I'm going to go off format this week. Instead of trying to make witty observations about our gameday performance and detailing my pre and post-game food & drink choices, I'm going to take this opportunity to say thank you to a very good man.
Dan McCarney came to
State University during a dark time in our
history. We'd just gone 0-10-1
(thank God for the Oklahoma State University tie keeping us from
having a perfect record) and ISU could be found in the dictionary under
"doormat". Coach Mac came to town
and immediately started to cultivate pride in the fan base. Because of the unique situation where he
inherited a Heisman candidate at running back, he had the opportunity to boost
attendance while leading a team that had records in the 3-8 or 2-9 range. The Troy Davis Circus was fun while it
lasted, but then reality hit and we had to fill the stands by winning instead of
selling a freak of nature.
After a few years of stagnation,
we began competing in games, then progressed to actually WINNING some of them,
and all of a sudden WHAM! We're 8-3
and headed to Phoenix for the Insight.com bowl. All that with a QB named "Sage" from
that hotbed of football talent - Maquoketa, Iowa.
The years following that breakthrough have produced highs and lows, but
one thing we've never had to deal with since that time is BOREDOM. We've gotten the Iowa State program to a
point where Iowa coaches, players and fans now lavish entirely too much
attention to our in-state game and ruin their chances of making a title run in
the Big 10 (take that, featherbutts), and Iowa State has gone from a great place
to get a degree to a great place to get a degree where you have a chance to play
I'll admit it: I've been one of the "Mac Kool-Aid"
guys. He's a salesman, and I
appreciate his intensity and obvious love for Iowa State and the fan base. That has made it SO hard to admit to
myself that we're at a point where this team either has to take a step upward or
decide to fold up their tents and join the MAC or Conference USA. Other, smarter people than me have
already said the Mac has been a victim of his own expectations here, and I'd
agree, if I thought of him as a "victim".
I started at ISU in the fall of
'86, so I've seen some damn bad football in my time. The Drake loss was before my time, but I
did manage to see BOTH of the losses to UNI under Walden. I saw more than my share of 70+ point
drubbings by the likes of Nebraska and Oklahoma, and I saw darn near every one
of the losses to Iowa from '86 onward.
I was at the Oklahoma game in '87 when Bosworth and the
rest of their stars had a reserve go up into the stands to get hotdogs and
sodas. When Criner was sacked and
Walden was hired to replace him, I was one of the students who carried liquor
into the games openly because the administration realized that drunken students
at games were better for the football program than drunken students in their
dorm rooms (the only rule for those few years that I can remember – no glass
bottles. Other than that, it was a
libertarian's paradise). Mac's
arrival changed that attitude. Even
if we were outclassed on the field, we were expected to behave as if our team
had a chance to win. I always liked
that state of mind – you can't win until you think that you can win.
I never played for ISU, so I'll
leave the personal testimonials to those like Luke and Jack who know the coach
well. I've met Coach Mac a few
times in passing, just a handshake with me saying "Keep up the good work,
coach", and Mac replying "That's my job.
Thanks for coming out to support the program."
Next week, I'll be back to
describe our tailgating festivities.
If Coach Mac is reading this, I'd just like to say thanks for all the
hard work he's put in on behalf of Iowa State University, and that there will
always be a cold beer and a warm brat/burger/bowl of chili at our tailgate with
his name on it. Who knows, maybe
we'll take a page from Jewish tradition and set a place for "Coach Mac" at every
tailgating table for him from now on.
I know he's still got coaching in his blood, and I hope his next stop
produces more wins than he achieved at ISU. Whether it's at a large institution like
Stanford or at a Division III school, I'm sure he'll keep pumping out good
citizens who would run through hell carrying buckets full of gasoline for
Godspeed, Dan McCarney, and I'll
see the rest of you out in the lots next week. Go Cyclones.