The Sun Belt coach with arguably the toughest job ahead of him couldn't be happier to be where he is.

"We have a long way to go. The program has been down for a long time," said Dan McCarney, the new coach at North Texas, during his first appearance Monday as part of the Sun Belt's Media Days.

McCarney is taking over a program that had gone 8-40 in the last four years.

McCarney is getting a second chance as head coach, as he spent 11 seasons at Iowa State, where he had a record of 56-85 from 1995 to 2006.

"I couldn't wait to be a head coach again," said McCarney, who was an assistant at Florida when North Texas hired him. "I am glad for this opportunity. There are only 120 Division I coaches. I am really lucky and really blessed."

North Texas, which was 3-9 last season, its best record since 2006, was picked to finish sixth in the conference in the coaches' poll that was released Monday.

Four other coaches participated in Monday's Media Day event, along with players from each team.


McCarney is hoping he can follow the lead of Mario Cristobal, who took Florida International from last place to first in four seasons.

And FIU was picked to finish at the top again this season in the coaches' poll, and Cristobal said his job is now to teach his team how to going from the hunter to the hunted.

That is a brand new role for FIU, which had never had a winning season until last year, when they also made their first bowl appearance.

"You are battling human nature," said Cristobal, who is starting his fifth season with the Golden Panthers. "Our senior leaders, do a very good job making sure we stay grounded, we stay focused."

Cristobal is hoping that the first taste of success will have is players looking for more. "Our mentality is to get hungrier," Cristobal said.

Helping FIU get to the top of the Sun Belt has been wide receiver and kick returner T.Y. Hilton, who returns for his senior season.

Hilton, who was the Sun Belt's Player of the Year, was 12th in the country last season with 156.6 all-purpose yards per game. "We are looking forward to great things," Hilton said.


Like McCarney and Cristobal, Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart is trying to reverse the fortunes of a team that had grown accustomed to losing.

The Hilltoppers were 0-12 in 2009 and ended a 22-game losing streak last season, Taggart's first, on their way to a 2-10 record.

"You look at last year and what we were up against, we had to exorcise some demons," Taggart said. "We also needed to work on trust. I think we got through that part. We are not getting emotionally hijacked."