This weekend, Iowa State will honor legends from a number of sports as when enshrine a new class into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame, but there is no doubt who the headliner is.
Former ISU football coach Dan McCarney will return to Jack Trice Stadium to be honored on Saturday for the first time since he was let go after the 2006 season.
McCarney won 56 games and went to five bowls games in 12 seasons at the Cyclones’ head coach and he arrived back in Ames on Wednesday night.
“When we started, it was winless, facilities in the state of Iowa were better in many of the high schools than they were here at Iowa State,” McCarney said. “I know what it takes to start from scratch. Obviously, as you guys know better than I do now, you don’t have to worry about facilities now. It’s an unbelievable setting.”
McCarney only won fives games in first two seasons as Iowa State’s head coach but there was one major bright spot. Running back Troy Davis, who will be enshrined as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame later this year, became the first player to ever rush for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
Davis, and his brother, another former Cyclone running back, Darren, will be in Ames the next two weekends. That set McCarney up to tell a really good story.
“We’re getting ready to play Northern Iowa and they had beaten Iowa State before I got here and sang the fight song right out here in the end zone of Jack Trice Stadium,” McCarney said. “Showed that to the team a few times and then I told Steve Loney, who’s with the Dallas Cowboys now, ‘Get him the damn rock. I don’t care how many times we give it to him. Just get it to him. We’re going to wear them out. I want to wear them out with Troy Davis and a defense that will swarm and we’ll win this game.’ I didn’t know until the next day, Tom Kroeschell, comes in to the locker room and I say, ‘How many carries did he get?’ He goes, ’52.’ I go, ‘What?’ He goes, ’52.’ So we come out of the next day on Sunday, and back then we worked out on Sunday mornings, and Matt McGettigan, my strength coach was with me all 12 years, now at Air Force, he’s been to bowl games every year out there. He’s got them running. Guess who wins every wind sprint after 52 carries, Troy Davis. Every one of them. Then Double-D comes in and goes a thousand, a thousand, a thousand, so try to find something better than that as far as rushing the ball in America against a lot of good teams from the same living room, same family, 7,000 yards from the same family.”
After Iowa State, McCarney went on to work as an assistant at South Florida and Florida before taking over as the head coach at North Texas. McCarney went 24-32 in four, and part of a fifth, seasons at the helm of the Mean Green before being fired last season.
Since then, McCarney has been all over the place working with coaches he encountered through the years like Rutgers’ Chris Ash and South Dakota State head basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger.
But it’s one coach that he never encountered professionally that’s really impressed him — new Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell.
Campbell brought McCarney back for his coaching clinic last April and the two have kept in close contact ever since.
“I’m not really fooled by people. I’m not easily impressed. I saw it first hand the job he’s doing of leading and cultivating,” McCarney said. “Building relationships and trying to bring out the best in people. Obviously, they don’t have the start they wanted. Who wants to be 0-3? Nobody does. That’s not a good feeling.”
McCarney will have what he described as, “the whole posse,” in town this weekend to celebrate his hall of fame enshrinement. He’s hoping he can bring two more things.
“Hopefully we can bring some good vibes,” McCarney said. “And a good win for the Cyclones.”