No Speculation Desired: ISU found out its bowl destination like we all did — but with no worries

Oct 19, 2019; Lubbock, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell before the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy chose not to speculate about potential bowl game destinations. Staying “present” in every moment turns that future-obsessed flight of fancy into a won’t-fly zone.

 So while many Cyclones fans and media were trying to advance “most likely” and “least likely” scenarios leading up to Sunday, Purdy and most of his teammates shrugged — and, like all of us, waited for the Sunday’s news to flutter about on Twitter.

 The Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28, in Orlando, Fla., against storied Notre Dame, it is. Oh, and Brett McMurphy at Stadium had it first.

 “Twitter, I think, beats everything nowadays,” said Purdy, whose stellar sophomore season helped boost the Cyclones (7-5) toward the sunny-side-up matchup with the No. 14 Fighting Irish (10-2). “So everybody knew at all before even our meeting where we were going. But, you know, I feel like the vibes and how everybody felt coming in the facility was pretty sweet. All the guys were really excited. And when we were waiting for the meeting and stuff you know everyone was in a pretty good mood.”

 Pretty good?

 ISU — thanks largely to its fan base’s “have game, will travel” reputation — edged out Oklahoma State (8-4) and Kansas State (8-4) even though they’d lost to both teams in the regular season.

 Now, the Cyclones ascended to second among the four tied third-place teams for a variety of reasons, but the fact that their fans will likely quickly gobble up the school’s 8,000-ticket allotment — and then some — stands paramount among them.

 So tip of the cap to yourselves. And it’s time to put a dent in the bank account … again. 

 “We need to step up and deliver like we always have, but moreso now, because they picked up over two teams that beat us and had won eight games — and if I was on the other side of that equation, you know, I’d feel kind of down about it,” said ISU director of athletics Jamie Pollard, who noted that the program and Coach Matt Campbell’s heightened profile helped land the Cyclones in Orlando, as well. “So I told the folks at the Camping World Bowl when they let us know that we were in, we’ll do everything we can to make their taking a chance on us a great decision.”

 The Cyclones and Fighting Irish have never played each other in football. ISU has never played in a Florida-based bowl — and will play in three straight postseason games for the second time in school history.

 “(Notre Dame) is a program that’s got one of the greatest legacies in college football and to be able to go and compete with them on this stage, I think, it says a lot about where we’re at,” said Campbell, who is 1-1 in bowl games as the Cyclones coach. “Certainly says a lot about where we want to go and it’s certainly going to be a great challenge for our kids and our program.”

 Preparing to meet it begins to full form once his team pads up for practice again Monday. Those 15 extra opportunities to focus on internal growth — and a one-off game — are critical to 2020 ISU and beyond.

 Campbell and his staff will remain on the recruiting trail off an on as bowl prep ensues, working to enhance classes for 2021 and 2022.

 “I think it takes all of us and I think that’s one of the things that’s really neat that I think this whole thing has had the ability to elevate us to a really prominent stage again,” Campbell said. “And, you know, I think we’ve learned a lot, we’ve grown a lot. And certainly, as I said before we come through this fan base. But I think there’s been a lot of growth inside our walls too, and all of it’s kind of collectively come to a great moment again for this football program to be on a really special stage and a really special moment for Iowa State athletics.”

 Cyclones. Fighting Irish. No need to speculate. 

 History will be made, one way or another — and ISU’s fan base as much as its program will get another chance to prove it travels as well as almost anybody.

 “During the week we told (Camping World Bowl officials) that we needed a place for a pep rally for about 12-15,000 people and I think that kind of caught their attention a little bit.”

ISU fans had already made a deep impression by topping 20,000 fans two years ago at the Liberty Bowl and by hitting 30,000 last year at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Pollard said. 

 “That word has spread around the bowls, so I think that was a big part of it,” he added.

 Also big: Campbell’s recently announced contract extension through 2026 that quashed that s-word — speculation — that placed him in the conversation for a couple of high-profile job vacancies.

 “The fact that he committed to stay at Iowa State was a big factor,” Pollard said. “As they told us, ‘You’ve got a national brand coach,’ and he’s going to be coaching in this game. … We both knew that his name was going to be out there and we also knew that it was important to get something done quickly so that he (and his staff) could go out on the road recruiting and get that uncertainty out of the air. The way it played out, it’s turned into an asset, because he was able to go out and things were solidified. He was going to be here and some other programs maybe didn’t have that.”


Rob Gray


Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.