Ames, Iowa — Iowa State had pinned all its hopes on Gene Chizik — which was why his jump to Auburn after just two seasons was such a kick in the gut for the cellar-dwelling Cyclones.
Judging by the passion native Iowan Paul Rhoads showed upon being introduced as Chizik’s replacement, Iowa State at least has someone who is less likely to wander.
Rhoads, a native of nearby Ankeny and a former Cyclones assistant, was hired as Iowa State’s coach Saturday.
Rhoads, 41, spent last season as the defensive coordinator at Auburn, the same school that lured Chizik away earlier this week.
“I can honestly tell you, on a beautiful day in Ames, Iowa, it’s great to be home,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads, who never has been a head coach, was the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh from 2000-07. He was also an assistant with the Cyclones under Dan McCarney from 1995-99.
Surrounded by dozens of family members and well-wishers who made the short trip to Ames through a snowstorm for his introductory news conference, Rhoads had to stop a number of times to compose himself.
Many have labeled Iowa State a coaching graveyard, but Rhoads couldn’t contain his excitement over the chance to rebuild the Cyclones.
Iowa State went 2-10 last season and was winless in the Big 12. Under Chizik, the Cyclones were 5-19 and never won a road game.
“There are deep roots here,” Rhoads said. “I was born 10 miles down the road.”
Iowa State said Rhoads agreed to a five-year deal worth $5.75 million in guaranteed compensation, with incentives available to increase that total.
Chizik was hired as Auburn’s head coach Monday, after Iowa State athletic director Jamie 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 major blow for Pollard, who was praised for hiring Chizik away from Mack Brown’s Texas staff in late 2006.
Chizik had even accepted Pollard’s offer of a two-year contract extension a week before Iowa State’s season finale, though nothing had been signed.