Published September 09, 2010
| Associated Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa State's Paul Rhoads is loud, charismatic and upfront about his love of the Cyclones, whether it's on YouTube, at a fan function or on the sidelines.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz can also be charming and his recent contract extension showed how much he enjoys life in Iowa City.
But compared with Rhoads, Ferentz is a church mouse.
Whatever their demeanors, Ferentz and Rhoads both win and they're hugely popular. How they go about their work adds a twist to the heated instate rivalry that resumes Saturday at the home of the ninth-ranked Hawkeyes.
The energetic Rhoads, who grew up just down the road from Ames, has rebuilt once-downtrodden Iowa State (1-0) much faster than many thought possible. He led Iowa State to a winning season in 2009, his first year as the head coach, and the Cyclones looked impressive in beating Northern Illinois 27-10 in last week's opener.
"I know he was very enthused about coming back, so I think that's really shown, and it seems like they put a good staff together," Ferentz said Tuesday of Rhoads. "Most importantly, the players have responded to them."
So has Iowa State's fan base, which was stung nearly as much as the players by Gene Chizik's departure for Auburn after a woeful 5-19 mark.
Rhoads, a former Cyclones assistant under Dan McCarney, views Iowa State as a destination job. His passion for Iowa State — most evident in a viral video of his post-game locker room speech after last year's win at Nebraska — has restored some pride.
"We're fired up to have him on our side," Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud said. "He brings great enthusiasm to this program."
For all the buzz Rhoads has generated in his brief tenure, though, he's got a ways to go to match what the understated Ferentz has done with the Hawkeyes.
Ferentz, now in his 12th season in Iowa City, is a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year. Last week, he signed a contract extension that goes through 2020 and makes him the league's highest-paid coach.
Iowa is coming off its first BCS bowl win and has a legitimate shot at a national title game appearance in 2010. The Hawkeyes looked strong in their opener, too, dismantling FCS school Eastern Illinois 37-7.
Ferentz's quiet, humble persona defines Iowa. It hasn't always been that way for the Hawkeyes, who suffered through a string off-the-field conduct issues and back-to-back six-win seasons in 2006-07.
Ferentz has steadily pushed the program back into the top 10 and he didn't fire any of his assistants after that rough stretch, either.
Most of Iowa's staff has been with Ferentz for at least a decade, keeping the Hawkeyes on an even keel and reassuring recruits that the guys who brought them in will be there on Senior Day.
"They're known for Iowa's family atmosphere, and it has been everything I've heard about," Iowa safety Tyler Sash said. "The players can get used to being with the same coaches, and future recruits know that the coaches are going to be here."
Ferentz and Rhoads do have one thing in common: a desire to keep the rivalry intact despite potential scheduling changes caused by realignments of both the Big Ten and Big 12.
Both realize how important the Iowa-Iowa State game is to their fans. The seven wins the Cyclones have picked up in the last 12 meetings has also done wonders for a program that once lost 15 straight to Iowa.
Rhoads tried to downplay the importance of the rivalry this week, insinuating that Saturday will be just another game. That seems a stretch for a coach who looked as though he might head-butt linebacker Jake Knott last week after Knott had a big interception.
"The game's got to be played that way. It's got to be played with raw emotion and enthusiasm," Rhoads said.