AMES, Iowa — Paul Rhoads was one of the most popular coaches at Iowa State. He just didn't win enough to keep his job.
Iowa State said that athletic director Jamie Pollard told Rhoads on Sunday that he's out after seven seasons.
Rhoads went 32-54 with the Cyclones. But he won just eight games in his final three seasons as the program slipped back into mediocrity.
Rhoads led Iowa State to just its third bowl win in his first season. But Iowa State is 3-8 this season; blowing a 35-28 lead with 1:31 to go in Saturday's loss at Kansas State.
Iowa State signed Rhoads to a 10-year, $20 million contract before the 2012 season. Rhoads is due a buyout of roughly $4.5 million under the terms of that deal.
Rhoads will coach his final game with Iowa State on Saturday at West Virginia.
He and Pollard will be available for comment on Monday.
Rhoads, a defensive coordinator at Pitt (2000-07) and Auburn (2008), was something of an unknown commodity when he was hired to replace Gene Chizik before the 2009 season. But Rhoads quickly won over a weary fan base by finishing 7-6 and beating Minnesota in a bowl game.
The early years of his tenure were marked by a series of upsets over the likes of Nebraska and Texas on the road. In 2011, the Cyclones stunned then-second ranked Oklahoma State in double overtime to knock the Cowboys out of national title contention.
Rhoads' fiery but approachable persona was also a big hit with Iowa State fans, as were his passionate postgame locker room talks.
But all those speeches couldn't mask a declining on-field product.
Iowa State dipped to 3-9 in 2013, and Rhoads made several changes to his staff. He brought in former Kansas coach Mark Mangino to fix the offense, which turned disastrous when Mangino and Rhoads parted ways earlier this season.
The Cyclones won twice last season, performing so badly in their finale that the playoff committee bumped TCU out of the top four despite beating Iowa State by 52 points.
Iowa State entered this season with a newly-expanded stadium that gave the program some life. But a 31-17 loss to Iowa and blowout defeats against Texas Tech, TCU and Oklahoma sent the Cyclones to the bottom of the Big 12.
The Cyclones blew a 17-point lead in a home loss at Oklahoma State in their home finale on Nov. 14.
But the final blow to Rhoads' tenure came in Manhattan on Saturday.
Iowa State chose to run the ball rather than take a knee with 91 seconds left and fumbled; allowing the Wildcats to pull off a stunning comeback.
The real question for Iowa State is where it goes from here.
The Cyclones will be searching for a new coach during what should be one of the most hectic offseasons the sport has ever had.
Places like Missouri, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Maryland, Southern California and South Carolina are looking for new coaches, and Iowa State's reputation as a "coaching graveyard" should leave them well down in the pecking order.
AP College Football site: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org