Johnny Majors, who was an All-American for Tennessee while finishing second to Paul Hornung in the balloting for the 1956 Heisman Trophy, was hired by Iowa State athletic director Clay Stapleton as ISU’s head coach in 1967.
Majors started 16 sophomores in his first season as head coach in 1968, winning three games to start his rebuilding efforts. Majors’ 1968 staff included football legends Jimmy Johnson and Jackie Sherrill.
The 1971 ISU football squad earned the first bowl berth in school history with an 8-4 mark. All of the Cyclones’ defeats came to ranked opponents, including No. 5 Colorado, No. 2 Oklahoma, and No. 1 Nebraska. ISU played Louisiana State in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, losing 33-15 to the No. 11 Tigers.
The following season, Majors’ squad returned to a bowl game. After being ranked throughout much of the season, Iowa State was invited to play in the Liberty Bowl. Georgia Tech defeated the Cyclones, 31-30. Following the Liberty Bowl, Majors announced he accepted the head coaching job at Pittsburgh, where he captured the 1976 national championship.