By Kevin Sweeney
For the second year in a row, an up-and-coming Sun Belt head coach has departed after just one season.
Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports is reporting that North Texas will hire Arkansas State head coach Grant McCasland to the same position. He will replace Tony Benford, who was fired after going 62-95 in 5 seasons with the Mean Green.
The 40-year old McCasland guided the Red Wolves to a 20-12 mark in his only season in Jonesboro, revitalizing a program that hadn’t won 20 games since the 1997-98 season. He also guided his team to a win at Georgetown, one of the biggest upsets of November. Before his tenure at Arkansas State, he was an assistant under Scott Drew at Baylor for 5 seasons and was also a highly successful head coach at the Division 2 and NJCAA levels with Midwestern State and Midland College.
To get a guy like McCasland, well-regarded as a good young coach, seems like a dynamite hire for North Texas. The Mean Green have struggled since joining Conference USA from the Sun Belt before the 2013-14 season. If McCasland can bring the same type of energy and excitement to UNT that he did at ASU, where attendance grew significantly in his short tenure, he will certainly be on the right track toward bringing the Mean Green to C-USA success.
There have been no details of McCasland’s contract released so far. Scout.com reports that he made $350,000 as a base salary at Arkansas St, so he will likely receive at least 500k per season at North Texas, though that is just speculation on my part.
Arkansas State now will look for a new coach for the second offseason in a row. They could look internally to associate head coach Ross Hodge, a highly-regarded recruiter who has also been an assistant at Colorado State and Southern Miss. An internal hire would provide some continuity for a program coming off a strong campaign. However, if they look elsewhere, there will certainly be interest from high-major assistants in the Midwest.