AMES, Iowa – Matt Campbell, who brings an amazing championship pedigree as both a player and coach, is the new head football coach at Iowa State University. Campbell will be introduced at a news conference in Ames on Monday at noon.
“Matt’s coaching and playing achievements are extraordinary, but we were even more impressed by his character, leadership and commitment to his family,” Director of Athletics Jamie Pollard said. “I could not be more excited to welcome Matt, Erica and their children to the Cyclone Family. We are truly blessed to have one of the industry’s rising stars leading our football program.”
Campbell’s championship background came as a player (three Division III national championships at Mount Union), assistant coach (two bowl wins and two more D III national titles) and head coach (two bowl victories and two Mid-American Conference division co-championships).
The announcement of Campbell’s hiring came on his 35th birthday.
“I couldn’t be more excited to receive the opportunity to coach at Iowa State,” Campbell said. “Two years ago after we played the Cyclones in Ames, I called my wife (Erica) and said you simply would not believe this place. Their fans, the game-day environment and facilities are all incredible. I could see us living in Ames and me coaching the Cyclones some day. My family and I are truly humbled.”
Iowa State University President Steven Leath was also impressed.
“Today is a great day for Iowa State University and all of our alums and fans,” Dr. Leath said. “Matt’s prior competitive accomplishments, unwavering commitment to academic success and his relentless pursuit of excellence, all align perfectly with our institution’s strategic vision.”
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 has them positioned to receive another bowl invite in 2015. 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.
As the story goes, after the bowl win, Campbell laid out his long-range career plans to his wife, Erica. He identified the core principles that he needed to commit to for sustained success: “recruit, retain and develop.” He hasn’t strayed far from those ideals and today he becomes the 32nd head football coach in Iowa State history.
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.
This year’s 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.
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.
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 Rockets were spectacular on offense during his three-year tenure there.
• The 2009 UT offense was 16th in the NCAA in total offense (437.9), 18th in passing yards (278.1) and first in fourth-down conversions (80%) despite losing its starting QB at mid-season.
• The 2010 Toledo team featured a 1,000-yard rusher and a receiver with 99 catches.
• 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.
Campbell and his wife (Erica) have three young children: Kaetlyn, Isabella and Rudy and are expecting their fourth child in February. 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.
Year Record as Head Coach
2011 Toledo 1-0 Military Bowl Champions
2012 Toledo 9-4 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2013 Toledo 7-5
2014 Toledo 9-4 GoDaddy Bowl Champions
2015 Toledo 9-2 TBA
Bowling Green, Graduate Assistant, 2003-04
Mount Union, Offensive Coordinator, 2005-06
Bowling Green, Assistant Coach, 2007-08
Toledo, Run Game Coordinator, 2009 & Offensive Coordinator, 2010-11
Toledo, Head Coach, 2012-15
Bowl Games As Coach
Bowling Green, 2003 Motor City Bowl
Bowling Green, 2004 GMAC Bowl
Bowling Green, 2007 GMAC Bowl
Toledo, 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Toledo, 2011 Military Bowl
Toledo, 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Toledo, 2015 GoDaddy Bowl (’14 season)
National Championships (Division III)
Mount Union (player), 2000-2001-2002
Mount Union (offensive coordinator), 2005-2006