On Monday, Campbell began the arduous task of turning around a program whose challenges have vexed coaches much more experienced than he is.
Campbell, 36, took over for the popular Paul Rhoads, whose tenure came to an end with a 30-6 loss at West Virginia over the weekend. The Cyclones went 8-28 in Rhoads' final three seasons, falling to the bottom of the Big 12 after reaching three bowl games in four years.
''I believe in myself. I believe in our process. I believe in the coaching staff that I'm going bring in here,'' Campbell said in his introductory press conference. ''Quite honestly, I believe in the players we have here now.''
Athletic director Jamie Pollard's move to poach Campbell ahead of what should be an extremely competitive coaching market was met with praise both nationally and locally. Pollard says he worked furiously to interview Campbell before the Mid-American Conference title game, even though Campbell declined because he wanted to focus on his team.
But the Rockets failed to reach the final after losing to Western Michigan on Friday, and Pollard closed the deal with Campbell the next day before compensation ever came up.
Campbell and the Cyclones have agreed to a six-year deal with a starting salary of $2 million.
''The national landscape for head coaches right now is unprecedented. This week and next week will be intense and very stressful for many directors of athletics. It's going to be really fun to sit back and watch and enjoy that because we found our man,'' Pollard said
One positive for Campbell is that despite winning just three games, Iowa State showed at times that it could compete with anyone.
The Cyclones were tied with No. 4 Iowa late in the fourth quarter before losing 31-17. They also held a second-half lead against Oklahoma State and would've beaten Campbell's Rockets had they hit a relatively easy field goal at the end of regulation. Iowa State was also just 91 seconds away from winning at Kansas State.
Campbell was brought to Ames largely because the Cyclones couldn't finish any of those games. He will inherit a roster that should be a lot more talented than it's been in years past.
''The core belief of my philosophy goes like this, it's really simple: Players, formations, plays,'' Campbell said. ''I'm not silly. It's about players.''
Campbell knows he's walking into a historically tough situation. After all, the Cyclones have never won a title in the Big 6, Big 8 or Big 12.
But right now, Campbell sees it as a dream job.
On Monday, he recalled a phone call he made to his wife, Erica, after visiting Iowa State in 2014 with Toledo, which lost to the Cyclones 37-30. Campbell said he was so blown away by the energy of the fans and the game-day atmosphere and that he allowed himself to imagine coaching at Iowa State.
That opportunity came just 14 months later.
'''You're not going to believe this place. Incredible. Culture, the fans, the facilities, the people. This is a really special place,''' Campbell recalled telling his wife. '''It's got great people. I could see us at a place like this someday.'''
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