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McCarney, Dan

Published onOct 01, 2021
McCarney, Dan

(July 28, 1953 -)

Quick Facts

As head football coach, McCarney laid claim to 56 victories, more than any football coach in Iowa State history.

Source: Iowa State Daily at

Dan McCarney took over as head football coach at Iowa State shortly after the Cyclone program had endured a winless 1994 season. After steadily building the program over five campaigns, his Iowa State football team blossomed with a 9-3 record and an Bowl victory over Pittsburgh. The postseason victory was the Cyclones’ first-ever bowl win and their first postseason appearance since 1978. By the end of his final season (2006), McCarney had laid claim to 56 victories, more than any football coach in Iowa State history.

McCarney was able to survive a 13-42 record in his first five seasons, partly because of his relentless, energetic personality that endeared him to staff, the University community and Cyclone fans. A universal recognition of how low the program had sank before he took over in November of 1994 also bought him time. On Sept. 12, 1998 McCarney’s Iowa State team ended a 15-year losing streak to archrival Iowa with a 27-9 over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City before a nationally televised audience. The victory ended a seven-year 31-game road ISU losing streak. An Iowa City native and former Iowa football student-athlete and coach, McCarney coached Iowa State teams that claimed an unprecedented five straight wins (1998-2002) over the Hawkeyes.

The 2000 37-29 victory over Pittsburgh finished a 9-3 season in which Iowa State posted its highest single-season victory total since 1906. McCarney’s Cyclones racked up a 39-27 record between 2000 and 2005. During that stretch Iowa State played in the Bowl (2000), Independence Bowl (2001, 2004), Humanitarian Bowl (2002) and Houston Bowl (2005). The Cyclones beat Miami of Ohio 17-13 in the 2004 Independence Bowl, the Cyclones’ second-ever postseason win. Iowa State’s 23 victories between 2000 and 2002 is the second-best three-year winning tally in school history.

McCarney was voted by his coaching peers the 2004 Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year after his 7-5 team tied for the league North Division title. By his final season (2006), McCarney was the dean of the Big 12’s head coaches. His 12 seasons and 95 games as Iowa State head coach are both Cyclone football mentor records. The five bowl appearances his teams made in a six-season span (2000-2005) rank him first among Iowa State’s all-time head coaches.

McCarney coached some of the greatest players in Iowa State football history. The Iowa State head coach convinced tailback Troy Davis to stay in Ames shortly after he took over the Cyclone program. Davis responded by becoming the first NCAA Division I running back to top 2,000 yards rushing in consecutive seasons (1995-1996). Davis was fifth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1995 and the runner-up to Danny Wuerffel of Florida in 1996. McCarney sold Seneca Wallace on coming to Iowa State and the little-known native of Sacramento, Calif. went on to become one of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football during the 2001 and 2002 seasons, during which the signal caller racked up 6,201 yards of total offense.

Among McCarney’s biggest wins were a 23-3 victory over No 8 Iowa and a 30-16 decision over No. 22 Colorado in 2005. The Cyclones beat No. 20 Nebraska in 2002. McCarney departed Ames with a 56-85 record in 2006. He became head coach at North Texas State in 2011 and took the Mean Green to the Heart of Texas Bowl in 2013.

Selected Sources

“Dan McCarney returns to Ames to be inducted into Hall of Fame” by Luke Manderfeld, Iowa State Daily, Sep 21, 2016. profile,

“McCarney's resignation effective at season's end”, Associated Press. Nov 8, 2006.

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