Dan's the Man
Saturday evening on the plains of Iowa, a quality coach most fans wouldn't recognize quietly went out a winner to cap a disappointing season. Iowa State upset the Missouri Tigers 21-16 to send Dan McCarney out on a positive note. The second year in a row that a coach that reinvigorated a program has salvaged a season with an upset of Missouri. McCarney resigned earlier this season as the Cyclones were in the midst of a sour 4-8 campaign. However, after the game, you would have thought the Cyclones had won the national championship. McCarney was carried off the field by his players in a manner befitting a man who has done so much for the Iowa State program. You won't find his name at the top of the career wins list (he only has 56) and you won't be awed by his spiffy winning percentage (.397), but that should not diminish what he has accomplished in Ames.
In McCarney's 12 seasons at Iowa State, his teams have a combined record of 56-85 (.397). By itself that is not terribly impressive. But consider in the 12 seasons before McCarney's arrival the Cyclones were a combined 45-82-5 (.360) with just 2 winning seasons, no bowl appearances, and a winless season just before McCarney took over. It took McCarney a while to raise the program as they Cyclones never won more than 4 games during his first 5 seasons. But in season 6 the Cyclones turned the corner. Over the next 7 years, Iowa State would win at least 7 games 5 times, participate in 5 bowl games (winning 2), and tie for the Big 12 North title (2004). This tie gave the Cyclones their first championship (co or otherwise) since the Taft administration (1912).
And what about that little rivalry game against Iowa? When McCarney arrived in 1995, the Cyclones had not beaten the Hawkeyes since 1982. McCarney lost his first 4 contests to the in-state rivals, but rebounded to lead his team to 6 wins in the last 8 games in the series. His first victory over Iowa in 1998 was probably the most special since it was their first win in the series since 1982 and the last time he would coach against the legendary Hayden Fry.
All in all, the Cyclones have had a less than stellar history with 9 bowl appearances (5 with McCarney) and only 2 bowl wins (both with McCarney). Any success the program enjoys on the gridiron going forward, will have McCarney to thank for laying the foundation. McCarney made a 4-8 season a disappointment and not an aspiration