The architect of one of the great turnarounds in Tabor College football history is Tim McCarty. After turning the program around, he left Hillsboro to take the head coaching job at East Central Oklahoma University, an NCAA Division II program.
McCarty then tasted what it was like at the Division I level when he was one of the top assistants to then head coach Ron Prince at Kansas State.
This past season, McCarty returned to East Central Oklahoma University as its head coach.
Recently, McCarty was nice enough to respond to some questions I sent to him in an e-mail. Given his coaching experiences in Hillsboro and Manhattan, I thought readers might enjoy hearing his perspective.
Joe: When you came to campus, Tabor football was really down. Why did you take the job?
Tim: It is very hard to become (a head coach) or get a head-coaching job. The job was in an area where I was familiar with, also. I had a base to work out of.
Joe: Your teams at Tabor showed steady progress each year. Was it easier or harder than you thought to turn the program around?
Tim: It was much harder to turn the program than I thought. It was a very humbling experience. I was fortunate to have great administrative help from Larry Nickel and Judy Hiebert.
Joe: To what do you attribute your success in turning Tabor’s football program around?
Tim: I prayed every day that God would bring the right people for me into the program and keep the distractions away from the program. We worked many hours within our program with recruiting and staying on the structure of the foundation that we had built.
Joe: Did you have any regrets in leaving right before Tabor won two championships in football?
Tim: No. We loved Tabor and Hillsboro. We had and have many friends from there. It is always tough to leave a community like that, but getting it turned took a lot of effort.
Joe: Are you surprised at how quickly the program went in the other direction?
Tim: No. It does not take long to let something go by. It is very similar to a home. If you don’t do the little repairs, mow the yard, etc., it can get ugly.
Joe: What are the major differences between coaching at Tabor and East Central and K-State?
Tim: NAIA, (NCAA) D-II, and D-I are all very different. No. 1 one is the money. No. 2 is the support/help. Each level is so completely different with different expectations. You could write a book about the differences. They all have good things and they all have tough issues.
Joe: What was it like coaching at a NCAA D-I program?
Tim: It was a good opportunity. Not a lot of people get those opportunities, so I was very thankful. A positive side was not having to worry about any financial issues within a program. The negative side is never being home with your family. And there is a lot in between.
Joe: Were you disappointed that you didn’t have more time at K-State?
Tim: I had already applied for the job at East Central before any of the changes started. I had many other opportunities to stay at that level. I enjoyed the Lone Star Conference when I was here and had the opportunity and took it.
Joe: How does a coach spend most of his time at the NCAA D-I level?
Tim: Sixty to 70 percent of your time is on recruiting. I enjoyed that part, but I love developing players into great individual people from talent to character.
Joe: What are some lessons you’ve learned during your coaching career?
Tim: After 26 seasons on sidelines and in meeting rooms around the country, I still love being around the players and helping them develop into young professionals. The most important thing is always relationships.
That has not changed for me over time, and I expect it to stay the same through the finish.