AMES — Jamie Pollard didn’t want to fire Paul Rhoads.
Iowa State’s athletics director made that clear during a Monday afternoon press conference the day after announcing that Rhoads would not be back for year eight of his tenure in Ames.
To sum up the day: Pollard, who has been instrumental in building Iowa State’s football program to a point where it can be competitive when it comes to facilities, is ready to take this program to the “next level,” two words that he used multiple times in the press conference.
“Our fans have done far greater for us than we have given to our fans,” Pollard said. “To set an attendance record coming off of five wins in the last two years and average 52,500 plus for the last two seasons, that’s absolutely phenomenal. The fan support is second to none."
For Pollard, it all begins with the current roster – the very roster that Rhoads and his staff have been building on the recruiting trail over the last few years. Pollard believes that the “next level” he spoke about is reachable with the current roster under new leadership. He also said that he’s seen this before.
“Sometimes new leadership sparks men to success,” Pollard said. “When I look bask on the history of Iowa State football, what Coach (Dan) McCarney did to take this program from ashes to where it was and was able to hand it off to the next. What Coach Rhoads has done to take this program and put fans in the stands and put wonderful facilities for our staff and players to use, now it is time to hand it off for someone to take it to the next level.”
“This team has more talent in that locker room than any during the 10 years I’ve been here,” Pollard added. “We have unbelievable potential but unfortunately they don’t keep score by potential and talent. They keep score on results and we just didn’t get the results that we need to get."
It’s a cluster out there, which leads to a question that Iowa State had to be thinking about before letting Rhoads go.
With 13 FBS jobs open right now and Iowa State not having the best reputation nationally as a football job, who are you going to get to replace him?
“I’d not be truthful if I (said) that’s not in your mind,” Pollard said. “We’ve certainly had a history of not letting the grass grows under our feet in search processes, so I think we’re equipped institutionally to move forward. I think some of those schools, I would put our processes against there’s any day of the week. But, yeah, it’s clearly (more) a seller’s market than a buyer’s market and that always scares you, because of what that could mean for the price of getting somebody, but we’ll cross that bridge when we cross that bridge.”
It is notable that Houston’s board of regents recently approved a salary offer of $3 million a year for head coach Tom Herman. Another American Conference school, Memphis, has been approved to pay Justin Fuente upwards of $2.2 million per.
That’s just a small piece of evidence that proves the price for a good head coach continues to go up.
Is Iowa State willing to open up its checkbook?
“I worry about what the need to do, not what others need to do,” Pollard said. “If we get the right person, all that stuff takes care of itself.”
Pollard added the following regarding the marketplace:
“You deal with what the marketplace deals you. We are certainly going to be competitive and will get it done. I am not worried about that at all. As far as timing, I’ll take my chances because I think we have proven that we are pretty effective about how we do a search process. We will see how it turns out.”
ISU will use a search firm
Pollard did confirm that Iowa State would hire the Parker Executive Search Firm in Atlanta to assist in this process.
This is the same route that Iowa State went when hiring Steve Prohm as the basketball coach this summer.
Was Paul Rhoads fired because of what happened Saturday at Kansas State?
“Paul was not let go because of what happened on Saturday. As we have a saying in the locker room, no one player, no one play costs a team a game. No one game costs a coach a job. We made the decision to make the change because we simply didn’t win enough games and we weren’t trending in the right direction.”
Why this week?
“There is never a good time to do it but we felt No. 1 that it was the best time for the players. They are off school this week. It gives them a chance to be able to deal with the challenges that come with a coaching change while they are still together and while they still have a chance to have their brotherhood and deal with it as a group rather than next week when they are not coming to practice or to school. We felt it was just better to deal with it this week and give them the opportunity to deal with it as a team while they weren’t in school. We felt it was a better time of the coaching staff. The assistant coaches would have all been taking off on Saturday night and Sunday to go off recruiting next week. We’d have to call them all back in. It was just better to give them their fate and give them time to be able to process that while we were still here. We thought it was a better time for our program. It gives us a chance to get a leg up on what is a very convoluted marketplace right now. Lastly and most importantly, we thought it was the best time for Coach Rhoads and his family. It gives them a chance to still be with their team, to have an opportunity to still be able to coach these kids for one week and it gives them a chance to be able to enjoy one more week of what has been a very enjoyable seven years.”