Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre works the sidelines during a game against Oregon in September. MacIntyre is The Associated Press college football Coach of the Year after leading the Buffaloes to a 10-3 record and their first bowl game since 2007. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd, File)

Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre works the sidelines during a game against Oregon in September. MacIntyre is The Associated Press college football Coach of the Year after leading the Buffaloes to a 10-3 record and their first bowl game since 2007. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd, File)

Colorado’s MacIntyre wins AP Coach of the Year

BOULDER, Colo. — Mike MacIntyre has the reputation as a turnaround artist. Give him a program, any program, and he will transform it.

Colorado, though, had the looks of being the sort of program that not even MacIntyre could fix.

After three years that resulted in a grand total of 10 victories, MacIntyre led the 11th-ranked Buffaloes to a 10-win season, a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game and even onto the fringes of the national-title conversation for a week or two. Colorado also will make its first bowl appearance since 2007.

For that, MacIntyre is The Associated Press college football Coach of the Year. He received 109 points and 25 first-place votes from the AP college football poll panel, while Penn State’s James Franklin was second with 98 and 16. Alabama’s Nick Saban was third with 57 and 13.

“We played a lot of young guys and they worked hard and got better,” explained MacIntyre, who became the first Colorado coach to win the award since it began in 1998. “They grew into their talent and kept right on going.”

To comprehend just how far Colorado has come, it’s important to know where the Buffaloes were before MacIntyre arrived. In 2012, they led the nation in games started by true freshmen, got outscored by a 552-214 margin and lost a school-high 11 games that ultimately cost coach Jon Embree his job.

MacIntyre realized he was inheriting a program that had fallen on hard times. But the depths of that decline caught him off guard.

“Overall, to be able to compete, to be in the Pac-12 Championship game, we weren’t very close,” MacIntyre said.

MacIntyre gradually revamped the program — just like he did at San Jose State when he inherited a 2-10 squad and in three seasons turned the Spartans into a double-digit win team.

All he needed was time and a chance to develop his talent. After going 2-25 in conference games over his first three seasons at Colorado, some publications listed him on the hot seat heading into the season.

Now, he’s one of the hottest coaches in the business.

“It’s been remarkable, what’s occurred this season,” said former Colorado coach Gary Barnett, who’s now a radio analyst for Buffs football games. “They’ve acted like they’ve been there before, acted like a mature team that’s used to winning. They have this resiliency to find a way to win, every single game they’ve been in.”

“The Rise” — as Colorado has labeled it — has been no surprise to his players. They bought in from the beginning. Take junior running back Phillip Lindsay. He was recruited by the previous regime and didn’t know if his scholarship would still be honored after suffering a serious knee injury in high school.

MacIntyre visited him and assured Lindsay that one day he would play a role in leading this team back to prominence. Lindsay rushed for 1,189 yards and 16 scores this season. He won’t forget that trust from MacIntyre.

He believed. His teammates believed — even as the Buffaloes struggled.

“Rome wasn’t built in one day. He just needed time to build a program,” Lindsay said. “He’s a big reason we are where we are today.”

And that’s a program trending in the right direction — with big crowds showing up again at Folsom Field. They appeared in their first conference title game — losing 41-10 to No. 4 Washington — since 2005, when they were in the Big 12. They’re also heading to the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State — with a chance to become just the fourth team in school history to win 11 games.

“We’ve been making steps. Some of them were baby steps, but we were moving forward,” said MacIntyre, whose late father, George MacIntyre, was the coach at Vanderbilt from 1979 to 1985. “We weren’t going backward at all.”

This helped, too — upgrades to the athletic facilities, including a new indoor practice field. Recently, MacIntyre took the team over to their old digs, just as a reminder of how far they’ve come.

“Those young freshmen were like, ‘What’s this?’” MacIntyre recounted. “You can’t kick it high, the lights are weird. But this is what it was for us all the time.

“There might be some times we go back down there and do some morning drills like we used to and make them realize how nice we’ve got it.”

MacIntyre’s always been an emotional coach. After a win at Oregon, MacIntyre hugged his son Jay, a sophomore receiver, as he wiped away tears. His players appreciate that side of him.

“A lot of ups and downs, a lot of heartbreaks, a lot of happy times, a lot of crying over the years,” Lindsay said. “We are a figure of him. Now, you’re seeing the final product.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

University of Washington Men's Soccer team plays UCLA at home on September 22, 2019.
Community sports roundup: Bartlow picked 6th in MLS draft

The UW defender and south Snohomish County native was selected by the Houston Dynamo.

Los Angeles Rams pass game coordinator Shane Waldron is seen before the NFL football NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Report: Seahawks to hire Rams’ Waldron as new O-coordinator

The 41-year-old was L.A.’s pass-game coordinator for the past three seasons under coach Sean McVay.

FILE - Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (75) is shown before an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, in this Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, file photo. The Seattle Seahawks said Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, that offensive lineman Chad Wheeler is no longer a member of the team following his arrest last weekend for investigation of domestic violence. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)
Seahawks cut ties with Wheeler after domestic-violence arrest

The offensive lineman, who was set to become a free agent in March, was charged with three felonies.

Seattle Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson greets a player after a soccer training session Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders play Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal round on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Opportunity too good for Cascade High grad to pass up

Former soccer standout Chris Henderson looks forward to new position with Inter Miami

Is Mike Hopkins the right coach for the University of Washington men’s baskethall program’s long-term future? (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
POLL: Is Mike Hopkins the right coach for UW hoops?

The Huskies have seen both tremendous highs and discouraging lows during Hopkins’ four-year tenure.

Left, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) and teammates after the AFC championship NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs won 38-24 (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson). Right, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with his teammates after winning the NFC championship NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Sunday. The Buccaneers defeated the Packers 31-26 (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps).
Old (Brady), young (Mahomes), different Super Bowl 55 awaits

Only 22,000 will be let in the stadium, with vaccinated health-care workers getting 7,500 of the tickets.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Kendall Graveman, left, throws to Houston Astros' Alex Bregman during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, July 27, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Mariners spent offseason building a better bullpen

Seattle added experienced arms to a group that has struggled mightily the past two seasons.

A flag with the new logo for the newly-named Seattle NHL team, the Seattle Kraken, flies atop the iconic Space Needle Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Seattle. The hockey expansion franchise unveiled its nickname Thursday, ending 19 months of speculation about whether the team might lean traditional or go eccentric with the name for the league's 32nd team. Seattle's colors are a deep dark blue with a lighter shade of blue as a complement. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Kraken games to be televised on ROOT Sports

The expansion franchise also hires John Forslund as its new television play-by-play announcer.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) runs with the ball as New York Jets inside linebacker Harvey Langi gives chase during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seahawks position overview: Wide receiver

DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are a winning duo, but Seattle may need more at receiver.

Most Read