Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was fired on Sunday, ending a seven-year run with the Cyclones. During Rhoads’ tenure, Iowa State went 32-54 and recorded three bowl appearances. Rhoads will coach the final game of the season for the Cyclones on Saturday against West Virginia.
Iowa State is not an easy job and it is one of the toughest among Power 5 programs. Considering the challenging nature of the job and the hierarchy within the Big 12, the program needs to find a coach who can bring something different to the table in terms of style. Running a pro-style offense when trying to recruit against some of the top teams in the Big 12 is nearly impossible.
Who should replace Rhoads at Iowa State? Here are 10 names to watch:
10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Paul Rhoads at Iowa State
Chris Ash, co-defensive coordinator, Ohio State
Ash is a name many in Ames are familiar with, as he worked as an assistant at Iowa State from 2000-06 and again in 2009. Ash also has stops on his resume from stints at San Diego State, Wisconsin and Arkansas. The Iowa native joined Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State in 2014 and has been a key assistant for a defense limiting opponents to 14.1 points per game in 2015.
Dino Babers, head coach, Bowling Green
Babers is a rising star in the coaching ranks and is regarded as one of the top offensive minds from the Group of 5 conferences. After going 19-7 in two seasons at Eastern Illinois (2012-13), Babers is 16-9 with two MAC East titles at Bowling Green. Prior to Eastern Illinois, Babers worked as an assistant under Art Briles at Baylor (2008-11). Babers runs an offense similar to the one in Waco, as the “Falcon Fast” pass-first, up-tempo attack averages 43.8 points per game in 2015.
Rod Carey, head coach, Northern Illinois
Carey has continued to make Northern Illinois the team to beat in the MAC. He was promoted to the top spot in DeKalb after Dave Doeren left for NC State and has guided the program to a 31-9 mark over the last three seasons. The Huskies have claimed back-to-back MAC West Division titles and need one win in Week 13 to claim a third consecutive trip under Carey to Detroit for the conference championship.
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Willie Fritz, head coach, Georgia Southern
Fritz should be the No. 1 coach on Iowa State’s list to replace Rhoads. In two seasons at Georgia Southern, Fritz is 16-6 and guided the program to a 9-3 record in its first year on the FBS level (2014). Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Fritz went 40-15 at Sam Houston State and 97-47 at Central Missouri. Fritz has coaching experience in the region, has ties to Texas (an important recruiting area for Iowa State) and runs a style of play (run spread option) that would benefit the Cyclones.
Scott Frost, offensive coordinator, Oregon
Frost is a former Nebraska quarterback and spent two years as an assistant at Northern Iowa (2007-08). While Frost hasn’t spent time at Iowa State, it’s fair to say he knows the job and what it takes to win in the Midwest. Frost has worked since 2009 at Oregon, including the last two seasons as the team’s play-caller. Under his watch, the Ducks averaged 45.4 points per game in 2014 and lead the Pac-12 with a 42.4 total in 2015. Frost has no experience as a head coach on the FBS level.
Doug Meacham, co-offensive coordinator, TCU
Meacham was one of the top coordinator hires last season, transforming a struggling TCU offense into one of the nation’s best. The Horned Frogs averaged 46.5 points per game in 2014 and average 42.9 through 11 games this season. Meacham has never been a head coach, but he has been a successful play-caller at TCU and Houston, while spending from 2005-12 as an assistant at Oklahoma State.
Todd Monken, head coach, Southern Miss
Monken has engineered quite a turnaround at Southern Miss. After inheriting a team that went 0-12 under Ellis Johnson in 2012, the Golden Eagles went 1-11 in Monken’s first season (2013) and improved to 3-9 in 2014. After restocking the roster and rebuilding the depth chart from 2013-14, Monken is off to an 8-3 start in 2015 and has a chance to win Conference USA’s West Division in Week 13. Monken runs a high-powered spread offense, averaging 40.2 points a game in 2015. He also has experience within the Big 12, coaching at Oklahoma State from 2002-04 and again from 2011-12.
Ken Niumatalolo, head coach, Navy
Niumatalolo is a longshot to land the job, but Iowa State has to at least inquire to see if he’s interested. Navy is 66-36 under Niumatalolo’s watch, including eight bowl appearances (if you count 2015) in nine years. The Midshipmen have only one season of fewer than eight wins under Niumatalolo’s direction. Niumatalolo is a Paul Johnson disciple and runs a triple-option attack. That style of play would be a good switch for Iowa State, but it’s going to take a lot Niumatalolo for consider leaving Navy.
Brock Spack, head coach, Illinois State
Spack has emerged as one of the top coaches on the FCS level in recent seasons, recording a 55-28 mark at Illinois State from 2009-15. The Redbirds were the runner up for the 2014 FCS Championship and are 9-2 through 11 games in 2015. Prior to taking over at Illinois State, Spack worked as Purdue’s defensive coordinator from 1997-08 and Wyoming from 1995-96.
Matt Wells, head coach, Utah State
Wells coaches at his alma mater and has a good run going at Utah State, so it will be tough for the former Aggie quarterback to leave Logan. In three seasons at Utah State, Wells is 25-14 and guided the Aggies to a Mountain West Mountain Division title in 2013. This program has been hit hard by injuries to quarterbacks in recent years, yet Utah State is poised to earn its third consecutive bowl appearance in 2015 and has claimed 18 conference victories under Wells.