Courtesy: Iowa State University
· 2004 Big 12 North co-Champion
Dan McCarney, the longest-serving head coach in the Big 12 Conference, has reaped a litany of success at Iowa State, of which the 2005 Ev1.net Houston Bowl season is but the latest chapter. There was a sense of déja vu last fall as Iowa State rallied to win four of its last five regular season games for the second straight year. Among the high points of the 2005 campaign were a 23-3 win over eighth-rated Iowa Sept. 10, ISU’s sixth win over its in-state rival in eight years and the Cyclones’ first victory over an AP top 10 team since 1992. Iowa State notched its first home wins over Kansas State and Colorado since 1989 and 1983, respectively. The Houston Bowl appearance marks ISU’s fifth bowl appearance under McCarney in the last six years. Iowa State made seven television appearances last season.
McCarney, a former defensive coordinator, put his best defense ever on the field last fall. Cyclone defenders allowed just 102.7 yards rushing per game, more than 35 yards under the school record set in 2004 (139.2). The Iowa State defense ranked third in the Big 12 and 20th nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 19.2 points per game. The opponent point average was the Cyclones’ best effort since 1980. Iowa State’s aggressive schemes produced the best turnover margin in the Big 12 Conference and the seventh-best differential nationally. The Cyclone defense led the Big 12 with 22 interceptions.
Maxwell Award Watch List quarterback Bret Meyer was one of 13 Iowa Staters to earn all-conference honors last season, ranking second in the Big 12 at 239.7 passing yards per game. Iowa State again finished in the first division among the dozen Big 12 Conference schools in total offense. Wide receiver Todd Blythe tied the ISU single-season record he set as a freshman, by catching nine TD passes.
To put McCarney’s accomplishments in perspective, only 16 teams in the 114-year history of Iowa State football have won at least seven games. McCarney has coached five of those squads in the last six years. Let there be no doubt, McCarney has made good on his promise to bring winning and respect back to the Iowa State football program. That achievement was fully confirmed in 2004 when McCarney was named the Big 12 Conference coach of the year by his league peers, espn.com and The Kansas City Star. After bowl games in 2000, 2001 and 2002, a very young 2004 ISU team, picked for last in the Big 12 Conference’s North Division during the preseason, rallied to claim five wins in its last six games, a share of the Big 12 North Division title and a 17-13 Independence Bowl victory over Miami University. The Big 12 North trophy that graces the Iowa State football offices signified the first conference football title of any kind at ISU since 1912. They said it couldn’t be done at Iowa State. The naysayers didn’t know Dan McCarney.
When McCarney laid out his vision for the future of Iowa State football at a press conference to announce his arrival at ISU after the 1994 season, he stressed that the program’s transformation would not occur overnight. McCarney possessed enthusiasm, unwavering optimism and a seemingly endless source of energy. His background in college football programs that had gone from perennial losers to consistent winners made him a perfect choice for the Cyclone helm. There were more than a few skeptics. Iowa State was coming off a winless season, hadn’t had a winning campaign since 1989 and the Cyclones’ last bowl trip was in 1978.
That was then. This is now. McCarney is the longest-serving (129 games) and winningest Cyclone head coach (52 victories) in school history. The 2006 season marks McCarney’s 12th year as the Cyclones’ head coach. Only eight head coaches among 119 NCAA Division I-A programs have been at their schools longer than McCarney.
In 2002, McCarney took Iowa State where it had never been before: a third-straight bowl game despite playing the toughest schedule in school history. Iowa State’s 23 victories between 2000 and 2002 was the second-best three-season mark in school history. Underscoring their new national status, the Cyclones opened the season in the Eddie Robinson Football Classic against Florida State. The 2002 campaign was one to remember. The Cyclones beat intrastate rival Iowa for the fifth straight season and third straight time in Iowa City. Iowa State’s 36-14 win over Nebraska was the Cyclones’ biggest margin of victory in the series since 1899. ISU’s No. 9 position in The Associated Press poll in October was the highest in school history. Iowa State’s eight-week tenure in the AP top 25 equaled ISU’s longest such stay in program history.
