Sep 3, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard watches the Cyclones pregame warmups for their game against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard took everyone listening to Monday’s edition of the Cyclone Coaches Show radio program on a roller coaster of electricity.
Pollard gave thoughts on nearly every sport currently in-season at Iowa State and much more with the voice of the Cyclones, John Walters, and special guest host, Cyclone football sideline reporter, Ryan Harklau during a half-hour-plus sit-down on the show.
I went back and transcribed the most newsworthy and notable portions of that interview with highlights being Iowa State’s potential bowl destinations, Matt Campbell’s future in Ames despite rumors connecting him and other jobs, TJ Otzelberger’s 6-0 start as the Cyclones’ men’s basketball coach and more (including an unexpected lecture on the California tax code).
I was going to write a standard story but there’s so much stuff here and Pollard’s words are probably best left as he said them, because he said a lot of interesting things. So, I’ve just copied and pasted them below in a Q&A format with little to no changes for brevity or clarity.
I’ve tried to maintain the conversations as close to how they were had in context with interjections from various speakers.
On bowl game possibilities
Walters (JW): Another football question here for you, Jamie. We’re going to get to men’s basketball in a bit. The bowl possibilities, the win really helped, obviously. Kansas State got beat and you start being able to narrow your focus a little bit more, I think, hopefully.
Pollard (JP): Coach Campbell and I had a great talk about that last night because I needed to be armed this week with what his preferences would be. It would appear that the Big 12’s in line to get two in —
JW: You mean into the New Year’s Six?
JP: In some way, somehow, we should get two up because we should still have two in the top-12. Let’s just assume that’s Baylor and Oklahoma State so Oklahoma’s going to go to the Alamo Bowl so that puts, again, the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, the Texas Bowl in Houston and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis are kind of the three. From a football coach’s standpoint, the first question is who are we going to play, right? You start to do the speculation on what the matchups could possibly be. In the Cheez-It Bowl, it would look like it’s Pittsburgh, Wake Forest or Clemson.
JW: And, maybe, North Carolina State.
JP: Yep. The Houston Bowl, from everything I could see, looks like it could be a Mississippi State. In the Liberty Bowl, it would be an SEC team below that, but the SEC has this ability where they don’t slot them. They place them based on what they want from their conference. We certainly have earned the right to be in Orlando, but, at the same time, the last time we went to Orlando (2019), Oklahoma State had earned the right. Orlando took us over them. We were all excited that they did that. Oklahoma State wasn’t. I get it. I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say, “They better take us because we earned the right.” I get it. K-State is somebody they obviously could look at and say they’d take K-State over Iowa State. We’re going to try to lobby to be the team because we did earn it, but we get it. Right?
JP: I’d wondered with Coach where he was on Houston because it is a Jan. 4 game so that’s a little different for a layoff. He actually embraced that because he thought he could send the kids home for Christmas. It would be the first time in four years that we got to send them home for Christmas then bring them back after it to get ready for a bowl game. That was something I needed to hear from him. Otherwise, if he didn’t want that, you’ve got to try and negotiate and play yourself down, which is weird, but that’s what we do. I think it will be one of those two places now — either Orlando or Houston. I’ll know a little bit more this week when we have our next Big 12 bowl call.
More on the bowls rolling into discussions of Campbell’s future and more…
JP: I think more and more one of the other challenges is going to be who is going to play and who is not. We’ve never been in that spot before. We potentially could be in that spot that we could have some of the young men decide they’re not going to play. I think that we haven’t crossed that bridge yet. I think all the seniors would indicate they would want to play, but I think some of that will depend on matchups and where we’re at. I totally get that. Then, there’s just chaos in this industry right now. I mean, who would’ve thought OU would be coach-less for their bowl selection? There’s just a lot of situations that are out there and all those, who’s going to be coaching at certain places, and how does that impact bowl selections across the country.
Harklau (RH): So, it sounds like you and Coach have been together when you were talking about the bowl games. How have those conversations gone with Coach Campbell so far since the last game here against TCU?
