Iowa State fans undoubtedly felt some combination of happiness and relief, with a likely emphasis on the latter, when Cyclones football coach Matt Campbell chose to remain in Ames, turning down a hefty offer from the NFL’s Detroit Lions to do so, according to reports.
But they also might have to get used to the prospect that there will be more suitors for Campbell’s services if the winning seasons continue.
The 2020 campaign will be hard to top for the Cyclones.
Their nine wins were the most in a season since 2000, and the ledger included wins against both Oklahoma and Texas for the first time in program history. They concluded with a convincing Fiesta Bowl victory against Oregon and wound up with a highest-ever No. 9 ranking in the final USA TODAY Sports coaches poll. It was also the program’s fourth consecutive winning season under Campbell, the longest such string since a run of five from 1923-27.
Matt Campbell led the Cyclones past Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)
This is not to say Iowa State is a perennial doormat. The Cyclones have been to bowl games in 12 of the last 21 seasons. But actually competing for conference titles against Big 12 schools with much deeper pockets is a different matter. Campbell figures to be courted again if this new level of success continues. The Cyclones’ faithful should enjoy this ride while it lasts.
Considering the state of collegiate spring sports a year ago, the NCAA’s Wednesday announcement updating its guidance on attendance at championship events can be viewed as a small but significant step toward life returning to normal.
The NCAA will not set a predetermined limit on fan attendance, and masking and social distancing will not be required. Those decisions will now be left to local health authorities at the host sites.
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“The effectiveness and prevalence of vaccinations in our country have allowed the Medical Advisory Group to provide this guidance that has tremendous impact on student-athletes, coaches and fans attending NCAA championships,” NCAA chief medical officer Dr. Brian Hainline said.
Tier-one team personnel will remain in a controlled environment and COVID testing protocols will remain in place, the NCAA announcement continued. But the participants are nevertheless appreciative of their opportunities.
Nakeie Montgomery, a senior midfielder for Duke’s men’s lacrosse team, summed it up well. “There are eight teams left,” he said. “Last year after March 12, there were zero teams left, just like that. … We’re just happy to get one more week together. That’s what we’re playing for right now.”
The men’s and women’s lacrosse championships continue with the quarterfinal round this weekend. Montgomery’s Blue Devils, the No. 2 seed seeking the program’s fourth national championship, will take on Loyola (Maryland) on Sunday. North Carolina has the top seed in both tournaments with a chance to duplicate the men’s and women’s championship double it achieved in 2016.
The road to the Women’s College World Series also gets underway with regional softball play. There are six programs making their first appearance in the 64-team tournament field. Those include Morgan State, which arguably drew the short straw matched up against top-seeded Oklahoma, and Clemson, which just started its program last year and is completing its first full season after the pandemic shutdown.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Eddie Timanus on Twitter @EddieTimanus.
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