Football

Matt Campbell’s focus is “solely” on the Cyclones as conference realignment talk swirls

Jul 14, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell speaks to the media during Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports 

Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell’s taking a “just the facts” approach to conference realignment talk.

 Really, could (or should) he do anything else?

 Campbell spent his first full day of fall camp on the practice field with his consensus preseason top-10 Cyclones Friday — and if you thought for a second he’d have much to say about Texas and Oklahoma’s decision to bolt from the Big 12 to the SEC, you would be sorely mistaken.

 “I have no idea,” Campbell said. “Great question. Probably a better question for somebody else here because my focus has been zero on that. To say it doesn’t matter or I don’t care is probably wrong. But to say I’ve thought once about it is probably right. My focus has solely been on our kids and our football team, and making sure we continue to do what we need to do in the present.”

 To sum up: “Control the controllable.” And what Texas, Oklahoma, the SEC, ESPN — and all of college football’s power players, both big and small — are planning has nothing to do with Campbell’s 2021 goals at ISU.

 The experience-laden Cyclones are poised to once again challenge the Sooners for the Big 12 title. That quest fell one touchdown short in last season’s conference championship game and looks to be just as tightly-contested this fall, if not more so.

 In short, Texas’s and Oklahoma’s association with the league, which few observers expect to last through the current grant of rights agreement that runs through 2025, is a moot proposition at this point.

 As always, Campbell’s purview is “the moment.” That commitment never wavers, regardless of whatever potential upheavals may blur or distort the distant horizon.

 So when Campbell was asked how he and his staff navigate uncertainty vis-a-vis the Big 12 on the recruiting front, he leaned into a simple answer.

 “Win,” Campbell said. “When you win, people want to play for winners. And when you want to have success, people want to be around a program that’s having success. I think winning not only on the football field, but then also winning in, man, how are you developing your student-athletes? How are we helping them with life after football? How do we create an environment that kids do feel confident and safe to come in your program? I think that matters way more than anything else matters and I think sometimes we put too much thought into that, especially right now, when, jeez, it seems like it’s a very cloud environment and nobody really has any clear vision of where this is going. So the great thing is we control our own destiny. We control who we are and where we go and what we become, so I think it’s just really sinking back into those factors.”

 Really, should they do anything else? Worrying is pointless. Speculation is fruitless. And with the most hyped season of ISU football set to start in the Sept. 4 opener against Northern Iowa, sinking into what’s made the Cyclones’ program as successful as it’s ever been seems like the wisest course by far to chart and follow.

 “I’m 41 years old,” Campbell said. “I don’t have it all figured out, so just trying to take what’s worked well, what hasn’t worked well and continue to evolve to be the best we can be — and help myself and help our kids be the best version of myself I can be for them.”