BOULDER – Mike MacIntyre’s most recent and best-known rebuild was done in northern California. His mannerisms, a bit of his accent and his football roots are steeped in the South, where he watched his father, George, transform forlorn football programs at the University of Tennessee-Martin and Vanderbilt University.
The younger MacIntyre is taking on the same challenge – perhaps even a more difficult one – at the University of Colorado. He was introduced Monday as the Buffaloes’ 25th head coach after signing a five-year contract that CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn said will pay MacIntyre $2 million annually.
His contract also includes a facilities improvement timeline similar to the clause in former men’s basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik’s pact that led to the construction of the basketball/volleyball facility adjacent to the Coors Events Center.
MacIntyre’s $400,000 buyout clause at San Jose State will be picked up by CU, which also has committed $2.6 million in salary for his staff. Bohn also said MacIntyre will receive additional recruiting and academic support for his players.
Addressing a late-afternoon press conference in the Byron R. White Stadium Club at Folsom Field, Bohn said in MacIntyre, 47, the school has “hired a football coach we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with . . . this is an exciting day for us.”
It was a whirlwind day for MacIntyre, who was approached by CU, presented a weekend offer and accepted before first setting foot on the Boulder campus. He arrived in Colorado at mid-afternoon Monday, met with CU President Bruce Benson, Chancellor Phil DiStefano and Bohn, then addressed his new team for about 35 minutes prior to the press conference.
“He came in confident, told us what he’s going to do, why and how,” said junior offensive lineman Alex Lewis. “For everything he tells us, he’s going to have a reason to back it up.”
Lewis said MacIntyre, whose resume features a combined 22 years of NFL and college experience, emphasized “four F’s – family, future, football and foundation. And he said it starts with the foundation, being in mind, body and soul.
“I like the guy a lot. I like his confidence and his demeanor. He’s a very proud guy and he knows what he’s talking about. He’s going to tell you straight and be honest with you. I like that – and I think that’s the impression all of my teammates got. I think the whole team left the room a lot happier. We’re excited to see him.”
MacIntyre shared their excitement. “This is a great place to be, a great opportunity . . . I think we can be a top Pac-12 program and the future is bright here,” he said. “It’s exciting; I can’t tell you how excited I am. Colorado has been down for a minute. It’s my job to help bring it back . . . and I’m excited about having the opportunity to do that.”
He described his rebuild at downtrodden San Jose State, which had experienced only three winning seasons in the past 20, as “probably similar” to what he faces at CU, which this fall suffered a school-record seventh consecutive losing season (1-11).
“When we got to San Jose State we were in an APR (Academic Progress Rate) penalty and had 75 scholarships,” he said. “I’ve got 85 scholarships here. I’ve got a full amount of practice time, which I didn’t have in my first spring there. So on those two things – they were big-time negatives. We’d only had 85 scholarships for two years in the whole history of the school. Here, I’m not hurt numbers wise for practice and for our first year.”
The Spartans were 1-12 in 2010, 5-7 in 2011 and 10-2 this season. With or without MacIntyre, they will compete in the Military Bowl in Dec. 27 in Washington’s RFK Stadium against Bowling Green. He said his postseason participation hinges on CU’s plans for him between now and then, likely with the priority on being in Boulder.
Before his press conference, gazing out on Folsom Field for the first time with its backdrop of the Rockies, MacIntyre spoke of his father’s influence on him as a man and a football coach.
“I saw how he treated people, how he worked with people, how he turned around two programs that were downtrodden when he went to UT-Martin – they had only won four games in the previous four years – and when he went to Vanderbilt – they had not won an SEC game in six years . . . three years later, he’s SEC coach of the year. I’ve learned a lot from watching him as a young man,” MacIntyre said.
Also influencing him were current Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who headed up the Mississippi program and had MacIntyre as an assistant there as well as Duke, and former NFL coach Bill Parcells.
Said MacIntyre of his time with Parcells: “It was like getting my PhD in coaching. If you can imagine sitting at the feet of Bill Parcels every day . . . I would work with him on practice schedules, that was one of my jobs. I learned a tremendous amount from him, especially evaluating talent and practice organization.”
MacIntyre obviously made as big an impression on Cutcliffe as Cutcliffe did on him. Cutcliffe congratulated MacIntyre and his family and said CU “has hired an excellent coach and an even finer man. Obviously our history together runs deep, and I couldn’t be happier for him, Trisha and their children. Plain and simple, Coach MacIntyre knows how to coach the game of football. It’s in his blood.
