As long as Bill Snyder has been in this business, it’s not at all unusual for there to be common history or links between the longtime Wildcats coach and the opponent’s coach.
But the bond between Snyder and North Texas coach Dan McCarney goes a little further back in time than most might first realize.
When the two meet on opposite sidelines Saturday night it will renew a coaching battle that began in the Big Eight and later in the Big 12 when McCarney coached at Iowa State.
McCarney coached at Iowa State from 1995-06 where he took the Cyclones to five bowl games before moving on to South Florida and then to Florida for assistant positions. The 2005 Big 12 Coach of the Year is in his second year with the Mean Green.
“Bill Snyder has meant so much to college football for a long time and thanks to the administration at Kansas State they got him back on the sidelines where he belongs,” McCarney said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “He’s left an amazing imprint in college football for generations to come.”
Snyder and McCarney know each other well and go further back than just their days on opposite sidelines in the Big 12 where Snyder was 9-2 against McCarney. The former Iowa State coach and Snyder were both assistants on Hayden Fry’s staff at the University of Iowa — working together from 1979-89.
“When I went to Iowa with Hayden Fry, Dan was there at the time and Hayden hired him,” said Snyder, who was an assistant at North Texas from 1976-79. “We were all impressed with him. He was our defensive line coach at the time and stayed with us throughout the period of time I was there. He’s an excellent recruiter and awfully good with the players, very focused and a very intense football coach, and really a good guy.”
McCarney, who is 6-8 at North Texas, remembers his time coaching along Snyder fondly.
“I spent 10 years with Bill Snyder —10 years — a decade of your life,” said McCarney, who won the last two head-to-head meetings with Snyder in 2004 and 2005. “Some great moments and best experiences of my life were spent with Bill. He’s a tireless worker, detail-oriented, a tremendous football coach and one thing I will always remember, more so than a football coach, is how much he cares about people.”
McCarney should know. The 58-year-old coach suffered a stroke last winter and Snyder was one of the first to reach out to his old friend.
“I had a health setback a few months ago and one of the first two calls I get is from Bill Snyder,” McCarney said. “That’s not by accident. That’s who he is.”
But McCarney also knows the competitive side of Snyder, both as opposition and as colleagues on the same staff.
“Everyday in practice — he’s on offense, I’m on defense — we’re going head-to-head, we’re working against each other,” said McCarney, recalling his time coaching with Snyder at Iowa. “(Snyder) doesn’t want to get beat on offense. I don’t want to get beat on defense.
“We were in the trenches working together. He was the offensive coordinator/quarterback coach and I was coaching defensive line, but we were all Hayden Fry guys and will always be proud of that.”