ISU athletics on the Up and Up

The offseason is the season for optimism.

No one has hit a ball into the net, thrown an interception, shot an air ball or been taken down. Records are unblemished. Hope is sold by coaches, players and administrators to every open ear.

If you are Iowa State, you’ve got to really like what lies ahead.

Potential for success is there for every major sport, which at ISU now includes volleyball coming off consecutive trips to the Sweet 16.

Athletic Director Jamie Pollard just had his contract extended through 2014, which is a good thing if you ask me.  Pollard has raised ISU’s profile with his fund-raising prowess and commitment to improving facilities, keeping pace with the rest of the Big 12 with the upgrades to Jack Trice Stadium and a new basketball practice facility set to open in a few months.

His most public hires (Gene Chizik, Greg McDermott) have been disappointing to many at this point in time, but appear to have a bright future.

Former Cyclone assistant and Ankeny native Paul Rhoads was the pick to replace the departed Chizik, also a good thing in my humble opinion. Rhoads is everything Chizik was not.

The Cyclones could win as many games this season as “Mean Gene” during his 5-19, tw0-year stint with the team.

The women’s basketball team came within one win of a Final Four. This year’s team will be young, but there’s no reason to think it won’t benefit from that experience over time. Volleyball is rolling and in-demand coach Christy Johnson has pledged her love for everything cardinal and gold and isn’t going anywhere.

Cael Sanderson’s departure was a PR nightmare, but had more to do with Sanderson feeling more professionally challenged at Penn State, where he could build up a middle-of-the-pack program, have a fabulous recruiting base, earn a higher paycheck, create memories somewhere other than Ames and wear blue for a change. He’s worn red for a long, long time.

Pollard tabbed another former Cyclone, Kevin Jackson, as his replacement. Jackson is as motivated and connected within wrestling circles as there is. He talks a great game, now we’ll have to see if he can coach one next season and beyond, once Sanderson’s recruits are gone.

It’s year four and McDermott finally can say he’s got a team that has a realistic chance of going places.

Craig Brackins, Lucca Staiger and Charles Boozer decided on staying, while newcomers Marquis Gilstrap, Chris Colvin and LaRon Dendy help form the coach’s most athletic recruiting class yet. Brackins wants to play in an NCAA Tournament before he jumps to the NBA, which almost surely will be next summer.

Returning players are up and down the roster. McDermott is not used to continuity. He’ll get used to it.

It’s been four long years since the Cyclones have played past mid-March. This is a team that has no reason not to reach the postseason, even if it is an NIT.

Things are looking up for Iowa State athletic teams.

The coaching changes look to be done with, now it’s time to do work between the lines.

Seventy-eight days until the football season kicks off.


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