Colorado fired football coach Mike MacIntyre on Sunday, the school announced. His exit comes a day after a blowout home loss to Utah ran a losing streak to six games.
The school has to pay MacIntyre $10.3 million in buyout money, which goes down by whatever he might make as an NFL coach or college head coach, the school says. He’s in line to be one of the year’s most expensive firings, though certainly not the most.
The Buffaloes have thus gotten a little bit of a jump on what’s expected to be a relatively quiet hiring season. With Kansas hiring Les Miles, only one other Power 5 program, Maryland, currently has an open head coaching job. A few others will come open soon, but athletic director Rick George should find this a good time to go looking for a coach.
At Yahoo Sports, early replacement names being bandied about include Utah State’s Matt Wells, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen. Also:
I'm hearing Colorado athletic director Rick George wants a recognizable name with previous head-coaching experience. Possible candidates include Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, former Oregon coach and Chicago Bears... https://t.co/eglXWmqz0G— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) November 18, 2018
Firing MacIntyre ends one of the most down-and-up (but mostly down) coaching tenures of the decade at any Power 5 school.
MacIntyre has been in charge for six seasons, and four of them have not been good.
He took over an obviously rebuilding program before the 2013 season and went 4-8, which was a three-win improvement on predecessor Jon Embree’s last year. The Buffaloes dropped to 2-10 in MacIntyre’s season season, 2014, and didn’t appear to be making much progress when they bounced back to 4-9 in 2015. He’d been the coach for three years and lost big in each.
Everything came together in 2016, when the Buffs went 10-2 before losing big to Washington in the Pac-12 title game and Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. MacIntyre won the Associated Press’ Coach of the Year award. Quarterback Sefo Liufau developed into one of the better QBs in the country, and the future looked bright after his graduation following the season. The Buffs had an impressive, rising backup QB in Steven Montez, and they still had running back Phillip Lindsay, now a Broncos star.
But the team regressed significantly anyway, to 5-7, in 2017. And things haven’t gotten better this year, with a 5-0 start against a bunch of bad teams (Colorado State, Nebraska [at the time], FCS New Hampshire, UCLA) and one decent team (Arizona State) giving way to a five-game losing streak immediately after that. MacIntyre had fallen into the second extended rut of his time in Boulder, and two multi-year droughts is enough to get most coaches fired.
It’s not clear how much it contributed to his ouster, but a domestic violence case involving a Colorado assistant has marred MacIntyre’s tenure.
In late 2016, a woman who had been dating safeties coach Joe Tumpkin accused Tumpkin of abusing her. She notified MacIntyre of her allegations that December. She later sued the head coach, as well as the school’s athletic director, president, and chancellor, alleging they didn’t properly handle her charge against Tumpkin, whom prosecutors would file felony charges against. They’ve since offered Tumpkin a misdemeanor plea deal.
A federal judge dropped MacIntyre and CU’s other staff from the accuser’s civil suit but criticized their handling of the case anyway. CU’s board of regents ordered MacIntyre to pay a $100,000 fine to an anti-domestic violence advocacy group. MacIntyre stayed on the job after that, and the school’s public posture was that the case had been opened and shut.
The school’s unlikely to say anything more about it, and MacIntyre’s departure would not be surprising on strictly football terms. It’s worth noting that the school pushed through his extension almost immediately after disciplining him over the Tumpkin matter.
Colorado hasn’t sustained good play since the 1990s, but it might still offer one of the better available jobs this year.
Nobody since Bill McCartney has had the team in national contention for more than a brief spell. There are reasons for that, though the job still has its benefits.
CU is not a blue-blood and will always have less talent than the Pac-12 South’s historical power, USC, and its neighbor UCLA. The Buffs are close enough to both California and Texas, and they’ve established pipelines in both states. Bringing on former CU receiver (and Orange County native) Darrin Chiaverini a few years ago helped MacIntyre recruit California better. But the school still isn’t exactly a power there or in Texas, where dozens of other programs are also scouring the high school scene for talent.
On another hand, CU has a lot to offer. It can point to a few great years as evidence that a coach can win there, and that proximity to both California and Texas isn’t nothing. It’s right in the backyard of Denver, a tremendous city that plenty of players might want to live near. The Pac-12 South is a winnable division for as long as USC flounders. Even once USC gets it together, there’s nobody else in the division who should be regularly unbeatable.
It might not be a destination job, but it’s better than a lot of gigs, and crazier things have happened than CU finding the right guy for the job and winning a lot. The school just doesn’t think that’s MacIntyre.