DENTON, Texas -- Former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney is fired up about leading another massive rebuilding project at North Texas.
McCarney was introduced as the Mean Green's football coach Tuesday, taking over a program that has a 13-58 record in six seasons since a four-year run of winning the Sun Belt and playing in the New Orleans Bowl. The hiring of McCarney, who had been Florida's assistant head coach the last few years, is representative of UNT's commitment to winning.
McCarney, the most accomplished coach North Texas has hired since his mentor Hayden Fry in the 1970s, signed a five-year deal that will pay an annual salary in the mid-six figures. That's a significant increase over the salary paid to fired coach Todd Dodge, who was hired after building a dynasty at nearby Southlake Carroll High School.
North Texas will open an on-campus $78 million stadium next season, completing an overhaul of the football program's facilities within the last five years.
"Why not North Texas? Why not bowl games? Why not championships?" McCarney said. "We don't have to make excuses for anything. We don't have to talk about what we don't have because of the leadership of [university administration]. We're going to try to make this one of the most special places in all of college football."
McCarney, 57, had a 56-85 record from 1995 to 2006 at Iowa State. He inherited a program there that was coming off a winless season and had not played in a bowl game for 22 years. The Cyclones went to five bowls under McCarney's watch.
"When I got to Iowa State, they were winless," McCarney said. "The difference we had, the facilities weren't in place. ... Going through those situations, it helps prepare you when you into the next one."
North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal also seriously considered two other accomplished FBS head coaches: former Tulsa and Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe and Dennis Franchione, whose recent coaching stops include stints at TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M.
"It is time for this program to start acting like a big-time program," Villarreal said. "We now have the facilities. We now have the resources. We now have those things in place. Now it's time for the right person to step into place."
Dodge finished with a 6-37 record. He was hired before the 2007 season after going 79-1 and winning four state championships in his final five years at Southlake Carroll, making North Texas the first upper-division school to elevate a head coach straight from high school since Notre Dame with Gerry Faust in 1981.
Offensive coordinator Mike Canales took over as interim head coach and went 2-3, his last game as interim head coach a 49-41 loss to Kansas State last Saturday.
McCarney said he has hired Canales as his associate head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Canales was offensive coordinator at South Florida for three seasons before coming to North Texas this year. McCarney was the assistant head coach/defensive line coach at South Florida in 2007, Canales' first year there.
McCarney's coaching career began as an assistant at Iowa from 1977-89, then he went to Wisconsin for five seasons with Barry Alvarez before getting the Iowa State job in 1995.
After his first two years as an Iowa assistant, the Hawkeyes hired Fry from North Texas to be their head coach. Fry offered McCarney the job as tight ends coach and they spent the next few months looking at film of the Mean Green from Fry's six seasons there.
"It's kind of gone full circle now," McCarney said.
Villarreal said McCarney is committed to building through high school players.
"With his experience and his talk, it's his last stop. We wanted it to be his last stop," Villarreal said. "He wants to build a program just like he did at Iowa State, where he can be here for a long period of time."
Tim MacMahon is a reporter and columnist for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.