The Last Supper at ISU

Who will feed bad for ISU athletics if they Judas themselves?

Who will feel bad for ISU athletics if they Judas themselves?

Jamie Pollard is getting a gun to his head for no reason.  Despite my less-than-love for ISU athletics, Pollard comes across as a good guy.  He appears outwardly and openly to love all things ISU.  He also appears to make great decisions with his coaching hires.  Sure, Chizik has upset Cyclone nation, but two years ago when he was hired it was a such a big deal and everyone said, wow, Pollard sure is going to take ISU in a different direction.  Same thing with the McDermott hiring.  Neither of those have panned out the way Pollard had hoped as far as titles and program improvement as far as record goes, but it seems the programs are both heading in the right direction.

People shouldn’t pile on Pollard at this stage in the game.  There is nothing worse than being held accountable for something someone else does.  If Chizik wanted to leave, he could have (and it appears he did) tell the media, the players and the AD he was staying until he is blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is he made a decision regarding his “dream job” and frankly I can’t sweat him, either.  Money and prestige go a long way to determining how people will react.  Plus, Chizik has obvious ties to Auburn.

ISU has now gone with another defensive coordinator, ironically from Auburn.  Surely, some will make the “sleep with my wife, I’ll sleep with your’s to get even” argument, but this has no merit.  Paul Rhodes has obvious Iowa ties, with his folks still residing in Ankeny.  It’s a good hire for ISU, just like Chizik was a good hire for ISU two years ago.  Obviously, the Pollards and the die-hards are hoping for a little more stability and growth with the program.  But with any hire, you run risks.  There are very few elite programs.  Through every interview process, there is always someone who “stands out”.  That doesn’t mean it will work.  And ISU has never been an elite program.  Dan McCarney did wonders for ISU and look what that got him.  “Resigned under pressure”.  That’s what it got him.

Being a college coach at a large university is not an easy job.  Perhaps the person(s) with the most to lose in this are Chizik and Jay Jacobs, the athletic director for Auburn.  This is Chizik’s last chance.  If he doesn’t right the Auburn ship (if you even believe it was listing) he’s out.  All manner of national voices have questioned this hiring, and it’s obvious Chizik is no Norv Turner.  In an interview with Scott Van Pelt on ESPN Radio Chizik said all the right things.  He stood behind his two years at Iowa State and and maintains this is a good move for his family.  Time will be the ultimate judge for both, as ISU’s Rhodes will now have to clean up the mess left by Chizik, while Chizik has better deliver from day one at Auburn, or he may be looking for an entirely new profession.  ~Max

As we go in descending order for our “love” of Iowa State, one comment by a talking head on the Four Letter Network boiled my hide.  While ESPN was speculating (on the short list of things they do extremely well) on who would ISU bring in to replace Gene “5 and 19” Chizik, Turner Gill’s name came up, among others.

And for good reason.  He’s the hot coaching candidate this year (albeit in the same job still), has Big 8/Big 12 ties, was a member of the coaching staff during Nebraska’s title runs, and played a mean quarterback.  And Buffalo has risen from the dregs of college football to win the Mid American Conference title over an undefeated Ball State squad.  Snubbed by Auburn and passed over by Syracuse, Gill seemed destined to take the Cyclone job.

Enter Mark Schlabath, ESPN talking head.  When asked about the job in Ames, Schlabath remarked that a move from Buffalo to Iowa State would be a lateral move.  Really?  A MAC school with one success in the past 50 years who just won a conference title is better than a BCS conference school in a weak North division, with a chance every year to play in good bowl games and do big things?

No, ISU is not a dream job for a mover-and-shaker like Gill is made out to be.  He appears to be sitting on his job in western New York State for the time being, as he pulled his name from consideration in Ames.  That’s his decision.  Maybe Gill thinks bigger fish will be out there next year and with the fire-happy mentality of today’s athletic directors (who Pollard was guilty of when forcing D-Mac out in 2006), there will be a plum of a job waiting for him in 2009-10.  Just in the past 2 seasons, Nebraska, Auburn, and Tennessee have all popped open.  It will happen somewhere big again next year.

But to think that Iowa State and Buffalo are on the same level is ridiculous.  Buffalo can’t hold the Cyclones’ collective jock.  Stop trying to make shock statements and speak from truths and facts.  Buffalo has a program that died in the early 1970s and wasn’t fully resurrected to Division 1-A status until 1999.  And even then, it has been a slow and grinding road to get to where they are…going to Toronto in January to play UConn in the International Bowl.

ISU would be pleased to be doing the same this year, but a performance like what the Bulls experienced this year would be magnified in Ames and do so much more for Gill’s resume and his pocketbook.  Why?  Because the two schools are NOT on the same level, NOT on the same rung of the ladder, NOT similar in any fashion.

