HEAD COACH MATT CAMPBELL
Matt Campbell, who has an amazing championship pedigree as both a player and coach, was named head football coach at Iowa State University on Nov. 29, 2015.
Campbell initiated his rebuilding plan and laid the foundation of future success in his first season as the head man at Iowa State in 2016.
He made it a priority to instill the core principles that he needed to commit to for sustained success: “recruit, retain and develop.” He hasn’t strayed far from those ideals throughout his outstanding coaching career, and his mantra of “attitude and effort” has quickly become a trademark of his Cyclone teams.
At Iowa State
Campbell’s work with the Cyclones in his inaugural season proved he is the right man for the job.
Inheriting a program with depleted numbers on both sides of the ball, the Cyclones displayed gradual improvement throughout the season, as ISU compiled a 3-9 overall mark and a 2-7 record in Big 12 play.
Iowa State played the 2016 campaign with a combined 57 starts from former or current walk-ons and 38 combined starts from true or redshirt freshman. Despite this, the Cyclones persevered and were playing their best football at season’s end under Campbell’s guidance.
Iowa State won two-straight Big 12 games in November for the first time since 2013, including a 66-10 victory over Texas Tech. The Cyclones set the following school records in the big win over the Red Raiders: points vs. a conference opponent (66), margin of victory over a conference opponent (56) and points in a quarter (31 in the second quarter).
The Iowa State offense thrived under Campbell’s leadership in 2016, posting impressive totals which rank high historically. The Cyclones recorded the fifth-best offense in school history in regards to yardage, averaging 421.6 yards per game.
In league play, the Cyclones were even better, breaking school marks in scoring (29.4) and total offense (439.8) vs. conference competition in the Big 12 era.
Iowa State’s offense was balanced and efficient, boasting a 1,000-yard receiver in All-Big 12 performer Allen Lazard and a rushing attack which featured three players with 500+ yards on the ground, a first in school history.
Campbell’s offense ranked in the top-10 nationally in red zone efficiency, scoring on 92.7 percent of its opportunities inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
On defense, the Cyclones improved dramatically, holding five of their last seven opponents to under their season scoring average. In the Texas Tech victory, ISU held one of the nation’s most potent offenses to season lows in points (10) and total offense (309).
Campbell compiled a 35-15 record in four-plus seasons as the head coach at Toledo and led the Rockets to three nine-win seasons. He coached UT in three bowls and his 2015 Rocket team played in the Boca Raton Bowl after being hired at Iowa State. Campbell’s winning percentage (.700) is third-best in school history, trailing only Nick Saban (.818, 1990) and Bill Orwig (.762, 1946-47).
He was named the UT head coach in December 2011 (when Tim Beckman left), becoming the youngest head coach in the FBS by three years. Only 16 days after his promotion from offensive coordinator to head coach, Campbell led the Rockets to a 42-41 win over Air Force in the Military Bowl. Interestingly, Campbell coached the bowl game from his accustomed spot in the press box to avoid a game-day distraction. Current Cyclone assistant coach Louis Ayeni handled coaching duties on the sidelines at the bowl game.
The Military Bowl win was a springboard to many more achievements at Toledo.
Campbell’s first full season as head coach (2012) included an eight-game winning streak. The Rockets upset No. 18 Cincinnati during the win streak, moved into the nation’s Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade and were invited to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The 2013-14 seasons included 16 wins, shares of the MAC West Division championship both years and the establishment of a nationally respected power rushing attack. Toledo ranked 14th and 12th nationally in rushing offense those seasons. The ’14 campaign ended with a 63-44 victory over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl as tailback Kareem Hunt returned from injury to rush for 271 yards and five TDs.
His 2015 Toledo team – which had to replace five offensive line starters – got the nation’s attention in September with a 16-12 upset of 18th-ranked Arkansas. Following that win, the Rockets defeated Iowa State in overtime, their second Power 5 victory in a row. The 2015 Rockets ranked 27th nationally in scoring offense and 28th in scoring defense. They ran the ball (213.2) and stopped the run (115.5) and UT earned the first College Football Playoff ranking in school history.
He was honored as the 2015 MAC Coach of the Year.
Growing up in Massillon & a Purple Raider dynasty
Campbell’s football journey is storybook-like.
Born in football-crazed Massillon, Ohio – where male babies born at the local hospital receive a miniature football when they are moved to the nursery – he was raised as a coach’s kid. Matt’s father, Rick, was head football coach at Jackson High School in Massillon and later became the school principal.
After a stellar prep career at Massillon Perry High School, he was recruited to Pitt as a tight end. A year into his Panther career, Campbell gave up his scholarship and transferred to non-scholarship Mount Union. Playing for the legendary coach Larry Kehres at Mount Union re-ignited Campbell’s interest in the game and, ultimately, launched a future coaching career.
Campbell excelled as a student-athlete at Mount Union earning All-America and Ohio Athletic Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year honors twice. The Purple Raiders won NCAA Division III national titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and won 54 of 55 games during his career. He recorded 207 career tackles, 49 TFL and 22 sacks while adding CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.
Working his way up
His transition from the field to the sidelines began with a two-year term as a graduate assistant (working with the tight ends) at Bowling Green. Those Falcon teams won the 2003 Motor City Bowl and the 2004 GMAC Bowl.
Campbell returned to his alma mater as offensive coordinator and line coach (2005-06) and Mount Union won two more national titles and registered a 29-1 record. Six players earned All-American accolades under his tutelage, including future NFL receiver Pierre Garcon.
He returned to Division I football for two years (2007-08) as Bowling Green’s offensive line coach. Then, at the age of 29, he was named run game coordinator (2009) before promotion to offensive coordinator (2010-11) at Toledo.
The 2011 Rockets were eighth nationally in scoring (42.2), 10th in total offense (481.3), eighth in pass efficiency (160.4), 18th in rushing (213.6) and became the first team in school history to score at least 60 points in consecutive games. Eric Page caught 125 passes that season, second-most in the nation.
After Beckman left during bowl prep in 2011, Campbell was named interim head coach. Three days later, the interim label was dropped and his 50-game career as UT head coach was underway.
Campbell’s belief system is grounded in building relationships. He has been referred to as a players’ coach often. Building relationships is at the foundation of his recruiting prowess. Rivals.com named him a “top recruiter” in 2011 and his last three classes were ranked first or second in the MAC.
His first two Iowa State recruiting classes rank among the best in school history, including the 2017 group, which was rated No. 40 nationally by Rivals, the highest by the recruiting service since 2004. The 2017 Cyclone newcomers posted a 247Sports composite ranking of .8427, the highest composite score since 2007 when the service began rating classes.
Campbell and his wife (Erica) have four young children: Kaetlyn, Isabella, Rudy and Rocco. Campbell earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Mount Union in 2002.
Campbell agreed to a six-year contract with a first-year salary of $2 million.