North Texas offensive coordinator Mike Canales, a key figure in the Mean Green’s turnaround season in 2013, will interview for the open head coaching position at Sam Houston State today.
The school announced Monday that Canales is the fifth and final candidate Sam Houston athletic director Bobby Williams will interview over a two-day span ending today.
“The quality of interest in our head coaching position has been impressive,” Williams said in a prepared statement. “We have talked to more than 50 individuals in some form or fashion, an amazing amount given the short time period.”
Former Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler, former Northwest Missouri State head coach Mel Tjeersdma, Virginia offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim and former Texas assistant Darrell Wyatt are the other coaches who will interview for the position.
Sam Houston competes in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, a level below the Football Bowl Subdivision of which UNT is a member.
Canales, 52, joined UNT’s staff in 2010 as the offensive coordinator and was the team’s interim head coach for the final five games of the season after Todd Dodge was fired.
The Mean Green went 2-3 under Canales after posting a 2-16 record in its previous 18 games under Dodge.
Canales interviewed for the opening at UNT after Dodge was fired. UNT hired former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney, who retained Canales as his associate head coach and offensive coordinator.
The Mean Green posted a breakout season offensively under Canales this past season that helped pave the way for a 9-4 finish, including a win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
UNT averaged 31.5 points a game during the regular season, the third-highest total in school history. The Mean Green then posted its top point total in a bowl game in school history, with its 36-14 win over the Rebels.
UNT’s performance marked a dramatic improvement over the 2012 season, when it averaged 20.9 points a game and finished 4-8.
“It’s a credit to our kids,” Canales said of UNT’s improvement in the days leading up to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. “They bought into what we have preached.”
Sam Houston began looking for a new head coach after Willie Fritz left the school in January to take over in the same capacity at Georgia Southern.
Fritz posted a 40-15 record with two Southland Conference titles, three FCS three playoff berths and two national title game appearances in three seasons at the school. Sam Houston finished second in the final FCS poll in both 2011 and 2012.
UNT has already lost one assistant since the end of the season.
Defensive line coach Mike Nelson retired shortly after the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Former South Florida assistant Kevin Patrick has emerged as the leading candidate to become the Mean Green’s next defensive line coach and is expected to be officially announced as the next member of McCarney’s staff in the next few days once he is approved by the school’s compliance department.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.