Powered by a singular sense of purpose, McCarney steadily molded Iowa State’s football program, bringing in a top-notch coaching staff and the best recruiting classes in recent memory. Backed by a university administration committed to providing state-of-the-art facilities, McCarney relentlessly exorcised the demons that had plagued Cyclone football. After his first teams laid a foundation for success, the 2000 Iowa State unit, led by 25 seniors who had bought into McCarney’s vision, remained undeterred by the skeptics. Following McCarney’s blueprint, coaches and players went where no Cyclone team had gone; winning nine games, including a 37-29 victory over Pittsburgh in the Insight.com Bowl. Under McCarney, the 2000 AP Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year runner-up, that success continued in 2001, despite the loss of 15 starters. A 7-5 Iowa State squad earned an Independence Bowl berth, marking the school’s first back-to-back bowl appearances since the 1977-78 seasons. The list of historical superlatives is long:
Iowa State’s four-game Big 12 Conference win streaks in each of the last two seasons had been equalled only one other time (1978) since Iowa State joined a conference for the 1907 season. In 2004, McCarney was the first ISU head football coach to earn coach of the year honors by conference writers or coaches since Earle Bruce in 1976 and 1977.
Iowa State’s 2004 five-win increase from the previous season ranked second nationally.
McCarney’s 2000 Cyclones were the first Iowa State team in 94 years to win nine games. The win over Pittsburgh in the Insight.com Bowl was ISU’s first-ever bowl victory and the Cyclones’ first bowl appearance since 1978. It had been 11 years since Iowa State’s last winning season. Iowa State’s new national standing was affirmed by its No. 25 national ranking on the final Associated Press poll, the Cyclones’ first AP poll appearance in more than 19 years. McCarney’s team also finished 23rd on the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll.
Iowa State has won twice as many road games since the start of the 2000 season (12) than ISU football won away from home during the entire decade of the 1990s (6).
Iowa State’s 36-31 win at Iowa in 2002 was the Cyclones’ fifth-straight victory against the Hawkeyes, a series first. The win marked ISU’s third-straight victory in Iowa City, matching Iowa State series wins at Iowa in 1894-95-97. The Cyclones’ 27-9 win at Iowa in 1998 snapped a 31-game winless streak on the road and was Iowa State’s first win over its instate rival in 15 years.
In 2002, Iowa State defeated three bowl teams in one season for the first time in school history (Iowa, Nebraska, Texas Tech).
Iowa State basked in the limelight in 2002, with two Fox Sports Net national telecasts, three appearances on ABC, national ESPN and ESPN2 telecasts and a pair of TBS national telecasts. In 2004, seven Iowa State games were televised. The 2004 regular-season finale vs. Missouri was seen by much of the country on ABC, and the Cyclones’ Independence Bowl win over Miami University was nationally broadcast. ABC did three Iowa State games in 2005 and the Cyclones played on national television on at Army (espn2), against Colorado (Fox Sports Net) and at Kansas (Fox Sports Net). The ISU Houston Bowl game vs. TCU was shown nationally on espn2.
The 2000 Cyclone offense ranked among the nation’s best and ranked third in school history, averaging nearly 425 yards per game. Under McCarney, Iowa State has had a balanced offensive attack. ISU produced a 1,000-yard rusher in McCarney’s first seven seasons in Ames. Troy Davis rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 1995 and 1996 and was a Heisman Trophy finalist both seasons. Tailback Ennis Haywood rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2000 and 2001. Quarterback Sage Rosenfels produced the third-best passing season in school history in 2000 en route to a job with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. The Iowan now plays for the Houston Texans. Quarterback Seneca Wallace, who plays for NFC champion Seattle in the NFL, was the Big 12 Conference’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2001 and finished his Iowa State career as the Cyclones’ all-time total offense leader. Lineman Oliver Ross (Arizona) rounds out the former offensive Cyclones in the NFL.
