know that this is a produced television show (just like the majority of shows that you watch on a nightly basis) and not a real sporting event. Everybody knows this. The WWE doesn’t even pretend that it is real. That ended the 90’s.

So last week, I was catching up on my DVR (the only way to watch the WWE) and I came across a segment featuring a heel (bad guy) stable called “Evolution.” This group’s leader, the real-life COO of the WWE, Triple-H, dropped a line that I thought was actually pretty profound.

“Adapt or perish,” the arrogant villain shouted time and time again to his future opponent for an upcoming pay-per-view.  

“Adapt or perish.”

Pro wrestling might be fake but in my mind, truer words have never been spoken. In any industry, if you haven’t adapted over the last decade, chances are, you have perished. That is especially true in the industry I work in, the media.

Somehow though, these words – especially the adapt part of the quote – can be tied in with the Iowa State football program and many other non-traditional powers across the country in the same situation. 

Last Thursday, I visited my friend Tim Sitzmann at Mr. B Clothing to record one of our video segments that you have seen on this site for years. We wanted to preview our season preview (confused?) of the 2014 Iowa State football campaign. The first commentaries that came out of each of our mouths were regarding the strength of Iowa State’s schedule. Combine non-conference games against North Dakota State, at Iowa and Toledo plus a nine-game Big 12 slate and yes, once again, “brutal” is an accurate word to use when describing 2014’s agenda. 

It was on my way home when I got to thinking about this strength of schedule topic. When is the last time that Iowa State’s schedule wasn’t “brutal?”

Perhaps that was in 2009, Paul Rhoads’ first year at Iowa State. The Big 12 was still a 12-team league (the North was still down) at that time which meant that Iowa State played four non-conference games. Those were against North Dakota State, Iowa (at home), Kent State (on the road) and Army (at home). Iowa State won the Insight Bowl that season. 

In 2010, the Cyclones still played a four-game non-conference slate but that was the year that Iowa State was saddled with Utah. I won’t go into any more details, as I know you all have tried for years to forget that embarrassing defeat. 

Fast-forward to 2011, the debut of the Big 12’s nine-game league schedule, which is really the issue at hand. Iowa State had Northern Iowa, Iowa (both at home) and a road trip to UConn for a non-con. With quality teams like Tulsa mixed in with Iowa and Northern Iowa, the schedule hasn’t gotten any easier since. Another quality mid-major, Toledo is on the slate for the next two seasons (on the road in 2015). After that, a home and home with San Jose State (6-6 last year, 10-2 the year before) pops up. A home and home with Akron can be seen way down the road with a home game against UNLV being on board in 2020.

It’s time for a healthy dose of the cold-hard truth. Give Dan McCarney a set-up like the one you see in the current Big 12 and I have my doubts as to if Mac would have ever accomplished what he did at Iowa State. Mac’s teams feasted off of the years when Oklahoma and Texas weren’t on the schedule. In four of the five years that Iowa State went to a bowl game under McCarney, the Cyclones didn’t play the dreaded Texas/Oklahoma combination. 

Fact: That nine-game league schedule is a meat-grinder for every program in the league but especially for a program like Iowa State that over the course of history has really cherished that extra non-league win.

Things likely won’t get easier. With the debut of college football’s playoff just around the corner (where schedule strength is expected to play a major role), who knows what sort of non-conference scheduling requirements the Big 12 will place upon its programs. That’s not to mention the television networks that are paying millions of dollars and don’t exactly encourage the scheduling of FCS opponents (I can’t say that I blame them either).  

"Adapt or perish.”

Looking ahead to the fall, Iowa State’s schedule will once again be a ticked off grizzly bear. But in this league, in this setup, it’s time for everybody to come to the reality that from here on out, this is always going to be the case. Gone are the days in which the Cyclones can rely on missing Texas and Oklahoma in the same season. Gone are the days when a guaranteed three to four non-conference wins are already in your back pocket when Big 12 play begins. Gone are the days in which a feeble Big 12 North pads your record. 

Paul Rhoads knows this. His players know this. But during this offseason, it is to the point now where schedule toughness shouldn’t even be a talking point in central Iowa. Not by the media. Not by the fans. What you see is what you get. This is the new norm. Deal with it.

How will Iowa State have more success in the sport of football going forward in today’s always-changing landscape? Iowa State has to adapt, which it is. The amount of money being spent on football facilities and the upcoming end-zone project is a great start. On the field though, Iowa State has to get better. It’s as simple as that. As it has been spelled out, the stiff competition isn’t going anywhere.