DES MOINES, Iowa — After getting burned by Gene Chizik, Iowa State has turned to Iowan and former Cyclones assistant Paul Rhoads to revive a program that went 2-10 last season and didn’t win a Big 12 Conference game.
Iowa State hired Rhoads away from Auburn, which lured Chizik from Iowa State earlier this week.
Rhoads has never been a head coach. He spent last season as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator after having the same role for Pittsburgh from 2000-07. He was an assistant with the Cyclones under Dan McCarney from 1995-99.
“Paul Rhoads is an outstanding and intelligent football coach, a highly successful national recruiter and has nearly 10 years of experience as a BCS coordinator,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said in a statement on Saturday. “He was the one candidate that clearly demonstrated both extensive experience and an extreme passion for and familiarity with our institution.
“In addition, and most importantly, he also has a comprehensive plan for how to be successful at Iowa State.”
Iowa State said Rhoads agreed to a five-year deal worth $5.75 million in guaranteed compensation, with incentives available to increase that total.
Iowa State planned to introduce Rhoads at a 4 p.m. news conference on Saturday.
Rhoads will also appear at halftime of Iowa State’s men’s basketball game against Jacksonville State on Saturday night. That’s a far cry from Chizik’s introduction in 2006, when he entered a raucous news conference at Hilton Coliseum attended by thousands of fans by coming out of a large inflatable helmet filled with smoke.
Chizik was introduced as Auburn’s head coach Monday, after Pollard said Chizik twice told him he would turn the Tigers down. Chizik’s departure after just two seasons and a 5-19 record was a kick in the gut for Pollard, who was praised for hiring Chizik away from Mack Brown’s Texas staff in late 2006.
Chizik had even verbally accepted Pollard’s offer of a two-year contract extension a week before Iowa State’s season finale.
Rhoads is the only candidate confirmed to have been interviewed by Iowa State. Many Cyclones fans were clamoring for Pollard to hire Turner Gill, but he signed an extension Monday to remain as Buffalo’s coach.
“In my two face-to-face meetings with Paul this week, it was obvious that his enthusiasm, energy and warm personality would be well received by our players, fans and university community,” Pollard said. “He has a presence with a ‘look-you-in-the-eye’ style that makes you feel comfortable.”
Rhoads is a native of Ankeny, about 20 miles south of Iowa State’s campus. His father, Cecil, was a high school coach in Iowa for more than 30 years and was inducted into the Iowa High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
Rhoads was also a special mention All-State pick and the class valedictorian while at Ankeny High.
“It has been a professional goal of mine to become a head coach since my dad introduced me to the game as a kid and I could not have found a more perfect place than Iowa State,” Rhoads said. “I know how special Ames and ISU were to me during my first tenure and having the chance to return and lead this program reads like a Hollywood script.”
Rhoads worked under Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt at Pittsburgh, helping lead the Panthers to the 2004 Big East title. He was approached by former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville in 2002 to be the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. Though Rhoads turned him down, he moved to Auburn before this season.
The Tigers were ranked 15th in the nation at 18 points allowed per game this season, but finished just 5-7 and Tuberville resigned earlier this month.
Rhoads will have his work cut out for him at Iowa State. The Cyclones went 0-8 in the Big 12 despite not playing Texas, Texas Tech or Oklahoma.
His first order of business will be to keep Iowa State’s young players from jumping ship. Iowa State played a large number of freshmen this season — brought to Iowa State by Chizik — and Pollard said earlier this week that many of them likely felt betrayed by Chizik’s move to Auburn.