WESTMINSTER If Bill McCartney were the football coach at Colorado today, he would never make it.

Nevermind the 93 wins, the most in CU football history; three Big 8 titles, nine bowl games and the jewel of the Buffs trophy case, the 1990 national championship.

Nevermind that McCartney this week was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

If Coach Mac were coaching the Buffs today, he would never make it. He would never be allowed to make it. The moment Coach Mac took the microphone and shouted his beliefs from his football pulpit, he would be condemned in the court of public opinion.

How do I know?

More than a coach, McCartney was an activist and a leader, unafraid to let his voice be heard. That was true in the Buffs locker room or on the stage at Promise Keepers.

Coach Mac never got the memo that sports figures are supposed to be cookie-cutter robots without opinions or personal beliefs.

In one afternoon around McCartney, I learned nothing's changed. Asked for the low point in his CU career, Coach Mac fired a shot heard from Boulder to Fort Collins.

'Losing to CSU, ' he said.

'This will sound wrong, but we never lost a kid to them in recruiting. ... So if you're not losing off the field, you shouldn't lose on the field, ' said McCartney, the Buffs coach from 1982-94. 'We only lost to them once (in 1986). That was easily the lowest point of my coaching at Colorado.

'I'm sure that will read well. I'm sure I'm making lots of friends. '

Making friends was never Coach Mac's mission. Sticking to what he believed in was.

'There's a verse in the Bible that says, 'Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, ' he said.

If Coach Mac were coaching the Buffs today, he would never be allowed to make it.

How do I know?

In one timely example, McCartney had and still has the same beliefs as Chris Broussard. Look what happened when Broussard, an ESPN analyst, opened his mouth and said what he actually thinks, instead of the PC version.

Soon after Broussard said he believes homosexuality is a sin, he was labeled a bigot. Critics wanted him fired.

Mac's platform was larger with a broader reach. As the coach at CU, he once denounced homosexuality.

If McCartney were coaching the Buffs today, he wouldn't be allowed to make it.

I asked him that question: If you were still coaching at Colorado, would you be able to take the same, public stance on social issues today, like you did then?

'I think you have to pick and choose your times and your words. I think you need to be real sensitive and careful about the things you weigh in on, ' McCartney told me. 'I would recommend that no one speak off the top. They need to consider very carefully what they're going to say before they say it. '

That's the funny thing about the new definition of tolerance: Another person's belief absolutely, positively must be tolerated . unless it clashes with your own.

Then it's OK to shred their credibility, attack their character and call them nasty names.

'Times have changed, ' McCartney said.

Whether or not I agree with Coach Mac's beliefs is irrelevant. Some I do, some I don't.

I'm simply trying to figure out why tolerance became a one-way street.

At 72, Coach Mac is still doing what he has always done best, recruiting for the Buffs. He still is the most dynamic salesman CU athletics has ever seen.

He still communicates passionately, with his hands as much as his mouth, knocking a recorder from the hands of a reporter while shouting a dissertation on his favorite city.

'There's nowhere else like Boulder, ' he said. 'It's alive; it's dynamic. '

Like many Coloradans, I was stunned and confused when McCartney suddenly resigned after the 1994 season. CU was coming off a win against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The Buffs finished 11-1, the program still on a roll.

Coach Mac quit coaching football because he felt the game was hurting his role as a husband.

'I saw pain and contempt (in his wife's face), ' he said Tuesday. 'I saw anguish. '

Lyndi McCartney passed away in March. They were married 50 years.

'I've been very sad, very sad, ' he said. 'I can't let go of her. '

Maybe there was another reason he quit college football, too. Maybe Coach Mac knew the hypocrisy that was coming, that tolerance soon would become a convenience, only to be applied when it fits the agenda.

Thank goodness Coach Mac retired when he did.

I don't want to see how he would have been treated.


Paul Klee is the Denver sports columnist for The Gazette. Reach him via email (paul.klee@gazette.com) or on Twitter (@Klee_Gazette).