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David Ramsey: CU's Mike MacIntyre wants to take Buffs to even greater football heights

July 12, 2017 Updated: July 13, 2017 at 8:01 am
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Mike MacIntyre never stayed on the phone for long.

After resurrecting Colorado’s football program, MacIntyre suddenly found himself a popular call for embattled athletic directors all over our United States.

“I stopped them right on the first call and said this is what we want to do,” MacIntyre said of his frequent conversations with athletic directors.

What MacIntyre wanted to do is stay at CU.  

He could have departed. He could have collected even more than the $16.25 million he will earn over the next five seasons at CU.

MacIntyre, 52, enjoyed and endured two decades of football wandering, coaching eight teams. He says he’s done wandering. He’s making his stand in Boulder, which is a nice place to make a stand.

“I love being in Colorado,” said MacIntyre, who grew up in the Deep South and was in Colorado Springs on Wednesday. “Our family has settled in here. Everyone has been super nice to us.  We’ve moved a lot in our lifetime. I’m excited about Colorado.”

Last season, MacIntyre and the Buffs finished with a 10-4 record and a No. 15 ranking in the coaches poll. The finish was impressive by any standard except Nick Saban’s.

This turnaround was equal parts inspiring and shocking. MacIntyre lifted a program that had become a statewide embarrassment. Before last season’s revival, the Buffs had lost 58 of 69 Pac-12 games, including 33 of their past 36.

It was so bad, and so hopeless, the Buffs were described as “the worst  BCS program in America.”

Who offered this harsh critique?

MacIntyre, when he was being wooed by CU officials in 2012. When CU first called, MacIntyre was completing his transformation of San Jose’s program. In three seasons, he turned a 2-9 team to a 10-2 team.

CU officials kept calling, and MacIntyre kept saying he wasn’t interested. He had just repaired wreckage. Why dive back into another disaster?

But eventually, CU officials won their crusade. MacIntyre turned his eyes from the horrific CU reality of 2012 to the powerful days of the past. He had long admired Bill McCartney, who performed his own CU football resurrection. When McCartney arrived in Boulder in 1982, the Buffs had lost 21 of 28 conference games.

McCartney believed he could will the program back to good days. The Buffs did transform, soaring to 17 winning records in 21 seasons, including a shared national title in 1990.

After MacIntyre moved to Boulder, he became a frequent visitor to McCartney’s home. The two coaches talked about patience.  They talked about how loss could lead to victory.

Mostly, they talked about hope.

Slowly, the hope took shape until the 2016 Buffs season delivered one of the great joys of sport: a surprise.

Nobody could see the good times coming. The 2015 Buffs finished 1-7 in the Pac-12. They lost to the same Hawaii team that was later crushed 58-7 by Air Force. Revival did not appear to be beckoning from the horizon.

On Nov.  26, the day of a win over Utah, MacIntyre and his Buffs were rolling with a 10-2 record and a six-game winning streak.

Alas, the Buffs were crushed (and outscored 79-18) in consecutive season-ending losses to Washington and Oklahoma State. A happy season ended with vicious crash.

Yet in a way, the 2016 crash strengthens the current team. Nobody in the program, MacIntyre said, is proclaiming, “Wow, we had a great year.” The Buffs, and MacIntyre, are not satisfied.

“We can attain more,” said the coach who decided to stay in Colorado.






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