SIOUX CITY -- It’s been a long while since I realized what many of you may just now be starting to discover. Simply put, the years fly by all too quickly and this can lead to plenty of regrets.
Less philosophically, that warp-speed passage of time -- whether you’re having fun or not -- makes it difficult to recall tons of specifics. Like, for example, when was it that I was so fortunate to take exception to one of my hiring principles and add a guy named John McBride to our Sioux City Journal sports department staff?
The specific year doesn’t really matter. However, I’ll confess that I nearly passed on John because one of my priorities was to find people who wouldn’t jump ship for some of the more obvious reasons on the menu.
These aren’t generally entry-level jobs, so the sports journalists we hire are quite likely to hail from somewhere outside the Siouxland area. If I didn’t sense a candidate would be happy here, waiting hours annually for freight trains to clear arterial streets, I’d go with someone else.
Likewise, if I didn’t believe an applicant could smooth things over at home enough to overcome all the night work involved with writing for a morning newspaper, I’d save us both a big problem.
Call it pigheaded or stubborn, but my tendencies in this regard had a lot to do with rather limited turnover in our staff for nearly four decades. This was important for multiple reasons, not the least of which was it always threw us for a loop when we were forced to operate shorthanded for three or four months after losing someone.
Nonetheless, some job vacancy propped up and in walked John McBride. The guy was doing great work at the Fort Dodge Messenger, not all that far from us. However, he was a Fort Dodge native who, like most Fort Dodge natives, doesn’t realize there’s a “T” in the name. It was “Fordodge,’’ or at least that’s how it sounded to me. Heck, at the time, John’s brother was the gosh-darn “Fordodge” mayor.
Still, when I sort of questioned whether he was really comfortable uprooting a young family and bringing his considerable talents to the complex challenge of a tri-state newspaper, he gave me an Oscar-winning performance.
So, hey, John? Was it about a year later that you decided you’d pursue a career in teaching and coaching, moving the wife and kids back to you-know-where? Quite honestly, he broke it to me gently and I’d like to think we’re still friends all these years later.
That’s the circuitous path to some latent sports writing that surfaced on Facebook this weekend, authored by this now-veteran coach who states his feelings far more concisely than me.
Saturday afternoon, you’ve no doubt heard, No. 4-ranked TCU became the second undefeated, Top-5 opponent toppled by second-year Coach Matt Campbell’s Iowa State Cyclones. Moments after the clock ran out, our former colleague, McBride, told his social media followers, “ISU needs to pay Matt Campbell whatever he wants.’’
Not a bad idea at all, really, because great things had been envisioned for Campbell before Ames ever showed up on his radar. He is not a one-hit wonder like Gene Chizik, who went 5-19 in two years at the Iowa State helm and wound up 38-38 despite that 14-0 national championship team in his second of four subsequent seasons at the Auburn helm.
Three weeks after his team dealt the first loss to a No. 3-ranked Oklahoma team in Norman, Campbell orchestrated a fourth consecutive win that sent the Cyclones to 6-2 and vaulted them from No. 25 to No. 14 in the latest Associated Press poll. That makes this team 2-0 against Top 5 opponents after winning one time (yes, once, not a misprint) in 57 previous tries (1-54-2, thanks to a 2011 win over No. 2 Oklahoma State).
Maybe it’s too soon to talk about Johnny Majors or Earle Bruce, but this is a football coach who’ll undoubtedly figure out ways to win with whatever job you hand him. You couldn’t blame a native of Massillon, Ohio, if Iowa State isn’t his dream job. Still, there’s nothing like a wide-open check book to modify mindsets.
Even though Iowa State couldn’t hang on to local legend Fred Hoiberg -- “The Mayor,’’ for Pete’s sake -- maybe Campbell is different. Even though I couldn’t hang on to John McBride at The Journal, matter of fact, I’m only joshing to suggest a little irony here.
Plenty of people have griped for years about Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz ranking among the national elite in terms of college football coaching salaries. He was somewhere in the top four or five a few years back and ESPN currently lists him 13th at $4,550,000 for this year.
Still, if you’d been around to see all the losing seasons prior to Hayden Fry and now Ferentz, it’s fairly obvious this has been money well spent. Stadium expansion, ticket sales, merchandising revenue, bowl game after bowl game, and, well, guys like Ferentz truly pay for themselves.
In 2016, Forbes Magazine dared to suggest Michigan had pushed Jim Harbaugh past Alabama’s Nick Saban as the college game’s highest paid coach. The current ESPN chart, though, has Saban back as the runaway leader at $11,132,000, which is a remarkable income in a city of barely 100,000. The party in Tuscaloosa surely wouldn’t have lasted this long with the intrepid scrutiny from the NCAA of old.
Interesting to note that Clemson, another agriculture and engineering heavyweight barely two-thirds the size of ISU, is forking over $8,526,800 this season to its coach, William Christopher “Dabo” Swinney, making him No. 2 behind Saban.
With Campbell’s current $2.1-million salary ranking just 53rd nationally -- again, using the ESPN research -- you can excuse the disparity because he’s still new. Nonetheless, that has changed almost overnight and, frankly, this dude is flying off the shelf at season’s end without a major bump that goes beyond anything Iowa State has ever spent on any coach.
A wise fellow I’ve known for decades once told me “you have to spend money to make money.’’ I don’t know why he told me that, given the fact I had no money to spend and still don’t. I think he was just making a point.
If I’m Iowa State, though, I don’t even wait until next weekend before I throw a number at Matt Campbell that will keep him around at least five more years if not 35. The guy is that good.