CU can’t afford to miss on its next head football coach

Oct 4, 2014; Boulder, CO, USA; General view of a Colorado Buffaloes mascot statue before the game against the Oregon State Beavers at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Les Miles. Head Coach.

Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Too bad that ring’s already rung.

In Lawrence, Kansas.

Not in Boulder, Colorado.

While the University of Kansas was proudly announcing the hiring of its new head football coach, the University of Colorado was fumbling and bumbling, fielding then deflecting rumors that were – as it turns out – anything but.

When those who follow the Buffs woke up on Tuesday morning, they were learning that Mike MacIntyre wouldn’t be CU’s football coach much longer. Someone leaked the story; it was out there for all to see. But instead of owning up to what was ultimately the case, athletic director Rick George failed to confirm what he surely knew was true.

“We do not comment on speculation or unsubstantiated rumors with anonymous sources,” George offered in a press release. “Let me just say I have made no decisions regarding the future of the football program.

“As I’ve stated in the past, we continually evaluate all aspects of all of our 17 intercollegiate sport programs.”

MacIntyre didn’t exactly shed light on the matter, either, instead bringing a painting of a buffalo in the snow to his press conference and wowing the press with facts of nature. A snow-covered Folsom Field on Saturday afternoon – just in time for the Buffs’ sixth loss of the season – provide for an ironic backdrop to what was ultimately the nail in MacIntyre’ coffin.

All of it, pomp and circumstance. A lot of hot air, saved for a cold day.

Then on Sunday, it all became official anyway.

The official press release stated: “George met with MacIntyre on Sunday morning to inform him of his decision, one day after the Buffaloes suffered their sixth straight loss, falling 30-7 to Utah in the home finale at Folsom Field. George then met briefly with the coaching staff and then the players in a late morning team meeting.

“George will name an interim head coach for the final game of the regular season, which is this Saturday against California in Berkeley; the Buffs with a 5-6 record, would become bowl-eligible with a victory.”

Is anyone wondering what exactly the Buffs were (are) doing?

This isn’t about whether or not MacIntyre should or shouldn’t be the coach going forward – he probably shouldn’t be. That’s not to say that “Mac” hasn’t done any good in Boulder – he absolutely did. But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t fast enough or consistent enough. Since the beginning, many speculated that he was a dead man walking – “Every A.D. wants his own head football coach,” the skeptics said.

Which made it all the more peculiar when he signed a lucrative extension after a subpar 2017 season. That one signature makes MacIntyre a rich man; it makes George just a little lighter in the pocketbook as he searches for CU’s next head coach.

Speaking of that – and getting back to Miles – wouldn’t that have made some sense in Boulder? Miles has a history with the program. Miles has had success as head coach already. Miles is a big, recognizable name – one that donors and fans and recruits would have all rallied behind.

But Miles is a Jayhawk, as of, oh, about a half a day ago.

Kind of makes you wonder what could have been if everyone would have just come clean a week ago and just gone ahead and severed ties with MacIntyre, doesn’t it?

There’s no way of ever telling if Miles would have ended up at CU. There’s no way of knowing how long the conversations with Kansas had been brewing. But it sure seems like it would be hard to hire a new head coach when you’re pretending to not fire the one you’re about to fire.

Oh, and also: Kansas versus Colorado. Is there really any comparison at all? It’s difficult to imagine that any football coach would choose Lawrence over Boulder, a dying conference over a thriving one, a basketball school over tradition.

Now the list of candidates is too long – and probably too inaccurate – to mention just yet. One name that jumps out, though, is Eric Bieniemy. As great a Buff as Bieniemy was, hasn’t CU been down this path once before? It wasn’t that long ago, and if memory serves, it was an utter disaster. While it’s true Bieniemy wasn’t handed the reins as the head coach, the concept of bringing back the glory days (again) feels out of date.

Whoever George hires to be the head coach of the Buffs needs to make a splash. The name had better excite people, and the pedigree had better win and win fast.

If the next coach in Boulder is or does none of those things, Folsom will look like it did on Saturday – cold and empty – for a long, long time.

Buffaloes may very well walk into a storm. But when it storms in Boulder, their fans will just walk away.

Can you blame them?

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