Paul Rhoads keeps it old school


DALLAS — Uniform geeks, beware of this groundbreaking news bulletin from the Big 12 media days in Dallas that is sure to drive you mad. Iowa State will NOT be wearing camouflage or neon uniforms anytime soon. Shiny-mirrored helmets are nothing but a pipe dream in Story County. You’re dreaming of a day when the Cyclones wear alternate black uniforms? Forget about it, Jack. 

It is cardinal, white and perhaps a splash of gold (once a year) from here on out at Jack Trice Stadium and in a Big 12 football venue near you. In fact, Paul Rhoads’ recent decision to allow his team to wear modest matte helmets once in 2014 was even a stretch for the conservative head coach.

Bottom line: Despite the recent trends of college football’s always changing landscape, Rhoads is keeping it old school in Ames.  

“Truthfully it probably hurts me,” Rhoads admitted about his traditional ways. “The players would love that and like anything else, it’s ‘ok we did it once and that was great.’ But you’ve damaged the tradition and the trademark and the brand and all of that.”

It is all a matter of personal preference. For instance, Baylor coach Art Briles spoke at length on Monday about image, branding and what he wants Baylor football’s to be. Rhoads has a specific image in mind for his Iowa State program – albeit, it is a little more moderate than what the folks are doing in Waco, Maryland, or to the extreme, Eugene, Oregon.

“I can’t stand turning on a game and not knowing who the heck is playing,” Rhoads said. “There is nothing that defines that university because it’s not the helmet logo. It’s not the colors. I didn’t know so many teams had changed school colors but they do with the colors that become a part of the uniform. We are cardinal and gold at Iowa State and I want to be cardinal and gold. The matte finish is just another way to express that.”

It wasn’t that long ago when Rhoads jokingly referred to the “Facepage,” when referencing social media during a press conference. He often teases reporters about “tweetering” news during one of his media gatherings.

Recently, Iowa State’s grizzled defensive coordinator Wally Burnahm even joined the Twitter (@CDWallyB) craze.

“Jake (Rhoads’ son) told me last night about the amount of followers he has,” Rhoads joked. “Not as much as Paige Hoiberg, but he is gaining.”

Perhaps seeing Burnham get active on the platform would encourage Rhoads to take the plunge. After all, it is supposedly good for recruiting and obviously it is hard to win in the Big 12 without good players.

Fat chance, although Rhoads was confident that he would be a hit.  

“I’d be really good at it, too,” Rhoads joked.” I had a great one last night about being Will Ferrell and Old Milwaukee Light.”

In all seriousness, Rhoads’ reluctance to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to new school tendencies has more to do with, in his words, “not being a hypocrite” than anything else.

“It’s not me,” Rhoads said.

That is hard not to respect. Say whatever you want about the man but nobody can criticize Rhoads for not being authentic.

“I like talking like this (at a small table with three reporters and no television cameras). This is my favorite part of recruiting too, being in somebody’s home,” Rhoads said. “Being at a dining room table and talking face-to-face with recruits. To a certain extent, having that telephone conversation as well.”

There are stories out there as to when all of this new jazz can go wrong, too. Rhoads shared a recent tale that has been floating around the coaching fraternity, which is part of the reason why he is so cautious.

“There is a story of a certain coach, a very well-respected and successful coach in our profession who was standing face-to-face with a young man,” Rhoads said. “The young man looked down at his phone and looked up at his coach and looked down at the phone again and said, ‘Huh. You just texted me.’ Somebody else was sitting back in the office sending personal texts out when sending texts was legal. You can’t keep up with that so you do have to have a ghost texter or something like that to do that and it’s just not me.”

And that won’t ever happen to Iowa State as long as Rhoads is in charge. He is old school to the bone. He is conservative. He vows that he will “never” be on Twitter, no matter how popular the medium gets. And as long as Paul Rhoads’ office resides in Ames, Iowa, Iowa State football will never be known for fancy uniforms either. However, if Iowa State wins a lot of football games under his watch, nobody is likely to care.