The long, grueling offseason is in full swing. I'll do my best to make it go by quicker through the healing power of Q&A. We'll be doing this every Friday, so if you have a question about Big 12 football, tweet me @BenKercheval or email me at email@example.com.
Let's get to it.
@BenKercheval If you were in a fight, what's the one Big12 mascot you choose to be on your side?— KC Wright (@wright_kc) January 30, 2014
@BenKercheval There's one rule here: imaginary characters are real in this case. For example, Willie has a fierce wildcat head, human body.— KC Wright (@wright_kc) January 30, 2014
Finally, a question of substance. And with a condition too!
At 5'9" and 160 pounds with glasses, I have the prototypical build of someone with MMA potential. That said, everyone could use help from time to time. And those fraternity brothers giving the stink eye from across the bar have numbers on their side.
Sometimes, you have to protect what's yours. What, exactly, is being protected isn't important right now; that will get sorted out later.
The rule about bending the line between real and fake is important here, because most Big 12 mascots are caricatures in some form or fashion. In this instance, they are real, live beings like you and me.
So, which one would I want to have my back?
For the sake of time, the 10 mascots have been narrowed into four finalists:
1. The Mountaineer
Pros: Strong beard game. Armed, likely with one or two extra weapons that aren't visible. Likes moonshine, so you know he's ready to roll whenever.
Cons: Rifle is cumbersome and not fit for close-quarter combat. Unless this street battle abides by Civil War military tactics, the weapon is essentially useless.
2. Willie Wildcat
Pros: Elite acceleration. Body is in peak physical condition. Attracted to raw meat.
Cons: Motivation is suspect. With the head of a giant wildcat and the body of a human, Willie is in a constant state of excruciating neck and back pain. Also, #NeverForget:
3. Pistol Pete
Pros: Also armed. Nightmare fuel material. One look at the face and the fight may be over before it even begins.
Cons: Head is top-heavy. Balance may be an issue.
4. Joy, the Baylor Bear
Pros: Live bear.
Cons: Possibly rummaging through garbage at the moment.
Honorable Mention: TCU's Super Frog. He's ripped, but abnormally so. Like Popeye.
The Choice: The Mountaineer. Take away the rifle and he's still effective in hand-to-hand combat. His rasslin' moves are legit, and he's quick on his feet. The Mountaineer can handle whatever is thrown at him with a smile on his face.
The Mountaineer's greatest quality is his loyalty. He will fight for you and, on brief occasions, actually fight you. Just remember that there's always a lesson in it and he'll hug it out afterward.
@BenKercheval is this Rhoads last stand in Ames if he can't pull a +.500 season?— Chris Turner (@chris_turner24) January 30, 2014
I sincerely doubt it.
Iowa State would have to be every bit as bad as it was in 2013 (3-9), or worse, for head coach Paul Rhoads to even be on the hot seat heading into 2015. For the sake of conversation, though, say Iowa State fires Rhoads after next season. That means the university would be willing to part with a lot of money.
Rhoads and Iowa State agreed in early 2012 to a 10-year extension worth $20 million. If he is fired without cause (i.e. win-loss record), he will be entitled to $750,000 times the number of years remaining on the contract, plus any pro-rata amount for a partial year. Additionally, he has retention bonuses in 2015 and '18 worth $300,000 each. He would receive those as well.
What's more is that his buyout is written to be paid in a lump sum. Using the numbers above, Iowa State would owe Rhoads close to $6 million. The school probably isn't willing to part with that amount.
Numbers aside, consider this too: Rhoads is an excellent coach who is beloved by the administration, players and fanbase. He's extremely well-respected among the coaching fraternity too.
His win-loss record is subpar when viewed without context. He's 27-36 in five seasons, with just one winning season (2009). That said, Ames is a tough place to win, and Rhoads has led signature victories over Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma State.
He's not unwilling to make changes, though.
Rhoads recently hired former Kansas head coach Mark Mangino to be the Cyclones' offensive coordinator. He is a brilliant football mind who should be able to help Iowa State put some more points on the board. With quarterback Grant Rohach, running back Aaron Wimberly and receiver Quenton Bundrage returning, Mangino will have some nice pieces to work with.
Getting back to .500 with a bowl game appearance would be a huge victory for Rhoads and the Cyclones—one that isn't all that far-fetched.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football.