"The newcomers weren't here 10 years ago," McCarney said. "They didn't step into what I stepped into. They have no idea about the ridiculous environment and atmosphere and lack of facilities, non-existent facilities. They have no idea how we turned a non-existent rivalry for 15 years into a healthy rivalry. They have no idea of the intensity, the toughness, the physicality of the Big 12. That's my job, to bring them along."
McCarney wants to see progress made this year and a return to the direction the program was moving a couple of seasons ago.
"We've brought the program places it's never been and then you have a temporary setback like last year - that's no fun for any of us," he said.
McCarney expects most, if not all, of the 29 signees from this year's recruiting class to be eligible.
"We try to support and motivate our kids as much as we can, but I think we have a chance to have this whole team academically eligible," he said.
So far, only recruit Matt Kimble has failed to make his qualifying score. All the academic results from the Clearinghouse are expected to be in on Wednesday.
With some NCAA changes for the preseason, the Cyclones already had a practice session under their belts by the time the afternoon media conference rolled around and McCarney was pleased with the results.
"We had practice for the first time and I thought it went real well overall," McCarney said about the first day's workout. "We got a lot done. It was just shorts so we were limited, but the tempo was good and the retention was good by the upperclassmen."
On a somber note, quarterbacks coach Todd Fitch was at Mayo Clinic on Monday to have some follow-up surgery after a test indicated some spots remaining after chemo treatment for cancer. If it turns out to be scar tissue, Fitch should return to the team shortly. In the meantime, Terry Allen will work with the quarterbacks and turn over his tight ends to offensive coordinator and line coach Barney Cotton and grad assistant Shawn Coughlin.
"Our thoughts and prayers right now are with Todd and we're hoping to get some more good news from Rochester, Minn., as the day goes on," McCarney said.
On the issue of defensive tackle Jason Berryman and his legal problems, McCarney said that the concentration will be on "who is here, not who isn't."
"This could be a classic example of there isn't any one player more important than the team," he said about the player who was arrested just a week earlier. "We all have to overcome obstacles, some things you can control, some things you can't control. How you handle that adversity is one of the great measures of a head coach, of a program, of a staff and of players that I've learned. I feel real good about the chemistry of the team."
Despite the problems with Berryman and Fitch's absence, everything was upbeat for McCarney on Media Day.
"Every time you get a chance to start a new season you get a chance each year to gather as a football team and define how you want to be remembered," he explained. "That's the great thing about a new season. There are new faces, new coaches in some cases, a new season and you really, really get to start from scratch as we have and try to define what kind of team we want to have this year. It's an exciting time."
There may be some heat on the 10th year coach to produce this year, but McCarney feels he's up to the challenge
"Even though we didn't have the season we wanted to last year, there were some things that I did as a head coach that I was proud of," he said. "Hopefully, those things will help us this season and in the seasons ahead. I'm real, real appreciative of this. There isn't much stability in college. I'm humble and I'm appreciative to be here longer than any previous coach but I'm also as driven as I've ever been."
Media Day Notes
• The only significant injury is to red-shirt kicker Josh Griebahn who had surgery on an old ankle injury. Griebahn is expected to be out a couple of weeks.
• Suspended rookie cornerback Bobby Chalk will practice, but will not play in the first game.
• McCarney plans to leave Tyson Smith at his new weak side linebacker position despite the absence of rush end Jason Berryman. Newcomers Collins Eboh , Travis Ferguson and Korey Smith are going to be given looks at Berryman's position.
• Despite the presence of three recruited Juco defensive backs, McCarney expects the returning secondary to remain as it was during the Spring, at least in the short term. "I think it's realistic for them to break in and be back-ups," McCarney said. "I have to see a lot more to see if those guys could beat out Ellis Hobbs, good luck. I think it's going to be hard to beat any of those number ones out."
• Even though quarterback Terrence Highsmith was recruited out of junior college as a receiver, but will get a look at his former position during the next few days. Highsmith is being touted as one of the best athletes on the team with tremendous quarterback skills, but is short on experience since he wasn't around for Spring ball.
• Stevie Hicks is entrenched at the number one running back position, but Jason Scales is expected to make an impact. "We have good talent at that position this year," McCarney said. Running back Brian Thompson will transfer, according to McCarney.