DALLAS — Paul Rhoads feels your pain.
Iowa State’s seventh-year head coach told a story at the Big 12’s annual media day in Dallas that epitomized what he is going through after leading the Cyclones to only five wins over the last two years. The story revolved around a speech that he gave at a local Ames Rotary Club event earlier in the week and the looks that he saw on faces of fans in the audience.
“To see the look of disdain and frustration, that bothers me,” a candid Rhoads said. “I want to be greeted with the same enthusiasm that I bring to the job every day. I understand why they don’t have it but I want to get it back on their faces and back in our state.”
Rhoads fully understands fan frustration.
“Oh they (fans) are plenty antsy. Plenty antsy,” he said. “Any institution in the country would be after five wins in two years."
With that, Iowa State’s head coach is also optimistic about 2015. This summer, Rhoads has spoken numerous times about what he believes is a changed culture within Iowa State’s locker room compared to the last two years. In addition to a graduating senior class, at least six players from last year’s team are gone for one reason or another. That doesn’t include the players Rhoads dismissed from the team prior to that – namely impact defensive linemen Rodney Coe and David Irving.
“I know the difference in our football team right now on July 21 vs. Jan. 21 and maybe more accurately, Nov. 21,”Rhoads said. “There is a chemistry. There is a closeness. There is a change in culture that is more direct to 2009 to 2012. That excites me. I think that excites the players.”
The players are feeling the pressure too, none more than fifth-year senior quarterback Sam Richardson. Of course he’s heard all of the “hot seat” talk this offseason regarding his coach. It’s impossible to avoid.
“It’s tough,” Richardson said. “He’s invested in me personally. He’s trusted in me in situations. It is tough to see that type of stuff that is said about him but it is our job as much as his to go out and win games for him.”
Richardson has faced his share of criticism too. It hasn’t always been his fault, but Richardson’s 0-15 record as a starter in the Big 12 is something he can’t escape.
“We get it all of the time going downtown or wherever," Richardson said. “You get all sorts of comments and it is tough. You would love to be on the other side of that where you are just the dude and everyone loves you and thinks you are the best player ever. It doesn’t always work like that. But you can’t let it get to you. I am pretty thick skinned.”