McCarney has overseen the rebirth of Iowa State’s defense, as the Cyclones have made dramatic progress stopping opponents. Stats tell the story. Iowa State ranked among the Big 12 Conference’s first division in total defense in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005. ISU’s final 2004 total defense mark of 329.4 yards allowed per game was the school’s best effort since 1986. The Cyclone defense scored six touchdowns in 2004, ranking behind only the University of Miami.
The defense has come a long way. Iowa State allowed 44.8 points per game in 1997. That figure dipped to 18.5 points last season, ranking second in the Big 12.
Iowa State’s aggressive schemes ranked the Cyclones first in the Big 12 and 11th nationally in turnover margin in 2001. ISU was second in the league and 12th nationally in 2004 and first in the conference and seventh in NCAA Division I-A in 2005. The Cyclones’ 18 interceptions in 2001 were the most by an ISU defense since 1976. ISU’s 17 interceptions in 2004 ranked second the Big 12 and its 22 interceptions led the league last year. The 35 take-a-ways recorded by Iowa State in 2005 led the Big 12. In 2003, true freshman Jason Berryman was named the Big 12 Conference Defensive Newcomer of the Year. In 2004, linebacker Tim Dobbins was the league’s defensive newcomer of the year. Former Cyclone defenders in the NFL include Reggie Hayward (Jacksonville), Ellis Hobbs (New England), Jordan Carstens (Carolina), James Reed (New York Jets) and Tim Dobbins (San Diego Chargers).
Since McCarney’s arrival, the Cyclones have moved into their new home, the Richard O. Jacobson Athletic Building, adjacent to Jack Trice Stadium. The $9.3 million award-winning Steve and Debbie Bergstrom Indoor Training Facility opened for spring football in March of 2004. A new video scoreboard and permanent Jack Trice Stadium lights made their debut in 2002. An all-natural grass field was laid in 1996. Jack Trice Stadium’s press box and individual sky suites opened in 1997, underscoring the Iowa State administration’s commitment to McCarney’s vision for making the ISU program a success. The Johnny Majors Practice Fields were dedicated in 1999.
The program’s academic performance is strong. Only one Big 12 school placed more than the eight student-athletes representing Iowa State on the 2005 academic all-Big 12 first team. Defensive end Shawn Moorehead was a Verizon academic all-district VII selection last fall. ISU football student-athletes have earned first-team all-Big 12 academic honors 67 times in the past eight seasons. Under McCarney, Iowa State has boasted a pair of National Football Foundation post-graduate scholars (Todd Bandhauer and Dave Brcka).
Anyone who watched McCarney’s rise in the coaching ranks would not be surprised by the effort of his national-caliber coaching staff. A native of Iowa City, Iowa, McCarney was instrumental in rebuilding efforts that produced Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl berths at both Iowa and Wisconsin, two schools that regularly finished near the bottom of the league before his arrival.
McCarney, 52, coached at Iowa for 13 seasons (1977-89), including 11 years under Hayden Fry, before becoming the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez in 1990.
McCarney’s defense was the foundation of the Wisconsin rebuilding effort. In the four seasons prior to his arrival in Wisconsin, the Badgers had a 9-36 record and attendance was at its lowest mark since World War II.
In 1993, Wisconsin went 10-1-1, claimed its first Big Ten title in 31 years and scored a 21-16 win over UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Attendance at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium climbed more than 30,000 a game, and sellouts of more than 77,000 were the norm.
During Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl season, the Badgers ranked 19th nationally against the rush, allowing just 130.3 yards per game, the sixth best mark in school history. The team allowed an average of 16.3 points per game, its best effort in 30 years. The Badger defense also intercepted an NCAA-best 23 passes and created 34 turnovers, including six against UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
A 1975 graduate of Iowa, McCarney coached the Hawkeyes in eight consecutive bowl games, including the 1982 and 1986 Rose Bowls. The three-year letterman on the offensive line for Iowa (1972-74) was captain of the 1974 Hawkeye squad. A member of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) for 26 years, McCarney is one of 16 football coaches on the AFCA Board of Trustees. The Cyclone head coach is a member of the AFCA’s rules committee and the Division I-A All-America team selection committee. McCarney is in his 12th season serving as a voting member of the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll.