Well it happened.
We fired the head coach of the program. I was very much upset with that awful, terrible, absolutely, no good performance. I filled up your TL with lots of thoughts about the game. You may have some thoughts about the game yourself.
There may be some point to going through the Portland State game in detail, but I don’t know what that point would be. It looked like a team going through the motions against a well-coached, motivated one. The Dan McCarney-coached teams of any of the last four years would have destroyed this Dan McCarney-coached team today.
I’m going to try my best to encapsulate Dan McCarney’s entire tenure, from memory, in less than 1,000 words. That’s your caveat.
Before we begin here are some links I tweeted out links to the various things I’ve written praising his performance here in Denton.
It’s important to mention that to balance the criticism that he will get the rest of the way. It’s also important to remember that the Athletic Director Rick Villarreal hired both McCarney and his predecessor, two stewards of some of the most embarrassing times in North Texas history. Villarreal also put together this schedule of five home games with no bye weeks. He is not free of blame.
McCarney began his tenure at North Texas as a surprise hire. Mike Canales won over the fan base with his interim coaching performance after the Todd Dodge era. It should be noted that Dodge began his tenure with embarrassing blow-outs but ended with a solid team that lost close games. Were it not for one or two close plays in 2010, Dodge could very well have saved his job. Canales managed a team devastated at QB and turned in some solid performances to end the year. He won games, he gave KState a game with Chase Baine — a 6th string wide out as QB. Canales was the fan favorite to earn the gig. And yet Rick Villareal hired Dan.
Dan McCarney shrewdly kept Mike Canales on as coordinator, and immediately won over the fans, students, and college football writers with his charm, enthusiasm, old school approach that was sorely needed during at this program that had become a joke around town, in the state, and nationally. Dan McCarney was breath of fresh air, and made the promises we all wanted to hear.
In his first couple of seasons, he battled the transitionary problems that any new coach faces. There was no immediate turn around even though we desperately wanted one. In hindsight it was worrying but at the time it could be easily explained away by scapegoating the previous regime. Dan McCarney let it be known through non-public means that NT had the smallest, least-ready FBS roster he’d seen in his coaching time. Again, this would be used against him later, (like after getting destroyed by FCS Portland State in his final turn as coach) but his complaints were received with nods and understanding.
By 2013, he had his detractors in and outside of the program. The criticism can be summed as “too conservative, too old fashioned”. The lackluster recruiting classes, and questionable QB selections especially, were obvious weaknesses in the McCarney regime. Rumors of his personal failings and vices were whispered in DMs, and emails. His seat was by no means warm, but he coudn’t point at Dodge’s failure any longer.
He was saved in 2013 when everything fell into place. Whereas the defenses up to that point were prone to giving up big plays, and the offenses were impotent, predictable, and turnover prone; the 2013 defense was a force and the offense was more consistent. The Special teams were similarly spectacular. North Texas only lost once at home, destroyed the lesser teams in conference play, and won a bowl game in front of 39,000 fans in the historic Cotton Bowl stadium.
Why Not North Texas indeed.
The brilliance of his massive success hid the flaws that year, however. The offense was good but still conservative, over reliant on the defense and special teams. The team was poor on the road, losing an awful game to a very beatable Tulane. Most heartbreakingly, NT lost at home to UTSA in the final home game of the season, ruining a chance at a conference title game bid, a perfect home record, and the possibility of 10 wins. That NT looked unprepared, and was out coached in that game is unsurprising taken in context of his entire era here, and his overall coaching record.
These last two seasons have been marred by a quarterback controversy four years in the making. McCarney might have bought himself more time if he could have found a Derek Thompson replacement sooner. Instead he could only manage a series of mysterious JUCO transfers that never saw significant playing time. That mess of situation combined with the precipitous decline of the defense used up the goodwill from 2013 quickly. Though a rebuilding year was expected, the inept offense and stubborn coaching decisions frustrated everyone who followed closely. His public complaints and rants at press conferences were oddly defensive, the kind of thing a man without any answers would resort to. They certainly weren’t befitting the guy who proclaimed that he would turn this ship around back at his introduction.
This newest season brought hope, as any does, but the reservoir of goodwill was still dangerously low. When Andrew McNulty handed the ball off on a midline dive a loud groan came from the 9,000 UNT fans at Gerry Ford. A muffed punt had presented Dan’s charges with a choice opportunity and it was squandered. North Texas fans had seen this too often and the excuses were growing stale.
As Greg explained this week, the QB play was awful and yet Dan McCarney maintained that it was “solid.” While public defense of the players is expected, this was almost willfull blindess to the facts. When combined with the public criticism of the backup DaMarcus Smith the stubborness is baffling.
Dan McCarney could have probably survived a loss to Portland State. The Vikings are a good team, and have already beaten Washington State. The bookmakers favored them by a point 1, and a tough loss at homecoming wouldn’t have been unforgiveable. He couldn’t survive a complete embarrassment, however.
Not only was it the second straight week that his team found itself down 35-0, but it was at home, on homecoming, against a lower division team. His team looked a shell of any other squad he’d put out on the field. He’d long pointed to his sterling home record 2 as a point of pride, but Apogee wasn’t a comfort this season, as he dropped both home games.
In the end Dan McCarney had a 22-32 record at North Texas, his winning percentage about a percentage point higher than at Iowa State, where he was — and still is — held in high esteem. He will be held in similar regard here, where he presided over some of the greatest moments in NT history, and some of the worst. That is his legacy at North Texas.
- Which speaks volumes about the state of our program in itself. ↩
- He also frequently complained about the scheduling, which I agreed with. However, he lost on the road against beatable teams frequently. Tulane, UTSA, SMU are some of the more obvious losses. There were others. His teams also were awful away, not just losing but doing so badly. ↩