Nov. 30, 2010
DENTON, Texas (AP) -Dan McCarney was a young assistant at Iowa when Hayden Fry left North Texas to become the Hawkeyes’ new head coach.
Now more than three decades later, McCarney has been hired as the new coach at North Texas, giving the Mean Green a leader with plenty of college experience to rebuild a struggling program.
“It’s amazing how this thing goes full circle,” McCarney said during his introduction Tuesday. “When (coach Fry) came to Iowa in 1979 … for the first few days, first few weeks, first few months, all we watched was North Texas football tape, to learn and to see and to watch, this is the system, this is what we’re going to do. “
The Mean Green had become a Top 20 team during Fry’s six seasons (1973-78).
North Texas hasn’t been ranked since, is coming off six consecutive losing seasons and will now turn to McCarney, the Florida assistant and former Iowa State head coach, to help recapture some of that glory.
McCarney’s arrival came six weeks after former standout high school coach Todd Dodge was fired following a failed 3 1/2-season experiment on the NCAA FBS level.
McCarney has been in college coaching for 34 years, the last three as defensive line coach at Florida. He was head coach at Iowa State from 1995-2006, where he took over a dismal program that he took to five bowl games over a six-season span from 2000-05.
“When I got to Iowa State, they were winless,” McCarney said. “The difference we had, the facilities weren’t in place. … Going through those situations, it helps prepare you when you into the next one.”
The news conference at UNT was held in the athletic department building next to where a $78 million, 30,000-seat stadium is being built and will open next fall.
North Texas was 3-9 this season, its sixth consecutive losing record since winning four Sun Belt Conference titles in a row and going to the New Orleans Bowl each of those seasons. The Mean Green were 1-6 when Dodge was fired.
Dodge finished with a 6-37 record. He was hired before the 2007 season after going 79-1 and winning four state championships in his final five years at nearby Southlake Carroll High School, making North Texas the first upper-division school to elevate a head coach straight from high school since Notre Dame with Gerry Faust in 1981.
“That process made me really assess the decision, how we made it and what we were looking for at this particular time,” athletic director Rick Villarreal said. “In this particular hire, we were able to devote more resources. That changed the pool.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Canales took over as interim head coach and went 2-3, his last game as interim head coach a 49-41 loss to Kansas State last Saturday.
McCarney said he has hired Canales as his associate head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Canales was offensive coordinator at South Florida for three seasons before coming to North Texas this year. McCarney was the assistant head coach/defensive line coach at South Florida for one season, 2007, which was Canales’ first year there.
Villarreal said there were some “pretty definitive standards” he had when he set out to hire a new coach.
“If we could get someone with head college experience, that was going to be a great plus,” Villarreal said.
Among the other candidates for the job were former TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione and former Tulsa and Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe.
McCarney’s coaching career began as an assistant at Iowa from 1977-89, then he went to Wisconsin for five seasons with Barry Alvarez, where the Badgers went from 1-10 to a Rose Bowl three seasons later. He got the Iowa State job in 1995, going 56-85 overall and winning at least seven games in five of his last seven years there.
When Fry got to Iowa in 1979, McCarney had been a part-time coach for two seasons with the previous staff and was “amazed at the opportunity” when Fry offered him a job as tight ends coach for $18,000 a year.
McCarney will make much more than that at North Texas, reportedly $500,000 or more.
Villarreal said it’s time for the Mean Green to act like a “big-time program” though he knows he is going to have to patient. He said McCarney is committed to building through high school players.
“With his experience and his talk, it’s his last stop. We wanted it to be his last stop,” Villarreal said. “He wants to build a program just like he did at Iowa State, where he can be here for a long period of time.”
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