Thursday, June 18, 2009

Did he earn the contract extension?

The term of Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard has been a point of contention and debate among Cyclone fans ever since he came to the job in 2005, when he took over for the departed Gene Smith.

When the Des Moines Register posted the story Monday that Pollard had signed a two-year contract extension, extending his deal with ISU to 2014, the first commenter on the story knew the heated debate was coming:

wdmguy1 wrote:
5... 4... 3... 2...
6/15/2009 10:28:40 AM

The very next poster said ISU fans should stop all donations to the Cyclone athletic department until Pollard was gone, saying the entire department has experienced nothing but losing since he arrived.

But has that been the case?

Well, since his arrival in the fall of 2005, ISU's fortunes have been less than stellar. The football team was coming off four bowl games in five years, the best stretch it had experienced since the 1970s. It was an improvement at that, since it had won two of those games, including the 2004 Independence Bowl over Miami of Ohio. Dan McCarney was becoming the best coach in ISU history.

However, after one more bowl game in 2005 (a 27-24 loss to Texas Christian in the Houston Bowl), the Cyclones slipped to 4-8 the following year, and McCarney, replaced by Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Chizik was even worse, winning only five games in two years before he left to become the head coach back at Auburn, stunning everyone, including Pollard.

The basketball team came into the 2005-06 season ranked in the preseason top 25, coming a year in which it made the second round of the NCAA tournament and three starters returning. However, the Cyclones finished 16-14 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12, missing out on the NCAA Tournament and coach Wayne Morgan being relieved of his coaching duties.

Greg McDermott was brought in from in-state rival Northern Iowa, and things have not improved, as the Cyclones finished 15-16 (6-10 in Big 12 play) in 2006-07, 14-18 (4-12 in Big 12) in 2007-08, and last season, 15-17 (4-12 in Big 12).

There have been some bright spots, though, as the women's basketball team under Bill Fennelly made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament last year and the wrestling team still contending for the national title. That team, however, lost coach and legend Cael Sanderson over the season as he moved on to a better offer at Penn State.

Is there hope for the ISU athletic department? Paul Rhoades, a native of Ankeny, Iowa, is the new football coach, and could bring in a new attitude. All-Big 12 basketball player and AP honorable mention All-American Craig Brackins was convinced to stay for his senior season.

Plus, and this may have been the biggest reason for Pollard's retention, but the overall athletic program is starting to show signs it might even remotely compete with its bigger brethren in the Big 12 like Nebraska and Texas. Jack Trice Stadium is receiving a face lift, with a wider concourse introduced for this upcoming season and plans to enclose the south end zone with seats, increasing capacity. A new practice facility for the men's and women's basketball teams also is in the works.

So which is more important for an AD: wins or money to expand the facilities? Considering ISU has been operating on the smallest athletic budget in the Big 12 for some time, it may just be a matter of wait and see on whether Pollard has delivered on what he was hired to do.

However, if the teams, especially the football team and men's basketball team, don't begin to win sometime in the near future, Pollard may not make it to the end of the contract.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century.

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