“He understands the importance of the well-rounded student-athlete as well as the football program’s place in the community. His success in three years at San Jose State is well-documented and his work as an assistant coach on both the collegiate and professional levels speaks for itself. But on top of all of his coaching excellence – and there is a great deal of that – Coach MacIntyre is a tremendous person.”
And apparently not a bad recruiter. He lured and landed former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning, now with the New York Giants, as well as former Rebels linebacker Patrick Willis, now with the San Francisco 49ers.
Manning also vouched for MacIntyre’s coaching abilities as well as his character, adding, “He recruited me to Ole Miss with a little help from my mother and father, and I was fortunate enough to work with him on both sides of the ball. He coached our wide receivers my freshman year, so I worked closely with him on our passing game, and then for the next two years I got to throw against his secondary every day in practice when he coached the defensive backs, which was invaluable in my preparation. He’s a great coach and a great recruiter, and he will not be outworked. I wish Mike all the best at CU.”
MacIntyre’s offense at CU might lack an Eli Manning, but he plans on utilizing the pistol with a “downhill” running game, play-action and quick throws and multi-personnel groups that “will keep everyone happy.” Defensively, expect a 4-2-5 scheme similar to what TCU has successfully employed.
When he was hired at San Jose State, MacIntyre arrived with a master plan for a turnaround. It focused on upgrading recruiting as well as making the Spartans a more physical team. He plans to keep CU’s recruiting focused in-state while highlighting California – he considers California “in-state” – and talent-rich Texas.
His master plan for CU will be no less thorough, “but as I get my feet wet here I’ll tweak it more,” he said. “But I have a 90-day plan and I’ll start attacking it (Monday) to get us going and running. That gets everything in place. I know exactly what I want to do and how I want to do it. The problem is when you first start you’re doing about 20 of those things at once.”
His plan for his first 30 days on the CU job include individual player meetings starting on Wednesday, hiring a staff, contacting all of CU’s 2013 commitments, evaluating the Buffs’ depth, meeting with the strength and conditioning staff, the training staff and academic support staff.
By Jan. 14, when players return for the start of the spring semester, he wants to have an idea of his players’ academic standing and their availability for spring practice. “I’ll have a plan set on Jan. 14 and know how to attack it per kid,” he said. “It’s all individualized . . . the challenge starts with the young men here, making sure they grow as people and athletes. You’re building a program, not a team. That’s what you have to realize. There’s a big difference. You’ve got to recruit. You’ve got to get young men in here who are good enough athletes to win in the Pac-12 who are also good enough students to graduate from (CU) and make this place proud.”
MacIntyre will interview assistant coaches from former coach Jon Embree’s staff, but his first look at filling his staff will go to his San Jose State assistants. If they are interested in joining him in Boulder, he said he hopes to bring both of his coordinators – offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren and defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Kent Baer.
He also said “there are other people out there, but first and foremost, it’s the guys at San Jose State who want to come. They’ve been very successful and understand what we want to do . . . we can kind of hit it running.”
MacIntyre also expects his new players to follow at a quick pace. In his 30-plus minute address to them Monday, he advised them to “do well on exams, don’t do a double negative – just because you’re down a little on what happened, I’m here to help you move forward. Make sure you do well on exams, finish your papers so when you come back in January we’re ready to roll and focused on what we want to do to become the team we want to be. It’s a process – and I explained to them what the process was. They listened intently and I’m excited about working with them.”
As for salvaging CU’s 2013 recruiting class, he plans on making contact with those prospects and evaluating what roles they are expected to fill in relation to the Buffs’ needs. In recruiting and all other facets of his new job, he plans to instill his slogan of “No excuses, no regrets . . . find a way. If you can’t do it that way, we have to find another way to be successful. I think I’ll find those as I go through and everyone will work together and we’ll find options that give us the chance to be successful.
“I do not know all of the different situations. Every school has different situations. Even the schools you see right now in the Top 25, they have issues, too. You work through everything and you find a way to be successful.”
In MacIntyre’s San Jose State debut, the Spartans played at Alabama – and lost 48-3. But he found a silver lining: “They played harder in the fourth quarter than they did in the third quarter.”
Two seasons later, San Jose State was playing even harder and with better players. The challenge he accepted on Monday is to make it happen again at a school just as hungry for success.