One Special Day
Saturday was a special day for a
lot of people who are involved in the world of Cyclone athletics. It marked Dan McCarney’s final game as the head coach of Iowa State. Saturday also marked the final time
that 23 seniors would put on the cardinal and gold.
Saturday’s game marked a special
day for me as well. Now, I’ll be the first one to admit that I probably have the
coolest job in the world for a college student. I get to do what I love. I love
Cyclone athletics. I love everything about them and everything about this
university. The Iowa State game against Missouri marked the final football game I will
watch as a student.
Since that was the case, I wanted
to take a day off from being a journalist. I wanted to be a fan for the first,
and last time this season. I wanted to cheer on the man who made me love
State football; Dan
McCarney. I wanted to cheer on one of the best friends I’ve ever had, Scott Stephenson, in his final game as a Cyclone. One voice doesn’t mean much in a
crowd of 35,000, but I wanted to do my part and have the experience of being a
student just one last time. It just happened to be Mac’s last game at the same
Pre-Game – What a
The day started out as good as it
could have for an 0-7 conference team. I tailgated with friends, family and even
stopped by CyLentBob’s big setup. It was great, but somber to say the
You see, like I mentioned before,
there couldn’t have been more than 35,000 fans in the stadium watching Dan
McCarney’s last stand. Here’s a guy who built this program with his own bare
hands, and we (Cyclone fans) couldn’t even gather 40,000 people to send him out.
Can you blame the fans? Not
really. In reality, the crowd turnout against Missouri made Jamie Pollard’s tough decision
just a little bit easier.
So the team ran onto the field and
the seniors were honored for the last time. It was just like any other senior
day that we see all around the nation each year. This one was more special to me
though. A lot of those guys who were called for the last time are good friends
of mine. I, unlike a lot of people, know just how much they care about this
football team. They didn’t want to go 4-8 in 2006. They didn’t want to win only
one conference game. They didn’t want to, but they did and that’s what makes Dan
McCarney’s departure so hard on so many people.
Imagine if you were a kid on this
year’s squad. Would you not feel a little bit responsible for McCarney’s
situation right now? They shouldn’t, but they do. Trust me on that. Here’s a guy
who these players love like a father, and they somewhat feel like they’ve let
him down as players.
That’s why I wanted to be a fan
for the Missouri game. To support these guys who had
no gas left in their tanks. They’ve given this university and their coach
everything they’ve had for four and sometimes five straight years.
The seniors had been introduced
and we were all waiting for the inevitable. We were all waiting for McCarney’s
farewell message to the fans. To me, it was one of those occasions that I knew
was coming, but I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it. After watching his exiting
press conference, speculating about the next coach and even talking to Mac about
it, it was still hard to believe that when I came to Trice next season, Dan
McCarney wouldn’t be there.
It finally happened. McCarney
appeared on the big screen at Trice thanking the fans for the past 12 seasons.
At that point something came over me that I hadn’t felt throughout this entire
process. I got very emotional. Tears came to my eyes. I saw an Iowa State football legend saying goodbye to
what he built.
This situation was so emotional
for me for two reasons: The first being how many people actually showed up to
see it. That made me sad as a fan. The second was, in a weird way I felt guilty
for this situation. That made me sad as a journalist. Why? Obviously I didn’t
have anything to do with Mac leaving Iowa State. But I think it’s the best thing for
everybody involved in this situation, and for some reason I feel bad about that.
Doesn’t Mac deserve more than what
he received? Doesn’t the man that made Iowa State football fun again deserve more than
a 40 second video message to the fans, which was cut off halfway though because
of another play in the game?
As a fan, I felt cheated. Not at
the way Iowa State handled it, but I wanted an opportunity for
those loyal Cyclones who were actually at the game to really stand up and let
McCarney know how much he will be missed here in Ames. Little did I know, I would get my
opportunity a few hours later.
The game started and at first it
looked like every other game that Iowa State has played this year. Missouri scored quickly with no challenge whatsoever from
the depleted Iowa
With all of the emotion in the
air, it looked like it would be just another day in this year’s Cyclone football
season. Little did I know then that it wouldn’t turn out that way. The
State offensive line
dominated. Ryan Kock was a man amongst boys and the Cyclone defense flew to the
ball in a way that they hadn’t done all season long. For the first time in 2006,
State looked like a good
Mac’s final game couldn’t have
ended with a better scenario. Missouri has been a thorn in McCarney’s side
for the last two years. This is a team which arguably kept McCarney and
State out of the Big 12
championship game single handedly two season’s in a row. Two games that, if won,
could have possibly saved Mac’s job.
The 21-16 win was the perfect way
for McCarney to go out. It was a typical McCarney win. The Cyclones could have
put the game out of reach and saved everyone some heartache. Instead, they had
to bring it down to the wire. They had to put the game on the defense’s
shoulders to make a big stop at the end of the game. Over the past few years,
when that very scenario has happened, it hasn’t turned out well for
But that Saturday was different
than the close games the past few years. On that Saturday, Dan McCarney went out
If you would have told me in July
that we would end the season 1-7 in the conference and charging the field
against Missouri in Mac’s final game, I would have
laughed in your face.
Watching the students carry
McCarney off the field was bittersweet to say the least. It was bitter because
Dan McCarney made everybody, including myself, feel like they were the most
important person in the world for 12 straight years. It was hard saying goodbye.
But it was also sweet, in the
sense that Mac left the same way in which he came to Iowa State, a winner.
For the Better
At the end of his tenure here at
State, the fan base was
very vocal about getting him out. They were vocal and they were negative. It’s
best that Mac moves on now because things wouldn’t have gotten any better for
him next season. No matter what he does, people are always going to complain
because that’s the nature of the game in 2006.
When I think of Dan McCarney, the
word positive comes to my mind. The fans were getting negative and the positive
McCarney didn’t deserve that anymore.
Mac will go somewhere different
and Mac will be loved.
I am glad that I took the day off
to be a fan for McCarney’s last game, as the sight of watching the students
carry McCarney off the field will be a memory I will cherish for the rest of my
Iowa State plays their games in Jack Trice
Stadium, but it will always be the house that Dan McCarney built.