Ames, Iowa Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said that accepting coach Dan McCarney's resignation was the hardest decision he's ever to make.
Of course, it didn't stop him from doing it.
Pollard, who is in the midst of a $135 million fundraising effort to renovate Hilton Coliseum and Jack Trice Stadium, knows that it will be a lot tougher to bring - and keep - Iowa State's athletic department up to par with the rest of the Big 12 if the football team continues to struggle like it has this season.
The year's 3-7 record may or may not have been an aberration for McCarney, who turned around one of the nation's worst major conference programs in 12 years in Ames.
But to Pollard, it didn't matter. As a donor recently told him, people weren't ready to grant Iowa State a "mulligan."
"Iowa State's football program has to be healthy for us to have any chance to compete in the Big 12. To be able to hire great coaches, to be able to keep great coaches, to be able to build facilities," Pollard said. "If football isn't healthy, we get stuck, or stalemated, and everybody has to suffer."
Despite one of the nation's toughest schedules and a defense with nine new full-time starters, most people believed McCarney's job would be safe this season. But after an unimpressive 2-0 start, the roof caved in for the Cyclones. Iowa State's last two losses, at Kansas State, 31-10, and to Kansas, 41-10, at home last week, symbolized what Pollard said was "momentum that had stalled."
Signs that trouble was on the horizon began to appear Monday, when McCarney said that the constant questions about his job status had left his players "emotionally spent." He even took the unusual step of asking reporters not to ask his players their opinions on his status.
Then came Wednesday. Fueled by an ESPN.com story that quoted McCarney as saying he thought Pollard would ask him to resign and reports that Pollard and McCarney were to meet Wednesday morning, the media descended on Trice Stadium.
McCarney - who hadn't given any indication he might leave until a meeting with his players Sunday that wide receiver Austin Flynn said hinted at a possible move - knew it was time to go.
"We've had somewhat of a divided Iowa State community, and at the bottom of that is that we've really struggled. I'm sorry for that. That's a shame," McCarney said. "I want the best for this place because I love Iowa State."