KLEE: New CU coach MacIntyre is real deal

PAUL KLEE Updated: December 10, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: December 10, 2012

DENVER • This will be the sales pitch from Colorado as it trumpets Mike MacIntyre as the coaching savior of its football program.

He’s done it before.

He’ll do it again.

Call me a cynic — the climate around Buffs football has that effect on people — but I was more interested in how he did it before.

Plenty of coaches have rebuilt programs. Most were quick-fix projects that had the staying power of a house made of hay. MacIntyre rebuilt San Jose State from 1-12 in his first season to 10-2 and the Military Bowl in his third. Colorado hired him to replace Jon Embree and do it again.

His football magic at San Jose State is staggering, right? Here’s what I find more staggering, and why I am certain MacIntyre is CU’s ideal coach at a less-than-ideal time: He built San Jose State into a winner on the field at the same time he was building SJSU into a winner in the classroom. It was not one without the other.

MacIntyre arrived at San Jose State in 2010. Back then, the football team’s APR scores were so bad, the NCAA took away scholarships. Two years later, San Jose State’s single-year APR score was better than Cal-Berkeley’s and four measly points shy of Stanford’s.

“In the Bay Area, that’s a big deal,” said Liz Jarnigan, who oversees academic support for athletes at San Jose State.

That’s a big deal anywhere. It’s an even bigger deal when a coach manages more wins alongside better eligibility and retention rates.

If it wins its bowl game, San Jose State will set a program record with 11 wins. The Spartans already set a program record with their highest single-year APR score (959).

“He is a family man, a class act. ... You have to forgive me,” Jarnigan said, choking up. “I’m getting a little misty seeing him go.”

CU should cry tears of joy it whiffed on Butch Jones. Mike Mac’s the Man.

Let’s be real. Straight ‘A’s in the classroom don’t equal straight ‘W’s on the field. We’re not looking for Rhodes scholars; we’re looking for running backs. Some of the biggest winners in the college game couldn’t tell the difference between a library and a lavatory.

But CU needed a coach who embraces all areas of the process. It needed one who knows the value of in-state and West Coast recruiting (“I look at California as in-state,” MacIntyre said), a defensive-minded coach who can properly scheme against Oregon and Stanford and USC, a sharp speaker who can inspire donors and reinvigorate a cynical fan base, a thinker who embraces academics.

“It’s more than X’s and O’s,” MacIntyre said. “It’s more than the weight room.”

“He’s a proven recruiter, leader and a teacher who knows how to execute a plan,” athletic director Mike Bohn added.

MacIntyre aced his introductory press conference Monday. So did CU, because the administration handed the microphone over to MacIntyre before it could dig another hole.

That’s step one. Step two is roughly the same: Put MacIntyre and basketball coach Tad Boyle front and center on the Buffs stage. Let them do their thing. It will be done right.

Everyone else: Exit stage right, please. The problems in Boulder surface when the backseat drivers take the wheel, when there are too many special interests to appease.

Mike Mac could be the second coming of Coach Mac — the Bill McCartney who built a football power on strong morals, not the one who hollered racism when there was none.

But Mike Mac won’t win recruits in the living room or games at Folsom Field without gung-ho support from the administration.

MacIntyre and Boyle are the real deal. You don’t worry about these coaches losing games, you worry about losing them to another program. CU won’t be Boyle’s last job.

And CU won’t be MacIntyre’s first rebuilding job.

He’s done it before.

He’ll do it again.

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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