McCarney Optimistic Youth Will Be Served at UNT
By Bo Carter
DENTON, Texas – He’s a coach who always considers the glass half-full, but even that attitude may not be enough to produce another nine-win season for the University of North Texas Eagles in 2014 football.
UNT head coach Dan McCarney – one of the nation’s most respected college coaches — is the perpetual optimist, and much of that exuberance transfers to the teams he coaches.
He took a downtrodden Iowa State program that had one winning season from 1979-1999 and reached four bowl games in school history – all between 1971 and ’78 and under legendary (and quickly-departing) College Football Hall of Fame coaches John Majors and Earle Bruce. McCarney took the Cyclones to within one game of capturing the Big 12 North Division title in 2000.
McCarney accomplished a similar turnaround in his third season last year at UNT with a 9-4 mark (tying the second-highest overall win tally in an Eagles’ season) and within one Conference USA victory of taking the C-USA West Division crown.
UTEP second-year head coach Sean Kugler was asked how he planned to resurrect a Miners program that, since beating Ole Miss in the 1967 Sun Bowl, has played sub-.500 ball. He points to McCarney’s practice of recruiting specific, high-character athletes to roles within his offensive and defensive schemes. Patience is key, too.
“Look at North Texas,” Kugler last winter told an El Paso paper. The Eagles are beginning to win, and they’re doing it the right way, with solid citizens.
“That’s what we are doing here, too.”
Dan McCarney, the miracle worker?
The North Texas mentor is not concerned that he has to produce another starting quarterback to replace Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP Derek Thompson or that he has possibly the fewest returning starters of any NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (old NCAA I-A) program.
He is ready to begin a retooling program on this campus after winning nine games in his first two years at UNT and then equaling that total last season.
“We look at 2014 as a completely new opportunity,” he said recently. “We have worked hard in the offseason, and we told the players they weren’t going to get better playing video games or watching television at their girl friends’ homes. We have had a good spring and early summer in the weight room.
“We don’t want to get too far away from what helped us succeed last year,” he continued. “We emphasize to each player that they need to take advantage of the total college experience. Our director of athletics Rick Villareal talks to the coaching staffs and players in all sports about learning life lessons.
“We stress that quite a bit in team meetings and practice,” McCarney noted. “We’re not just trying to raise IQs here; we’re trying to help each player develop into someone who will make something of himself after college.
“And we tell them many times about the very small percentage of players who actually make it to the National Football League or pro ball on any level,” he stated. “It’s a case of dealing with the moment, staying focused and sticking to a basic plan that has produced success in many programs.”
McCarney picked up even more football “life” and coaching lessons as an assistant head coach at South Florida in 2007 and at Florida from 2008-10 (with a national championship in 2008). Now, he’s sharing that wit and wisdom every day for the Mean Green coaching staff and student-athletes.
Bo Carter is former sports information director of the Southwest Conference and Big 12. He currently writes for this site and serves as secretary of the College Baseball Writers. Follow Bo on Twitter at #bcarter52 and Facebook at Bo Carter (Carrollton, Texas).