by Tom Shatel in the World-Herald today (registration required).
by Tom Shatel in the World-Herald today (registration required).
Tom Shatel: Thank you, Mac; you honored ISU
BY TOM SHATEL
I'm going to miss Dan McCarney.
You don't say that about many coaches in this business. Then again, we don't get to know many of these men the way we were privileged to know McCarney, the former Iowa State football coach.
When I heard he was finished, I went digging through my home office Wednesday night. I was looking for a card. It's a red card, one of those blank greeting cards, with a Cyclone logo printed on the front.
I collect a lot of "stuff" from my travels. But in all of my "stuff," there is only one personalized note, handwritten and signed with a black Sharpie, from a coach.
It came from McCarney. This was years ago, after I had written a column supporting McCarney after a particularly tough year in Ames. He had written a "thank you" note. It was personally written. His secretary never saw it.
McCarney didn't have to do it. Then again, he was always doing things coaches don't do anymore.
That's what I will miss the most about "Mac." He was a throwback. He had an old-school quality in everything that he did.
He was a salesman, first and foremost, and you don't see much of that these days. A pro mentality has seeped onto campus. Coaches are four-star generals, control freaks, stingy with access, playing war games each and every Saturday. A night with a booster is one less night they could be breaking down the tight end passing game and gap control.
Mac from was another time. He understood who he was and where he was. He got it.
The game, and the team, didn't belong to him. It belonged to the fans, the kids, the school. It was a game, after all. College football is fun, no?
We'll never know how much work and effort it took to build this program, but Mac made it look easy, like he was having a blast. He looked like he could have been the president, the chancellor, the athletic director, the Cyclone Club president or the head cheerleader. He was Iowa State.
McCarney could have been the logo for Iowa State. Not many coaches can say that. Mac did it at Iowa State.
That's the other thing, the main thing, about Mac. Loyalty. It was uncompromising. It was uncommon. It was how he should be remembered.
The man was 55-84 overall, with a league record of 26-67. And he got to coach 12 years in the same place. That's ridiculous. Nobody coaches that long in one place anymore, unless he is winning national championships or getting transfusions from Fort Knox into his bank account.
Mac did it because of the loyalty, a loyalty that went both ways.
Iowa State started it, keeping him and keeping him even when the river was dry and most schools would have cut bait. McCarney returned the favor, over and over, when he started winning nine games and going to bowls, when most other coaches would have cut bait.
He used to laugh and count the athletic directors and basketball coaches he went through. He stayed when it seemed everyone else at ISU had left or was being asked to leave. He was Iowa State's rock.
This was the sort of loyalty that parents tell their kids about and make the kids roll their eyes in disbelief. It was a loyalty that was corny and pure, totally old school, to the very last day.
Loyalty has its limits, of course, even in this story. McCarney's team is 3-7 and 0-6 in the Big 12. College football is big business, especially in the high property value neighborhood of the Big 12.
Mac always had boundless energy, the kind that could outlast the Energizer bunny. But he finally appeared to hit a wall, with his boosters and his players. He was out of answers. Worse, his team was getting embarrassed. It was time. Everyone knew it. Mac knew it.
There are no graceful exits in coaching. And no free passes. You always have to produce, show them something they haven't seen. It's an insult to the school and to Mac to say that he's the best ISU could ever do, or to keep him out of sympathy. You have to sell hope. Mac, finally, had none to sell.
But I really don't want to focus on that today, nor the missed kicks or the things McCarney didn't do or what happened to the offense this year. I want to focus on that loyalty.
It was there, to the end, the sad end. This could have been a firing. This could have been ugly. Nebraska ugly. Coaches rarely step down. If they see the ziggy coming, they'll wait for it, because they're stubborn, because they want the larger payday that comes with being bought out.
McCarney didn't want that for Iowa State. There was no reason to drag this out, cause a public debate, make it bloody. Instead, he and Athletic Director Jamie Pollard stood at a press conference, together. Mac apologized for the struggles. He said, "Iowa State is bigger than me." Pollard thanked the coach. He teared up at one point.
That's loyalty, folks. That's class.
Mac will coach again, probably as an assistant. Iowa State will hire a good man and move on.
But people at the school should never forget this man. They should put his name on something in that athletic building or around that field. He won more than anyone at ISU, but he should be remembered for other reasons. Iowa State is a better place because of his work. So, too, is college football.
If you'll excuse me, I need to find a blank card. I have someone to thank.
Great Article. One of the first journalist I have heard to say something like this:
It's an insult to the school and to Mac to say that he's the best ISU could ever do, or to keep him out of sympathy.
Wonderful article. Too bad it came out of Omaha and not Des Moines....
I was really hoping that I could keep my emotions under control until Saturday, but the column was tough to read.
Tremendous article. The World Herald does a much more respectable job covering ISU Athletics than the Register will ever do.
That was the best thing I've read on the situation. Most writers won't understand how much Mac really meant to ISU or why it was finally time for a change.
"But people at the school should never forget this man. They should put his name on something in that athletic building or around that field."
That is an absolute MUST.
Don't we have an Athletic Educational Center or something like it in the works? Naming that after Mac would be fitting considering his commitment to his players.
Better yet, once Jamie gets the Jack renovated, something needs to have Mac's name on it. The suites, pressbox, multipurpose center in the south endzone (if that's still part of the plan) - something.
It's not a reach to say that renovations of this scale would be incomprehensible without Mac's efforts.
Great job Tom Shatel. Finally a media figure that gets it.
wow, that was a great read. a good way to honor mac and summarize the sitation...even giving the point of view of each side. tom shatel deserves a big thank you from cyclone fans for having such respect for all parties invovled.
hey all. great article. i found myself wanting mac out one day then wanting him at isu the next. mac is one of a kind....we are where
we are because of one man. thats mac. he has give me so many good
memories. he did things right and was just a great human being.
i was sitting at my desk today listening to his press confrence, trying
to keep the ol eye scokets dry. even now, mac is looking out for us.
what do people think of setting up some sort of ecard that those of us in
the cyclone fanatic family could sign. maybe others have better ideas, in keeping things short, just something to show mac our appreciation for what he has done for isu. any thoughts?
I've read Shatel for years. Rarely agree with what his says. He's a Mizzou grad - a Husker convert. Typically takes shots at ISU.
This may be the finest piece his has ever written. Thank you Tom.
Wonderful article. Well done, Tom!
wow! cant believe that someone thats not even a clone can get something so right. mac is a great man and a heck of a leader and im sure gonna miss that saturday gameface. wherever he goes i will definately be a fan. i hope we honor his tenure and accomplishments in some sort of fashion.