A Post-Chizik Iowa State

Cincinnati Coach Brian Kelly

Cincinnati Coach Brian Kelly


Different voices have called or written me in the last two days to give me versions of what happened when Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard was searching for a football coach two years ago.

Their stories vary, but all say Pollard offered the job to then-Central Michigan coach Brian Kelly. Versions have Kelly not meeting Pollard’s timetable or simply using the job as leverage to get the then-vacant Michigan State job.

If those stories have merit, I owe Pollard at least a semblance of an apology for writing Sunday that he picked Gene Chizik over Kelly, a proven winner and program-grower as a head coach.

However, Pollard was the one who said ISU got its guy, and made it strongly sound like stories suggesting Kelly would get the Iowa State job were way off base.

It worked out for Kelly, though he didn’t get the Michigan State job. In two years at Cincinnati he has 21 wins and a team with no previous national identity going to the Orange Bowl.

It didn’t work out so well for Iowa State, which is now looking for a replacement for Chizik, who fell upward to Auburn.

We’ll have plenty of time to play the speculation game about ISU’s next coach. You know Buffalo’s Turner Gill will be named as a good target, over and over.

Auburn’s most famous living former student (I think) has weighed in on Chizik and Gill. That would be Charles Barkley. From an ESPN.com story:

“I think race was the No. 1 factor,” said Barkley, who played basketball for three seasons at Auburn during the early 1980s. “You can say it’s not about race, but you can’t compare the two resumes and say [Chizik] deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst resume.”


Gill, a former Nebraska quarterback, took over one of the country’s worst programs at Buffalo three years ago. He guided the Bulls to an 8-5 record and their first MAC championship this season, upsetting previously unbeaten Ball State 42-24 in the Dec. 5 conference championship game.



The Bulls won 10 games in their first seven seasons at the Division I-A level. Gill guided Buffalo to 13 victories during the last two seasons combined.


“I’m just very disappointed,” Barkley said. “I just thought Turner Gill would be the perfect choice for two reasons: He’s a terrific coach and we needed to make a splash. I thought we had to do something spectacular to bring attention to the program. Clearly, if we’d hired a black coach, it would have created a buzz.”

The full story: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3770769

Pollard didn’t seem to pull his punches in a Monday morning press conference at Iowa State. He never used Chizik’s name.

“I don’t really care,” Pollard said. “He can’t help me win or lose another game.

“I signed up for something here, and I’m going to finish it.”

Unlike his former football coach.

I say Pollard should get Buffalo’s Turner Gill to Ames for an interview pronto. If you can lift Buffalo from where it was to the championship of the Mid-American Conference in two years, you can coach and motivate.

Not that there won’t be other candidates with good resumes. Weigh all your options.

I’m just saying, take a long look at Gill. I’m sure Pollard will.



One response to “A Post-Chizik Iowa State

  1. To be fair, I don’t think Brian Kelly had established himself a “program grower” 2 years ago. Prior to the Cincinatti job, he’d only had 3 yrs experience as a D-1 (let alone FBS) head coach, all at Central Michigan. And, even then, his best season was 9-4, going 7-1 in the MAC and earning a coveted Motor City Bowl berth. Granted, before his time with the Chippewas, he’d built a national power at D-II Grand Valley State. Now that he’s done it at 2 D-1 schools, I think you can say he’s someone who can build a program.

    This isn’t to say Kelly wouldn’t have been a great hire at ISU 2 years ago. He’s a helluva football coach.

    Also, of course Pollard (or any other AD) is going to downplay stories about candidates that got away. You don’t want to hire a guy by saying he’s not the person you really wanted but he was the best you could get.

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