JP: Good. Coach and I have a great relationship. Let’s face it, if he’s not on people’s lists then someone’s not doing their job, right? I just don’t know, I guess it will never change, but your actions speak louder than your words, right? I say we’ve got some unicorns here with Bill Fennelly to TJ Otzelberger to myself to Coach Campbell that have chosen to, maybe, swim upstream in comparison to the rest of our peers in our industry. People just want to always just assume that you’re going to chase money, right?
JP: That doesn’t mean any one of those people is going to be here for life. Maybe, Coach Fennelly because he’s already proven he’s here for life. Although, at 17 years, I’m pretty darn close myself. Nothing’s forever. That’s what I always talk to Matt about. Who am I or anybody else to decide what’s right for Matt Campbell and his family? That’s his call and his call only.
JW: 100 percent.
JP: But, all of us want to opine about it and we have all these platforms for people to opine then rumor mills start then people go, ‘Well, let’s shut down the rumors.’ Once you shut down one, you’ve got to shut down all. That just gets you into a game of… do you really want to play that game? It’s so easy when you’re not a public person. What Coach Campbell has to do, any of us, we operate our lives personally and professionally in the public domain. Unless you’ve never done that, you have no earthly idea how challenging that is. I think for Coach Campbell, he is a very private person. He is who he is, but the rest of the world is trying to tell him that he shouldn’t be who he is. That does not mean he’ll never leave here. Something could come open that is the right fit for the right reason. If that’s what he wants to do, we should be ecstatic, because he’s delivered and then some at Iowa State.
JW: Leave it better than you found it.
JP: Absolutely, but until he’s here, let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt —
JW: Well, he is the second longest-tenured coach in the Big 12 conference so his actions have spoken louder than words.
JP: But, you don’t feel that, right? Everybody wants to assume. It’s interesting. It’s like rapid fire. I mean, who saw Lincoln Riley doing what he’s doing, right? We can all sit back and have fun with that, because of what OU and Texas did to our league, but I always say, ‘Be a little careful throwing stones because all of us live in glass houses.’ Yeah, I would be lying if I said during the last 24 hours I haven’t had a little bit of joy there of just going, ‘How ironic,’ right?
RH: It’s such a crazy time. What’s hard for me is a year ago some of these same programs were coming through COVID, no fans, no TV revenue, like, ‘Oh my God, we’re not going to make it.’ A year later, they’re offering $20 million to buy somebody else’s contract and another $10 million here —
JP: Our industry is so broken, it isn’t even funny. I should be a lawyer for student-athletes because we are the stupidest people on Earth how we do what we do then we turn around and try to have moral high ground.
RH: You know who has moral high ground? Coach Campbell has moral high ground. He gets to choose. It’s his life, his family, his career, he’s committed here. This isn’t the first year that he’s taken calls, but we were able to walk through that moral high ground thing when we went through the transition from the Big 12. Coach Campbell having this place of having great TV revenues when you’re losing two programs, you felt like a little bit like you’re sitting at a place of more power going to a school that’s 3-9 or, now, Oklahoma, sitting without a head coach, going to a new conference, we talked about this last week, good luck —
JP: Kids transferring left and right because the transfer portal is wide open.
RH: They just buried Oklahoma. They really did. I don’t know how they’re going to pull out of that downward spiral.
JP: Here’s an analogy I’ve talked about in the last 24 hours. Oklahoma is a microcosm of what some coaches have been doing. They chase the money then they find out, really quickly, that chasing the money wasn’t — you know — Dan Mullen, three straight New Year’s Six bowls then one 7-5 season and you’re out. Don’t think for a second that Coach Campbell doesn’t notice that. What we talk about is, c’mon, let’s call it like it is, everybody would like to make more money. I don’t know anybody in the world who would say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to make that money.’ But, grounded people can go, ‘Well, not if it comes with that.’ Let’s call it like it is. All the people I just mentioned, we all make more than we probably should. But, if you compare us to our peers, we don’t even come close to what our peers are making, right? But, that’s okay, because none of us are going to go to the poor house. We’re doing just fine. There’s something at Iowa State that I talk about all the time, ‘You’re in control.’ I tell Coach Campbell, ‘Okay, you went 7-5 this year. You know what’s different about being 7-5 at Iowa State versus being 7-5 somewhere else? You don’t have any board of regents, you don’t have a president, you don’t have an AD and you don’t have any donors telling you that you have to switch coaches on your staff or you’re fired.’ We let them wear black. Try wearing black at USC, right? There’s some things that go into — Still being paid a lot of money, but you can’t say, ‘Well, Matt’s only making this compared to what he could make there.’ Well, yeah, you can take that, but it comes with a whole set of other factors.
