Iowa State fired coach Paul Rhoads on Saturday, after a 3-8 start to the season and yet another missed bowl game for a program that hasn't been to the postseason since 2012. Rhoads never won more than six games in a regular season, and he went 7-28 in the Big 12 after getting a 10-year extension at the end of 2011.
Rhoads couldn't win consistently at Iowa State, partly because it's almost impossible to win consistently at Iowa State. The Cyclones have finished ranked in the AP Poll just once since 1977 -- No. 25 in 2000 -- and the coach of that team, Dan McCarney, was fired for not being able to get over the 7-5 hump. Who can blame Rhoads or McCarney? This is what an Iowa State coach has to overcome:
- Second-fiddle in a state with few recruits and a small population.
- Furthest from a fertile recruiting ground in the conference
- Poorest athletic department in the Big 12.
- Nine-game conference schedule, plus a rivalry game against Iowa every year, makes bowl eligibility difficult.
This year, finding a new coach will be even more difficult. There are arguably eight already open jobs that are better than Iowa State, and more will likely open up. The Cyclones aren't getting Justin Fuente, Tom Herman or any of the other big names. For ISU to ever get relevant, it has to think completely outside-the-box.
Like Bob Stitt.
Stitt became an Internet legend while coaching the Division II Colorado School of Mines. He's known as an innovative offensive coach whose plays have helped West Virginia, Texas A&M and other schools score lots of points. He left Mines for Montana before this season, where he's beaten No. 1 North Dakota State and led the Grizzlies to the FCS playoffs.
Stitt's offense takes advantage of the entire width of the field, and it relies on pure numbers to stretch out the defense to extremes and give the quarterback many options on every play. When it's working, it's impossible to defend in man or zone, and Stitt is always drawing up variations and new plays.
Stitt has now had a year to learn the Division I landscape and recruiting scene, but it's his experience at Mines that makes him a perfect fit at Iowa State. Mines has stronger academic restrictions than its peers, and Stitt couldn't compete for the same players as everyone else in his conference. And he couldn't win by just doing what everyone else did. So, Stitt found an advantage in simply getting away from the group-think prevalent in college football, as he said in a September interview.
It's been that way for a long time. A lot of coaches do things because that's the way you do it. With offense, when I was an assistant coach, I wanted to try things and I wasn't allowed to because nobody else was doing it, and I had to find someone else who was doing it before I could run it.
I was more of a West Coast guy. I was at Colorado School of Mines, where you just couldn't line up and run the
West Coast offense. It wasn't going to be effective. We took the same concepts and just spread them out.
No matter who Iowa State hires, the Cyclones are rarely going to be as good as Texas is at what Texas does. Rhoads even admitted that this year in a rare ISU win over the Longhorns. Heck, Iowa State is rarely even going to be as good as Oklahoma State is at what Oklahoma State does. Iowa State can only consistently win if it does something completely outside the box with a coach who is willing to experiment: basically, the Moneyball approach.
Stitt is a perfect fit. He'll need some help getting used to the recruiting at the FBS level, but he's clearly someone willing to try new ideas. And as a Nebraska native, he knows the region. More important than Division I coaching experience, Stitt has experience successfully leading a team that needs to be different in order to win.