Iowa State University has hired a 44-year-old who’s been an assistant coach at Texas for the past two years to lead the Cyclone football program.

ISU officials have offered Gene Chizik a six-year contract that, with incentives, could total more than $10 million. “I think the level of committment is very much demonstrated…It is amazing to me,” Chizik told a crowd gathered at Hilton Colesium in Ames Monday night. “They are wanting to make this football program one of the best in the country.”

ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard’s decision to hire a coach who was the architect of outstanding defenses at Texas and Auburn is a clear signal that Iowa State wants to start winning championships in football. “At the end of the day, to me the most important factor was finding somebody that understood being head football coach is the equivalent of being CEO of a company,” Pollard said. “Gene Chizik represented that.”

In 2004, Chizik — which is pronounced CHIZZ-ihk — was named the nation’s top assistant football coach as he helped Auburn finish that season with an unbeaten record. His next stop was Texas, where he helped coach the Longhorns to a national championship last year. “I wanted to come to a place that not only is committed to a cause, that is committed to championships, that’s committed to doing whatever it takes to win, but I’m also indebted to people that are very much committed to believing in me and what I can do,” Chizik said Monday night.

In addition to Chizik’s pay, ISU officials have offered a financial package for Chizik’s assistant coaches that will be the third-highest salary package for assistant coaches in the Big 12. Chizik replaces Dan McCarney whose 12-year run as head coach ended after the Cyclones finished 4-8 this past season.

“What this football program has done in the last 12 years to me is phenomenal and he’s responsible for that,” Chizik says. “I appreciate him, his efforts.”

Chizik, a 1985 graduate of Florida, has been coaching for 21 years and becoming a head coach has been his professional dream. “I won’t promise how many wins. I won’t promise X, Y and Z,” Chizik says. “But I’ll promise character. I’ll promise integrity. I’ll promise you that the mark of the man and what we teach these young men over here is going to be something that you’d want to teach your son.”

Iowa State quarterback Brett Meyer says he’s glad the Cyclones finally have a new coach in place. Gene Chizik met with the Cyclone players Monday afternoon and Meyer says there is a sense of relief the process is over. “Especially as a player, you hate seeing 20 different names every day pop up as to who’s going to be the next coach,” Meyer says. “I’m definitely glad it’s over and we’ve got coach Chizik as a coach now….He just communicated to us that there’s going to be a good level of trust…as a player, that’s great.”