Last night, Coach Dan MacNeill announced his retirement after 23 seasons of serving as the head coach for the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons football team.
“As I mentioned to our players and coaches last night, the intimate family that you gain great relationships with, is something that percolates over time,” said coach MacNeill. “I would say that I took it (retirement) under consideration probably around last spring. Although prior to that, the toll it physically takes in terms of being the head football coach here is always unique to an individual.
“I’ve had a couple of back surgeries and I have been getting some of the symptoms back and staying on your feet on the field and being involved with a physical sport can potentially limit my services and I don’t want my services to be limited at all to our players, because they deserve unlimited service.”
Throughout his career as a head coach for the Red Dragons, MacNeill recorded a 155-85 overall record; and out of his 23-year career at Cortland, his teams made it into the post season 17 times.
Under MacNeill and before joining the Empire 8 Conference in the 2015 season, the Red Dragons won two NJAC titles (2008 and 2012) and also placed first in the conference during the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010 seasons.
MacNeill states that he has had a lot of great memories serving as the head football coach for the Red Dragons.
“That is what being a head football coach is all about,” said MacNeill. “There is a tremendous adventurous drive that rides with you when you are born a Dragon. The grounding commonality about all of these memories and the reason they were all so vibrant and severe in terms of the accomplishments were because of what we (the team) did to get there.”
MacNeill was named NJAC Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2012, and was a finalist for the Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year award after finishing the 2008 season with a 11-2 record and making it to the NCAA quarterfinals.
Then on his first season in the Empire 8 Conference in 2015, MacNeill and his assistants were named the Empire 8 Coaching Staff of the Year after being co-champions of the conference alongside St. John Fisher with a conference record of 6-2 and an overall record of 9-3. The Red Dragons were also Co-Champions of the conference this year (2019) with a conference record of 5-1.
Prior to his coaching career, MacNeill was a 1979 Cortland graduate and a three-year starting linebacker for the Cortland Red Dragons. He also served the team as a captain during his senior year.
MacNeill then began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Port Byron Central High School from 1980 to 1982. After that he became a graduate assistant coach at Ithaca College from 1982 to 1983. Then before coming back to Cortland, he was an assistant coach at Villanova University (a division I program) for a total of 13-years (1984-1996) ; with nine of those years serving as the defensive coordinator.
“Coming into my last season I told our kids that they had to pick out a goal” said MacNeill. “I knew that based on all of the experiences and the places that have served me well in developing who I am; I really just wanted a joyful experience and that is truly what it has been. It has been an amazing joy to be connected with all of those empathies that I have been a part of.”