This year, you won’t recognize Mike MacIntyre, the Colorado football coach. And someday, maybe the same will be said about the Buffaloes.
MacIntyre, 49, showed up at Pac-12 football media days in July having dropped about 55 pounds since December. So I asked him who got in better shape in the offseason, he or his football team.
“I sure hope my players,” he said with a laugh.
One day late in spring practice, Juda Parker, a CU defensive tackle, saw MacIntyre turn sideways and said, “Wow, coach has lost a lot of weight.”
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Last season, MacIntyre and a brother had to put their parents — including George MacIntyre, 75, coach at Vanderbilt from 1979-85 — into a nursing home, a sobering moment. Then one night a month after the season ended, Mike MacIntyre awoke at 3 a.m. and vowed to get in shape.
“I just kind of had an experience,” MacIntyre says. “It was time to get my act together. So I did.”
He read a book called “Why Diets Fail Us,” began ingesting more nutritious, toxin-burning food, cut off soft drinks and worked out in the early morning. He says he was a nervous eater, joking that it was too easy to come home late at night and gnaw on something junky while worrying about how to stop Marcus Mariota.
Doctors used to tell him he was going to have to take cholesterol medicine. Now he’s so trim, he had his insurance policies redone, going from “baseline to preferred-plus-plus.”
It’s a success story that Buff fans can only hope repeats itself on the field. They were 4-8 a year ago, challenged on both sides of the ball and fighting the battle that faces the downtrodden of the Pac-12: With the recent surge all over the league in facilities and commitment, it’s hard to be upwardly mobile.
“We’ll move up eventually,” MacIntyre said. “I hope it’s this year. Every year you see some people move up, and, so to speak, come out of the woodwork.”
MacIntyre points to the surprise move of Auburn and Missouri to the SEC championship game last year.
“College football is unique in that way,” he contends. “You’re still dealing with a lot of really, really young men that have a lot of maturing to do, so a lot of things can happen.”
The impulse is to wonder whether Colorado has enough playmakers, especially since it lost speed-burning wide receiver Paul Richardson to the Seahawks.
“We have younger guys stepping in, and I think we’re going to be spreading the ball around a little more,” said the leading returning wideout, Nelson Spruce. “I think we can have a more efficient passing game than we did last year.”
Quarterback Sefo Liufau, the Bellarmine High grad, had a modest freshman year, but figures to make strides, assuming he can hold off JC product Jordan Gehrke.
A year ago, the Buffs were last in the Pac-12 in total offense, and their 33.7 third-down-conversion rate was 11th. MacIntyre says his team can progress significantly if it just “makes two more first downs (a game) than before.”
Defensively, Colorado was perhaps even worse in the clutch. Its red-zone defense was statistically No. 6 in the conference, a number based on percentage of scores allowed. But the raw numbers reveal 43 touchdowns surrendered inside the 20, and nobody besides California (35) and Arizona State (30) even hit the 30 mark.
“That definitely has been a point of emphasis,” says Parker. “We’re well aware of the stats, and where we need to strengthen.”
The defense took a hit recently when Jered Bell, who could play both safety and cornerback, tore up a knee for the second straight season.
MacIntyre wears a wristband with the word “Uncommon“ engraved on it. That’s the Buffs’ watchword this year, doing the uncommon thing, going the extra mile, not missing a class or a weight workout.
From four wins, they can glimpse a bowl game, one of their goals. It looks like a tall order, because it means at least three conference victories. But it’s probably not as daunting as losing 55 pounds.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org