Toledo coach Matt Campbell left Ames in October 2014 with a 37-30 loss and a deep appreciation of Iowa State football.
On Sunday, Campbell celebrated his 36th birthday as the new coach of the Cyclones.
Iowa State announced the hiring Sunday afternoon, saying Campbell has agreed to a six-year contract starting at $2 million for 2016. Campbell will replace Paul Rhoads, who was fired a week ago after seven seasons.
Campbell is now the youngest coach at a Power Five school. He went 35-15 in four seasons with the Rockets, including 9-2 this season with victories over Iowa State and Arkansas.
“After we played the Cyclones in Ames, I called my wife and said ‘You simply would not believe this place,” Campbell, who will address the media Monday at Iowa State, said in a statement released by the school. “‘Their fans, the game-day environment and facilities are all incredible. I could see us living in Ames and me coaching the Cyclones someday.’”
Toledo athletic director Mike O’Brien told the AP on Saturday that the school had offered Campbell a contract that would have made him the highest-paid coach in the Mid-American Conference.
Toledo is scheduled to hold a 5 p.m. ET Sunday news conference with O’Brien. Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock will be named interim coach for the Rockets, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.
According to USA Today’s coaching salary database, Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck is making $800,000 this season, which is the MAC’s highest salary. Rhoads made $2.2 million this year at Iowa State, which also owes Rhoads an extra $4.5 million buyout.
Campbell’s first win came in the 2011 Military Bowl after Tim Beckman left Toledo for Illinois. The Ohio native then went 9-4 and 7-5, and the Rockets beat Arkansas State in a bowl game last season for another 9-4 finish.
The Rockets started 7-0 this fall before a loss to Northern Illinois. Western Michigan stunned Toledo 35-30 on Friday, handing NIU the division title and likely speeding up Campbell’s departure for Ames.
Campbell was an offensive coordinator prior to taking over as Toledo’s head coach, and the Rockets averaged at least 31 points a game in each of his first four seasons as head coach.