The sporting world is an unforgiving one. It is quick to judge, and considers little else more important than quality production and winning. Perhaps no one has been more aware of this than CU Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre.
MacIntyre is in the middle of his fourth season at the helm of a historic program that had fallen into disrepair.
When he inherited the reins at Folsom Field, the CU community and student body had poured their heart and soul into the basketball team, the Flatirons, the beauty of the campus — anything except their football team. And for good reason.
Over the last decade, Buffs fans have endured seven straight losing seasons, an eight-year bowl drought and a 2.5-win seasonal average. Sports fan or not, those numbers are downright painful.
Midway through the 2016 season, the Buffs have already accrued the same number of wins as years 2012-2014 combined. They are on track to win the Pac-12 Championship and have already guaranteed the first bowl berth in 8 years.
They have not only crept into the College Football Playoff Rankings, but sit snug and comfortable at No. 15. In the more prestigious AP Top 25 Poll, they are slowly slinking upward with each win, and sit at No. 21. But after their 20-10 win against UCLA Thursday night, they might find themselves sitting a little higher.
So what gives? What has returned CU to their rightful position as a legitimate competitor in College football? It’s the guy at the top — MacIntyre — and his never-faltering positivity, patience and I-believe-in-you motivation.
“It’s been a lot of ebb and flow,” says Colorado Athletic Director Rick George. “We kept saying, ‘Stay the course, stay the course,’ because we knew we were making progress.”
Starting with a 4-8 season, then dropping down to 2-10 the following year and going 4-9 last year, it would be easy for Mac to fall into hopeless despair, as many of the coaches did before him. His predecessor, Joe Embree lasted two short seasons with a combined four wins. The team had become the laughing stock of Colorado.
But Mac had been here before. He inherited a terrible San Jose State team in 2010, and took them from a 2-10 record in 2010 to 11-2 in 2012. His ability to turn-around an abysmal program caught the eye of the guys in charge at Colorado, and four years later, here we are.
But the ride has not been easy. Despite the encouraging recruiting classes, the $156 million revamping of their training facilities, despite the chemistry that was evident within the locker room and the genius of MacIntyre, the Buffs found ways to lose.
“We just kept putting one foot in front of the other,” MacIntyre said. “What we’re going through is our fight. We can win the fight. We could have made every excuse in the book as to why we could maybe not make it here, and we didn’t. So let’s go.”
The Buffs have a chance to make history this year. They are on the cusp of greatness, and they can give the seniors who have battled over a long four years something to hang their helmets on. They play Arizona next, but this season rides on a victory against Washington State University November 19.
This team has the ability to make CU great again, and they face the remaining games of the season with their team slogan in mind – “Welcome to the Fight,” but with MacIntyre’s words of wisdom as well:
“These games are gonna be more fun than you’ve had, I promise you, keep enjoying it. Enjoy the whole ride.”