After weeks of speculation about his future and less than two weeks removed from suggesting he could be here another 15 years, San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre has changed his tune and has been announced as the new coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
Realistically, it should come as no surprise. After having lifted San Jose State off its proverbial deathbed and leading it to its third bowl appearance in a quarter-century, Mac was a hot coaching prospect on a national level. Despite coming off one of the worst seasons a BCS-conference program has had in recent memory, Colorado will provide the sort of luxuries that San Jose State simply can’t: much better facilities, steeper fan and alumni support, competition in a BCS conference and most importantly, money.
I have yet to hear a verified amount in regards to the pay raise MacIntyre is about to receive, but it’s not unreasonable to think that his salary just quadrupled. Also, considering the rebuilding task at hand in Boulder—they are coming off a one-win season in which they lost to lowly in-state rival Colorado State and followed that up a week later with another loss to FCS-school Sacramento State—MacIntyre seems to be the perfect man for the job.
Still, many San Jose State fans are left seething today, as they not only worry about the direction of their program but also reflect on all the indications MacIntyre made recently that he wasn’t looking to pounce on the first job offer he receieved.
When Coach Mac made that 15-year suggestion, I wasn’t naïve enough to think we’d see that term reach maturity. Nor do I think most SJSU fans were. We know how it works at mid-majors, and almost every team that was ranked this season that didn’t come from an AQ conference (Kent State, Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech) has already lost its coach to higher profile jobs.
But I also didn’t think he’d make such a bold proclamation and bust out of town roughly a fortnight later, especially after all of his talk about his family loving San Jose, not wanting to uproot his school-age sons and coming to San Jose “not to build a team, but a program.”
Mercury News beat writer Jimmy Durkin reported that MacIntyre scheduled a meeting for his team early this morning, and afterwards spoke with senior defensive end Travis Johnson, who said MacIntyre only told the team that there was “an offer on the table.” Johnson also said MacIntyre explained how much the offer would help his family, but that he hadn’t yet accepted.
Judging by early reports after that meeting, the fact that the players weren’t told who the offer came from, and subsequent tweets from San Jose State players, it appears that MacIntyre left the meeting with his status in limbo and without officially saying goodbye. Considering Colorado announced the hiring at a 3 pm press conference, it’s clear MacIntyre left campus this morning certain of what his future had in store.
While it’s a bitter pill to swallow after having seen MacIntyre otherwise operate these past three years with great integrity, his exit shouldn’t completely tarnish his short legacy at San Jose State. As I’ve touched on several times here in the past few weeks, Coach Mac has done wonders for this program. If you would have told me after the 2009 season that we’d get our next coach for only three years, but he would depart after a double-digit win season and a Mountain West Conference birth, I would have taken that in a heartbeat.
The immediate question is simple: who will coach the team in the Military Bowl? Having MacIntyre stick around to coach the bowl, should he desire, wouldn’t seem as far-fetched as it would other places, such as Bret Bielema’s un-obliged request to coach Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl despite taking the Arkansas job.
I’m guessing Mac wants to hit the recruiting trail immediately, so it’s probably more likely that an assistant coach will take on the head coaching duties for that game. Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, who interviewed for the Idaho head vacancy before it went to Paul Petrino, could be a candidate. There’s also defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who served as Notre Dame’s interim coach for the 2004 Insight Bowl after Tyrone Willingham was fired.
Also of utmost importance is the effect this will have on recruiting. MacIntyre is known as a relentless recruiter and a keen talent evaluator, and much of his success at SJSU was due to him bringing in the kind of talent the program has rarely seen. Scout.com lists ten verbal commitments for the Spartans so far, and you have to wonder how many of them are starting to waver on their choice.
On top of that, while most of the commits aren’t (for lack of a better term) Pac-12 rated players, given how downtrodden Colorado is, they could be among the best talent MacIntyre will be able to find this offseason. The most recent verbal commit, receiver Delvon Hardaway, actually chose San Jose State despite having an offer from Colorado, according to Scout. Would MacIntyre take his players with him to Boulder? Will he take his coaching staff with him, leaving the team to start over from scratch not from a coaching standpoint but in terms of scheme as well?
San Jose State football is truly at a crossroads. Will they build off the momentum of arguably the best season in school history and bring in another quality coach who can keep the team on a winning track? Or will the program be unable to recover from MacIntyre’s departure and 2012 winds up being a lone bright spot amongst otherwise dark times in Sparta?
One positive is that SJSU has the right man in charge of finding the replacement. Athletic director Gene Bleymaier oversaw plenty of turnover in his time at Boise State, and each of the last three coaches the Broncos have had (all Bleymaier hires) have had a better winning percentage than their predecessor.
In fact, in a small twist of irony, the last time Bleymaier had to replace a coach was in 2006, when Dan Hawkins left for—that’s right—Colorado. While his best contribution during his tenure there was a suggestion that his players “go play intramurals, brother,” the man Bleymaier tabbed to replace him is one of the hottest coaching prospects in college football, year after year–Chris Petersen.
Hopefully he can pull that sort of rabbit out of his hat here in San Jose.