It began with this seemingly innocent statement of enthusiasm from Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads:
Rhoads, regarding trophy games: "I could play for a lollipop and be extremely excited."— ROB GRAY (@ROBWGRAY) September 9, 2013
But an an investigation from BHGP Illustrated's crack reporting staff can now exclusively reveal, that statement from Rhoads was only the seemingly-innocuous cherry on top of a sinful sundae of impropriety on the Iowa State football team. You see, this isn't just a matter of Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard inserting some candy-based incentive clauses into Rhoads' new contract. "Werther's for Wins" clauses, as such conditions are colloquially known in the sports agent business today, are increasingly commonplace among today's sweet tooth-afflicted football coaches. For instance, it hasn't been widely reported, but Bill O'Brien's contract at Penn State includes a clause granting him a controlling interest in the Hershey's company should he win a national championship for the Nittany Lions. (Nor is it the strangest clause Pollard has been forced to include in a contract for one of his coaches; Fred Hoiberg's contract reportedly includes heavy bonuses for glue sticks, glitter, and construction paper if he wins the Big 12.)
But the story here isn't that Paul Rhoads might have a lollipop on the line when Iowa State tangles with Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday evening (although he will, and BHGP Illustrated's exhaustive reporting can reveal that it's actually a Tootsie Pop, cherry flavored). No, the story here is much darker and has a much more bitter aftertaste. Paul Rhoads hasn't just been using candy to motivate himself -- he's been masterminding a "Butterfingers for Big Hits" bounty system to funnel improper benefits to his players for years.
Upon arrival in Ames, Paul Rhoads knew that the same old tricks wouldn't cut it when came to resurrecting the moribund Cyclone program that he felt so much pride in. Yet in the rubble of the failed Chizik era, Paul Rhoads found the kernels of an idea that would, given the proper application of time, heat, and pride, expand into popcorn of profligate prosperity. Gene Chizik, Rhoads' predecessor as the head football coach at Iowa State, had overseen the minting of several thousand specialty coins, dubbed "Chizik nickels," while in Ames. Publicly, the coins were used as a promotional tool and commemorative keepsake for Iowa State fans, but privately they had a much more sinister use: Chizik used them to reward players for their performance during football games. Multiple sources told BHGP Illustrated that Bret Culbertson received a bag of Chizik nickels as large as his head for his performance in kicking five field goals (including the game-winner) in Iowa State's win over Iowa in 2007. Bret Culbertson declined to be interviewed for this story.
Yet Chizik's motivational ploy had a fatal flaw, one that Rhoads spotted instantly: Chizik nickels had no actual value. Even in the surrealist environs of Ames, the coins were not considered legal tender. Merchants scoffed at them. Vending machines impassively spat them back out. The coins couldn't even be used as good luck charms to be tossed into fountains or Lake LaVerne and wished upon; after it was discovered that, due to certain cost-cutting measures, the coins were made out of a rare alloy that was actually poisonous to the famous swans that occupy the Iowa State campus. (During our investigation, BHGP Illustrated discovered that Iowa State's prized swan, Lancelot, fell victim to one of the coins in 2007 and passed away; Iowa State officials covered up the bird's tragic passing and immediately replaced him with an identical swan, but multiple sources swear that the swan's behavior seemed mysteriously changed midway through the season. Iowa State officials declined to respond to these allegations.)
Worthless coins proved to be no enticement at all for Iowa State players, as evidenced by the woeful 2-10 record they sunk to in 2008. Rhoads knew that today's players, raised on a diet of junk food, video games, and internet pornography, needed other forms of motivation, especially on defense, where Iowa State badly needed help. After Pollard vetoed his plans to provide video games and consoles for strong performances (for budgetary reasons) and unlimited memberships to the most-trafficked pornographic websites on the internet (for prurient reasons), Rhoads was left with just one option: the sweet siren song of sugar.
Rhoads quickly devised a detailed system of incentives for his defensive players, all based around candy. Tackles were worth M&Ms. A pass deflection was worth a Charleston Chew. Big hits would earn a player a Butterfinger. Interceptions would garner Milk Duds. Force a fumble and get Twizzlers. A pick-six would get a Snickers. The bounty system quickly spread to the special teams, where a blocked kick could earn a player a plate full of homemade fudge from Vickie Rhoads, Paul's wife and accomplice in this sweet-tooth scandal.
But the incentive system didn't just stop at providing tasty treats for legal plays -- the Willy Wonka of West Des Moines(ish) offered even greater incentives for players for plays that stretched (or outright broke) the rules of fair play, incentives that betrayed a perverse sense of irony. A big hit that broke a player's jaw could earn a bag of literal jawbreakers. Other bone-breaking hits earned special trays of Vickie Rhoads' homemade peanut brittle. Plays that resulted in a torn ACL earned the hitter a case of Laffy Taffy. Hits that resulted in concussions earned boxes of Crunch bars.
Multiple players contacted by BHGP Illustrated confirmed the existence of the bounty system. Not all of the players were fans of it, though. One defensive lineman, who asked to remain anonymous, indicated that he "didn't even like candy that much." But other players reportedly became obsessed with the treats-for-tackles system. Said one former defensive back, "Leonard Johnson, man, he just turned into an animal after Rhoads told us about this system. Dude loved candy. Loved it. You think it was a coincidence he got all those late hit penalties or illegal contact penalties? Bulls**t, man. It wasn't no coincidence. Leonard was straight-up addicted to candy. Couldn't get enough of it."
Paul Rhoads and other Iowa State officials, including Pollard, declined to comment on this story. Current Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, said that he was "shocked and appalled by this report. I will be investigating it to the fullest extent available to me as soon as possible. Also, do you know if Rhoads has any Red Vines? They're crazy delicious." Officials from the NCAA's Committee on Infractions indicated that investigators from their Enforcement Division had been following a trail of greasy wrappers, chocolate stains, and candy dust that pointed to shady goings-on in Ames and expressed hope that this story might help other sources, especially former Iowa State players, come forth and shed light on this cavity-riddled and candy-coated bounty scandal.