This story originally appeared in Mile High Sports Magazine. Read the full digital edition.

Mike MacIntyre can feel it.

Colorado football is one of the cool kids again.

The Buffaloes head coach sounds a little bit relieved.

No longer will he lose recruits due to sniping about, well, losing.

“Just think about it. You’re a high school student, you’re 17 years old, you’re walking down the hallway, you’ve got all your buddies on your team and two years ago you say, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about going to Colorado.’ Most of the people in that hall would go, ‘Why do you want to go to Colorado? You’ve got to go somewhere else,’” MacIntyre explains by phone from Boulder on a chilly Friday morning in December. “Now in the same hallways, they go, ‘Man, you’ve got to go to Colorado!’ That’s what has changed and could never change until we won. And now it’s changed itself with the stuff that I can’t see and hear. We’re winning and we’re going to keep winning. That’s exciting for young men and their parents and friends. It’s the cool place to go now.”

MacIntyre is the Mile High Sports Coach of the Year for a number of reasons. But first and foremost, the record and ranking speak for themselves.

After winning just 10 games combined in his first three years as Colorado’s head coach, Mac and the Buffs are fresh off a 10-3 season and an invite to the Alamo Bowl. The team peaked as high as No. 8 in the College Football Playoff Rankings and sat at No. 10 after the dust had settled in conference championship games. They ended the season at No. 17 in the AP Poll and No. 15 in the Coaches Poll.

The hardware began rolling in for MacIntyre in early December and it hasn’t stopped.

MacIntyre was named The Home Depot Coach of the Year, the Walter Camp Coach of the Year, the Pac-12 Conference Coach of the Year, the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) National Coach of the Year. For that last award, he was only competing with the likes of Alabama’s Nick Saban. Not bad company.

If someone had told Mac back in August this was all going to happen, would he have thought they were crazy?

“I definitely thought our football team would be good enough to compete for a Pac-12 championship and I think everyone thought I was crazy when I was saying that,” MacIntyre says with a laugh. “Now did I think I would personally get all these accolades? No, I didn’t. But did I think our team would be good enough and where we are? Yes.”

MacIntyre took a gamble on his team being as good as he thought they were going to be.

“The Rise is Real” has been the Buffs’ saying this season, and it certainly proved to be real. But Mac was so confident it was going to happen, he allowed the whole process to be documented by a team of highly skilled cameramen, who turned behind-the-scenes action throughout the season into a reality show, aptly named “The Rise.”

The series has been a huge hit both on the Pac-12 Network and on YouTube, with some of MacIntyre’s pregame and postgame speeches providing bone-chilling moments. It’s the kind of thing a high school sophomore or junior watches and says, “I want to play for that guy.” A majority of episodes ending in big CU wins doesn’t hurt, either. Hence why MacIntyre’s gamble to pull the curtain back on his program was genius.

“[Agreeing to the show] was definitely a risk at the time if the season didn’t go our way, but I wanted everyone to know who we are, what we’re about and be able to chronicle the seniors and this team as they tried to win the Pac-12. I didn’t know it would be that dramatic, but it is now,” MacIntyre says.

All six episodes are worth your time. They’re 23-minute journeys that reveal the how and why of Colorado’s exhilarating turnaround, engineered by MacIntyre. It probably wasn’t the plan for him to be the star, but he’s a natural fit. He’s a tremendous motivator who believed in his team when no one else really did.

That belief went a long way. Colorado had four signature wins on the season, including road triumphs at Oregon and Stanford, plus incredible back-to-back home wins in late November against No. 22 Washington State and No. 22 Utah. Lucky No. 22, apparently.

After both victories, CU students, alumni and general fans of the program poured onto the Folsom Field playing surface. It’s not often in two consecutive weeks a starved-for-success fan base gets to storm the field. The win against the Utes wrapped up the Pac-12 South and secured Colorado a spot in the conference championship game.

Even though the trip to Levi’s Stadium didn’t end well for Mac and the Buffs against No. 4 Washington, the coach has allowed himself to reflect on what a special season it was, including those last two home wins when Folsom rocked like it hasn’t rocked in a long time.

“I took a few minutes on the airplane flying back from Atlanta (after accepting the Home Depot COTY award), kind of reminiscing over the season. I kind of took a deep breath and realized what everybody’s accomplished. It was so special to know where we came from and then to see the excitement on all the fans’ faces and our players’ faces,” MacIntyre says.

All this success, of course, has led to rumors about his future; CU and MacIntyre have aggressively denied them. He’s adamant he’s not looking for another head coaching gig. In fact, he says, all of this is a little ironic.

“That’s just the beast of our business. Preseason everyone was saying I was going to get fired – three months later everyone says I’m leaving. That’s just the world we live in as a head coach and there’s nothing you can do about it. Because anybody can tweet something and all of the sudden that’s just news,” MacIntyre says.

Just like Mac can’t control the 17-year-olds in the hallways, he can’t control that unfortunate part of the business, either.

The good news is the discussion about CU football is now overwhelmingly positive.

The program is cool again.

Mike MacIntyre is the chief reason why.