JW: And if it was all about money, we couldn’t compete.
RH: This place is special.
JW: It’s not just about money.
RH: You look at USC’s homecoming game. What did they have there? 40,000 fans, 30,000 fans? It’s a half-empty stadium.
JP: You guys, the tax rate in California is 60 percent. We talked about that this weekend, Matt and I. If you’ve got to go there and it takes you 100 hours a week to do the job, how do you feel if you’re only getting paid for 40 of those 100 hours? Because that’s what it is. All your staff, all the way down the line, are only going to get paid for 40 of those 100 hours because the state of California and the federal government and whatever municipality that’s taking this excised tax and whatever other liberal thing they’re doing in California is taking the other 60 percent. They don’t always think about that.
JW: This is fascinating and we could let it go on, but we owe it to our sponsors to get in our breaks.
On Iowa State’s success in men’s basketball…
JW: So, Jamie, who would have guessed that before November was over, Iowa State would be in the top-20 nationally in men’s basketball? What an amazing thing we’ve witnessed. Not to say we’ve arrived. I get it. It’s a long season, but, man, what a great job TJ’s done.
JP: It’s a little Hollywood-ish. You couldn’t script it any better, right? Anybody that said they predicted that was going to happen, other than, maybe, TJ, but I don’t think he would, because if you listen to him, I’m not going to say he doesn’t care that they’re 6-0, but he’s got that Matt mentality of we’re going to worry about the daily habits, right? But, I don’t know NFTs or crypto-currency, but if I could be paid for everybody that’s texted me, emailed me or said to me, ‘Oh, it’s awesome. I knew he was going to be a good hire.’ I just kind of chuckled under my breath and remember six months ago it was, ‘Pollard hired his friend. Pollard did it on the cheap. TJ couldn’t win at UNLV.’ I guess enjoy the moment because people will, first time we lose it will be, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’
JW: I think back to when you introduced him as coach and because of COVID there wasn’t some big deal. It was just you and him and me in the Pete Taylor media room socially distanced.
JP: I have that picture in my office. It does look strange.
JW: Just a low-key introductory press conference to introduce a coach. I think back to that moment and, alright, I’m one of the people. I said this was a great moment for Iowa State University. I really did believe in the hire.
JP: I think I can NFT that.
JW: Just to think of that moment. That wasn’t that long ago.
JP: But, let’s go back, though. The reason we hired TJ was not because we thought he was going to be 6-0 and we were going to be ranked 19th. We hired TJ because of everything he’s done since he got here, which is doing it the right way, believes in this place, understands what it takes to be good here and then goes out there and is no-nonsense executing it. We had some players that he asked to leave or players that left. It was interesting because everybody wants to pick apart all those things, right? They were all done by somebody that was very confident about what his blueprint was. You either fit that blueprint or you didn’t. If you didn’t want to adapt to that blueprint then you needed to move on. That’s why we hired him. He was very confident in what works here and how to do it.
On feedback he’s gotten about ISU’s start in MBB…
Note: I got a call as I was recording this question on my phone and Harklau got cut-off a bit, but he was talking about how cool it has been to see George Conditt and Tre Jackson make an impact for the team and how much the guys seem to like each other as a group.
JP: Well, that’s been the biggest feedback I’ve had so far. That feedback was based off the first several home games, which were basically buy games other than Oregon State. It wasn’t like we were playing top-level teams, but people really appreciated the defense, the effort, the cohesion, the body language, all the things that had been missing from our culture. The wins are great, but I think people were more excited about seeing that foundation being laid.