Pollard certainly isn’t innocent in all of this.  It can be argued that he was only doing what he felt was right for the football program and the athletic department as a whole, the truth is that he was swinging for the fences.  Sometimes, you strike out when trying to hit that homerun.  Not only did Chizik burn him on the field by going 5-19 and regressing in his second and final year, but he torched him off it as well by two-facing his boss and players when he bolted for Auburn and his dream job.  For that I cannot blame him, but to talk out of both sides of your mouth is in bad taste.  But that’s all it is.  That homerun Pollard tried to hit just walked out the door, just like he was destined to (if ISU had won 9 games this year, bye bye Gene-o).

To wrap my piece of this discussion up..on an afternoon radio program during the season here in Des Moines, a caller said they would be happy when the program could get to the point of winning 6-7 games a year, competing for the North division title, and going to bowl games.  The host’s reply:

“Oh, like when you had Dan McCarney?”

Burn indeed, Jamie Pollard and ISU.  Burn indeed.  ~Greg
I have never made it a secret about my feelings for Iowa State – I hate them. I would be perfectly happy if they went winless in football, basketball, and wrestling every season. A perfect weekend for me is an Iowa win and an Iowa State loss. If that offends you, so be it. If you are an Iowa State fan, I expect you to want to see Iowa lose. To me, that is how a rivalry works. I have always laughed in derision at people who say to me, “Both teams are from Iowa, why wouldn’t you want to see them both do well?” Are you kidding? Do North Carolina fans cheer for Duke when they aren’t playing? Do Michigan fans cheer for Ohio State? Do Packer fans cheer for the Vikings? On all accounts, I assure you the answer is no. I am not going to personally attack anyone for their choice, but as a sports fan I have a right to dislike any team I see fit.

Now that that is out in the open, we can all move on. Our task for this piece was to write about Iowa State’s hiring of Paul Rhoads to replace the departed Gene Chizik. But the truth is, I don’t really care. All I want each season is to beat Iowa State and I don’t care if the coach is Paul Rhoads, Gene Chizik, or Gandhi.

While I don’t care who the coach is, I thought I would respectfully disagree with a couple of assertions made by Max in the first section of this post. Here are Max’s opening sentences: “Jamie Pollard is getting a gun to his head for no reason.  Despite my less-than-love for ISU athletics, Pollard comes across as a good guy.  He appears outwardly and openly to love all things ISU.  He also appears to make great decisions with his coaching hires.”

I disagree with the first, third, and fourth sentences. The first and fourth sentences are related because in no way has he appeared to make “great decisions” with his coaching hires. The lifeblood of a Division I-A athletic department are the football team and the men’s basketball team. Yes, the Iowa State women’s basketball program is very successful and draws great crowds. And yes, wrestling is a huge deal in the state of Iowa – the two best programs in the country reside in the state’s borders. But, if you are being truly honest, you will admit that the perception of a big-time athletic department, and to a large extent the university itself, is derived from football and men’s basketball. Pollard is under fire because he forced out coaches in each sport and his hires have been underwhelming at best.

Max’s later statement that “both programs appear to be headed in the right direction” is even more ludicrous. How can the statement be made that the football program is going in the right direction? From where I sit that is the right direction for Iowa State, but Pollard forced out a coach who occasionally went to bowl games and hired a guy who went 5-19 and then left town. That is an unmitigated disaster. And we have no idea if the program is on the way up. Yes, they were young this year, but getting older is not always the same as getting better. And if they do improve over the next couple of seasons and they win 6 or 7 games by 2010, they would be back at the level they were at before Pollard ran McCarney off. Pollard’s stewardship has taken the football program to another level – it just happened to be (at least) one level down.

As for men’s basketball, Pollard let Wayne Morgan go and made a big splash by hiring Greg McDermott away from UNI. Morgan went 55-39 (.585) overall and 22-26 (.458) in the Big XII in three seasons before getting canned by Pollard. Since taking over 2-plus seasons ago McDermott is 36-37 (.493) and 10-22 (.313) in the Big XII. Again, that is right direction as far as I am concerned, but it seems to be in direct contrast with the idea of “great decisions with his hires”.

As for Pollard “seeming like a good guy”, that is a matter of opinion and I am clearly biased, but he strikes me as arrogant. The only word that I can think of – well, at least print here – for buying a billboard in Cedar Rapids and proclaiming this the Cyclone State is arrogance. I am not going to expound on this any further because I don’t pretend to be unbiased, but to me Pollard does not seem like “a good guy”. OK, one more thought – what purpose, other than self-preservation, was there for Pollard’s display at the press conference after Chizik left? A guy from the south left Iowa State to be the head coach at Auburn – what coach in his right mind wouldn’t have taken that job? As for the whole “He told me twice that day he wasn’t leaving” thing, if you like Pollard and Iowa State, then you believe his side of the story. I don’t, so I don’t.

In the end, I don’t really care who they hire, I just want the Hawks to beat them every time they play. However, I am quite happy that I got to argue with Max and, in my mind, prove him wrong.

-Bristol

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~ by maxaverage on December 22, 2008.

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