Two years into his rebuilding project, North Texas head football coach Dan McCarney is beginning to see familiar signs of a program on the mend. He saw it at Iowa when he coached for Hall of Fame head coach Hayden Fry, where they took a team from the bottom of the Big 10 to a conference championship and Rose Bowl appearance.
He saw it at Wisconsin, where McCarney went with Barry Alvarez, taking a downtrodden program and turning it into a Big 10 champion and Rose Bowl winner. And he saw it up close at Iowa State where he took a team that was winless the year before his arrival and turned it into program that went to five bowl games in his last seven years.
According to McCarney, the signs of a turnaround are beginning to emerge at North Texas. He sees a team that invites discipline and accountability. He sees a team that doesn't hold a sense of entitlement.
He sees a team that understands that academic success can translate to success on the field. He sees a team that has mastered the intangibles of success: effort, toughness and the ability to communicate. Lastly he sees a team taking ownership in the turnaround, understanding that they will be the ones that initiate the change in culture.
He has also won some games along the way. None of the previous four North Texas coaches won more games in their first two years than McCarney. McCarney's seven wins at Apogee Stadium in his first two years is the best start by a North Texas coach at home since Rod Rust won eight home games in 1967 and 1968.
He defeated a Big 10 Conference opponent for the first time in school history. He defeated a team that won nine games and a New Orleans Bowl championship in Louisiana-Lafayette. He gave the No. 5 team in the nation and Big 12 Conference champion Kansas State one of its toughest games of the year.
The academic improvement under McCarney is perhaps more impressive than what has happened on the field. The football team GPA for the fall of 2012 was the highest it has ever been since the measurement began being recorded in the mid-1990s. McCarney had more than half his team make the honor roll last fall, with 45 players earning a 3.0 or higher.
With more than 30 years of college coaching experience, including 13 years as head coach at Iowa State University, McCarney, 59, is an established leader. He came to North Texas after serving as the assistant head coach at the University of Florida where he had been since 2008.
McCarney began his coaching career at the University of Iowa, where he was an assistant under Fry for 11 years. He continued his career as the defensive coordinator at the University of Wisconsin under Alvarez, directing some of the best defensive teams in that schools history.
In his 11 years with Fry at Iowa, their teams went to eight bowl games after not having a winning season the previous 19 years. At Wisconsin, McCarney helped turn a team that had won 10 games in five years into a Big 10 Conference championship and Rose Bowl appearance in his fourth year.
McCarney took over as head coach at Iowa State in 1995, assuming responsibility of a program that had enjoyed just three winning seasons in the 16 years prior to his arrival.
The year before McCarney became head coach at Iowa State, the Cyclones suffered through an 0-10-1 record. His rebuilding process at Iowa State took five years, but, in his sixth season, he became the first head coach in the previous 94 years at Iowa State to win nine games in a season and gave the Cyclones their first-ever bowl victory and first bowl appearance in 23 years.
McCarney led Iowa State to five bowl games from 2000-05 and was named Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year in 2004 when his team earned a Big 12 North co-championship. In 119 years of football at Iowa State, only 17 teams have won seven or more games in a season and McCarney coached five of those.
McCarney remains the longest-tenured (141 games) and winningest (56 victories) head football coach in Iowa State history. His overall record in 13 years as the Cyclones head coach is 61-92.
After leaving Iowa State, McCarney spent one season as the assistant head coach at the University of South Florida, where his defensive line ranked third in the nation in tackles for loss. From 2008-10 at the University of Florida, McCarney helped guide the team to two Southeastern Conference Championship games and three bowl appearances.
His 2008 Florida team finished with a 13-1 record and won the BCS National Championship behind a defense that ranked fourth in the nation in scoring defense and ninth nationally in total defense.
In all, McCarney has coached in 20 bowl games in 35 years as a collegiate coach, five of which are current BCS bowls. He has coached 22 players that have been drafted by the NFL, including nine that have gone in the first three rounds.
McCarney is a 1975 graduate of the University of Iowa where he was a three-year letterman on the offensive line and a team captain in 1974. He is married to his wife Margy and has three children, Jillian, Melanie and Shane.
Dan McCarney Personal Information
Birthday: July 28, 1953
Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa
Education: 1975 - Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education from the University of Iowa
Family: Married to Margy McCarney. Has three children: Jillian, Melanie, Shane.
2008-10 Florida (Assistant Head Coach, Defense/Defensive Line)