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Rhoads building toward big things at ISU

Paul Rhoads doesn't know if he'll be at Iowa State forever.

He doesn't know if he'll always be welcome.

He knows what he wants.

"I’d like to have my name attached to things that have never been done in the history of Iowa State football," Rhoads told ESPN.com this week.

Let's assume he means he'd like his name attached to more things that have never been done in Ames.

First came the 2009 turnaround. Rhoads inherited a team that lost its final 10 games under Gene Chizik, yet he led the Cyclones to a bowl game-winning season the following year that also included a win at Nebraska, Iowa State's first since 1977.

His impassioned locker room speech ("I am so proud to be your football coach!") went viral, making a big win even bigger on the national stage.

In 2010, he beat Texas for the first time in school history.

This year, he knocked off No. 2 Oklahoma State for the school's first win over a top-6 opponent in 59 tries, ended a three-game losing streak to rival Iowa and put the Cyclones back in a bowl game when nobody outside the facilities gave them a shot to make the postseason.

Early this season, Iowa State president Gregory Geoffroy and athletic director Jamie Pollard began preparing what eventually became a 10-year, $20 million contract extension. The new deal allowed Rhoads to shed the title of the Big 12's lowest-paid coach.

They first presented it to him after a 13-10 win over Kansas with a bye week awaiting.

Two weeks after beating the Jayhawks, he rewarded their loyalty by beating the national title-aspiring Cowboys to send the Cyclones to a bowl game.

The two sides discussed details as Rhoads' name floated to the top of Pittsburgh's wish list for its new head coach. The extension was announced on Dec. 16. Rhoads confirmed what most assumed: He's not going to Pittsburgh, but the extension doesn't necessarily mean he plans to be at Iowa State forever.

"I don’t think any coach can ever say 100 percent they’re going to be at this school this year or this long or any of that," he said.

Mike Gundy's called Oklahoma State his "New York Yankees job", but Rhoads stops short of calling Ames his destination job.

"I’m excited about what we’ve done and I’m even more excited about where we can take this. But that doesn’t mean that this is the last and only head-coaching job for me. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future," he said. "But right now, with this 10-year extension, the commitment of our kids and the commitment of the administration, I’m the same way. I’m fully committed to what we’re building."

He's not saying forever, but he's said plenty.

"Do I desire to be here? Absolutely. That’s why I agreed to a 10-year extension. I’m extremely proud of the work that we’ve done in three years."

Rhoads has earned a spot as one of the Big 12's best coaches, and is ready to build on accomplishments that have been big for an often-downtrodden program that looks on its way up.

"We’ve won three league games three years in a row. We’ve got to start toppling that mark," he said. "We’ve got to get to .500 and above, and I’d love to see this thing grow and develop like we are right now, and at some point, be able to challenge for a Big 12 championship on the field."

Rhoads already has the Cyclones in two bowl games in three years. Before he arrived, the Cyclones had played in nine since 1900. The bar for achievement hasn't been consistent, but it's been high. Dan McCarney got Iowa State to bowl games in five of six seasons before resigning in 2006. He also got the Cyclones into the AP top 10 in 2002.

Rhoads will try and surpass that.

"The energy around this program is the best that it’s ever been," Rhoads said. "I think we have this program positioned to move forward the best that it’s ever been. I think the Big 12 stability right now is calmed down with the grant of rights and where we’re headed in our next negotiation with the primary [media rights].

"We’re very solid."

Rhoads' new contract is deserved, and he says it's about much more than rewarding him for a job well done the past three seasons. It's about what's best for the school.

"It provides stability that hasn’t always been existent in this football program. I think that stability is vitally important in the living room and in the meeting room," he said. "When you’re out trying to convince young men that this shining star at Iowa State is not one that’s going to burn out, that we’re building for the long haul and we’re building for the future and we want them to help become a part of that."