CU’s head football coach since late 2012, Mike MacIntyre won nearly every major college Coach of the Year award for the Buffs’ 2016 performance, including the Associated Press and Walter Camp awards. Here he reflects on the season and offers a glimpse of his life away from Folsom Field.
Can you pick one moment that stands out as the best/most memorable of the season for you?
That’s not a fair question! There were so many. I would say the most memorable one moment, at the time, when it happened, was Ahkello Witherspoon’s (EBio’17) interception against Oregon. In the end zone. To seal the game.
What was it like having Folsom Field full at the end of the season, including the first sellout since 2008 for the finale against Utah?
The last two games against Washington State and Utah, the best word I could use is ‘magical.’ Our stadium is so tight, it’s so loud. We had some recruits that came that said they felt like they were in a basketball arena because it’s just so loud down there. It was special. It was really special for our players, to see the look in their eyes and understand what was going on. People rushing the field was really special for our guys.
What’s your strategy when people rush the field?
Get out of the way as fast as I can.
Despite the outcome, how important was it to get to a bowl game for the program?
It was very important to get to the first bowl game, but the thing I love about our kids is that when we got bowl eligible, they weren’t thinking about the bowl, they were thinking about the Pac-12 Championship. Besides us on the team, and some people close, I don’t think anybody else was thinking that. I think they were thinking, ‘Wow, they made it to a bowl. That’s awesome.’ And our guys were like, ‘Yes, but that’s not where we’re headed. We want to get to the Pac-12 Championship game and we want to win the Pac-12 South.’
Is there anything you’d do differently, as a coach, in hopes of changing the outcome of the final two games?
We built this program over the last four years. We’ve made incremental starts and then we made a big jump. The way everybody sees it, it all happened all of a sudden. Well, no, it didn’t. It was built, built, built, built and then we made it. Of course, there’s different things looking back you can say you’d like to change, but we played two top-10 teams, played them in a big atmosphere. Now you’ve got to be a little more intense, execute a little better. When we get there next year, we’ll be ready for that.
The expectations will change heading into the 2017 season. How do you address that with the players?
Expectations are good. How you prepare on a daily basis to realize it’s the hard work is what helps you reach those expectations. We’ll probably be ranked going into next year, I would think, and so everyone is going to say, ‘Y’all have arrived.’ No, we go back to ground zero and start working again.
How do you fill Sefo Liufau’s shoes as a leader and as a quarterback next season?
It’ll be hard to do. I feel like we have some excellent quarterbacks here that are very talented and that can definitely do it talent-wise. The situation is, are they going to be able to do it day-in, day-out with the same positive attitude Sefo always had? Even when people were not positive with him, he was positive. How he still believed in his teammates and his teammates believed in him. How he always battled. I believe we have the guys that can do that.
If it’s not at quarterback, what is the biggest hole you have to fill next year?
Secondary-wise, that’s such a make-or-break position back there.
Is there a group that you’re not worried about?
I think we have an excellent receiving corps coming back. They’ve got to keep working hard.
What do you think helped your recruiting efforts more, the new facilities or the winning season?
We had a lot of kids committed before the season started, but the season solidified it. It really goes hand-in-hand. They saw our facilities, they saw our commitment to being successful and our coaches worked extremely hard, everybody in our recruiting area and then as the season went on they saw that it really was happening.
Did the coach of the year awards help you on the recruiting trail too?
Yes, [the recruits] did notice that. That’s a credit to our program again. It’s good any time that we can get on television, in the paper, on Twitter, on the internet, on blogs that are positive that those kids end up seeing. So definitely I believe it helped us.
Do you know how many coach of the year awards you won?
No I don’t. [For the record, it was 11]
What do the coach of the year awards mean to you personally?
It’s always an honor in whatever your field is to be honored by your peers or people that are observing it. But at the same time, it is extremely humbling because of all the people that work at our university, from the president, the chancellor, the AD, to all our auxiliary help here that put hours and hours in unnoticed, and then our players and our assistant coaches and how hard they work and they did it. I’m really receiving the honor on their part. You’re only as successful as the people around you.
What was it like to be a part of ESPN’s championship broadcast Jan. 9?
It was kind of chaotic. It was fun to hear the perspective of the other coaches and watch it that way, but it was long. I was wishing I could go climb on my couch and take a nap.
What does it mean for the program?
It’s more exposure. That was the reason I went. It’s good to get our name out there. Kids saw it, parents saw it. Any chance I can get to get our CU logo, our CU name out there, our brand, I will take advantage of it. It was great. I think I got on one of their commercials in the cafeteria. … No, I’m teasing! I said, “I need to get in one of y’all’s commercials, just let me be in the background.”
Do you like the current playoff structure for college football? Would you like to see more teams included in the playoff or a requirement to win a conference championship?
I would like to see more teams included. Now, I have to preface that correctly: I still want them to use the bowls. Here’s what I believe, if you win your conference championship in the Power Five, if they have a championship game, you should go. Just like they do in NCAA basketball, then you have three other spots to pick.
Do you think your team was punished for the Pac-12 Championship?
Since we lost? Yes. If they would have stopped at the end of the season, we would have been in the Rose Bowl. We didn’t play well enough, we lost, but yes. That’s the truth.
What is your favorite running route in Boulder?
Wow. I enjoy running down Boulder Creek because that’s the place I can go to the most. … It’s funny, people used to try to run over me on their bicycles and now they wave at me and say, “Hi,” since we’ve been winning.
How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Are you talking about straight through? Most of the time I’m waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning. … Spring break, I sleep good. Everybody’s in school, we can’t recruit, I go to the beach, hang out, get tired and sleep. I don’t even set my alarm clock. The other good thing is my cell phone doesn’t work too good down there [Amelia Island, Florida] either.
If you weren’t coaching college football, what would you be doing instead?
Coaching college basketball. I love basketball.
Condensed and edited by Jennifer Osieczanek
Photos courtesy CU Athletics