Philadelphia, PA – It's been more than two decades since the football team at the University of Colorado hoisted its one and only national championship trophy, and the program has struggled to remain relevant ever since.
Under the watchful eye of Bill McCartney, the winningest coach in school history and a recent inductee (class of 2013) into the College Football Hall of Fame, the Buffaloes were kings of the college football world, or at least co-kings, back in 1990 when they shared the crown with Georgia Tech.
Despite a few years of fleeting success since, they've had a difficult time keeping pace with the competition in what most can agree are some of the toughest conferences in NCAA history (Big Eight, Big 12, Pac-12).
McCartney led CU to 10 consecutive winning seasons, three straight Big Eight titles (1989-91) and nine bowl games, but the team has enjoyed sporadic success under four different head coaches since his reign ended back in 1994. Rick Neuheisel followed McCartney to great fanfare, and although he won more than twice as many games as he lost during his four-year run, he couldn't get the team over the proverbial hump and was subsequently replaced by former Northwestern mentor Gary Barnett.
With the Big Eight's morph into the Big 12 a couple of years old at that point, Barnett, a former assistant under McCartney, led the Buffs to three Big 12 Championship Game appearances, winning the title in 2001, but any success he achieved on the field wasn't enough to keep him in charge as allegations of improper behavior resulted in a suspension, and his eventual exit in December of 2005.
Boise State head man Dan Hawkins was arguably the hottest coaching commodity at the time, so he was brought in to restore some semblance of stability, but it wasn't meant to be as Colorado lost significantly more games than it won during his tumultuous five-year tenure.
Jon Embree, a Colorado alum and well-respected former NFL and CU assistant, was entrusted with the task of ushering the Buffs into yet another new era, as the school, along with Utah, joined the former Pac-10, now Pac-12, in time for the 2011 campaign. To say that his two years at the helm were a disaster would be an understatement, as the team went just 4-21, including a program-worst 1-11 in 2012.
Enter Mike MacIntyre, the former head coach at San Jose State who amassed a record of 16-21 in his three years there. While naysayers will say that he appears to be yet another in what has become a frustrating line of ineffective leaders, a closer look shows a guy who took a beleaguered program to unprecedented heights in a relatively short amount of time. The Spartans went 1-12 in 2010, 5-7 in 2011, and an eye-popping 11-2 last season, which included a Military Bowl win over Bowling Green, earning the squad a final BCS ranking of No. 24.
Colorado hasn't posted a winning record since going 7-5 in Barnett's last year (2005), and the team has been to just one bowl game (2007 Independence Bowl) in the last seven seasons. MacIntyre hopes to change all that through a steady diet of relentless recruiting, disciplined play, and character-building, all of which he and CU's countless supporters hope leads to success beyond their wildest expectations.
Having inspired his players to perform at a high level in the past, MacIntyre knows the path to greatness isn't going to be easy.
"We will work tirelessly, we will work correctly, and we will work with passion," he said as his introductory press conference.
Despite the tough road ahead, he also realizes the honeymoon will be short- lived as Buffalo backers everywhere are frothing at the mouth for a winner.
"There is always a sense of urgency. You develop; the word I use instead of patience is perseverance. I think there is a big difference. Perseverance, you're working continuously every day."
While fostering an environment of open competition when it comes to the majority of position battles, MacIntyre had hoped to have senior quarterback Jordan Webb serve as a stabilizing force should the situation call for it, but the veteran signal-caller suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during a practice back in April and is expected to miss the entire 2013 season.
With his system firmly in place, and his first spring game in Boulder now in the books, MacIntyre knows it's important to keep the energy level up as he tries to make his team forget the dismal time it endured last fall.
"We're on the way, but not where we want to be," he said. "Every scrimmage and every practice from the first on, they've had more fun playing, congratulated each other, applauded each other, enjoyed coming out and doing the work. If you enjoy your work, you get better. If you don't enjoy it, you don't ... as you enjoy the process you get better."
Competing in the Pac-12 isn't only about winning the war between the lines, but also out on the recruiting trail, something the Buffs have failed miserably at in recent years. MacIntyre hopes to change all that as he focuses on quality over quantity when eyeing prospective student-athletes.
"It will be first do they want to be at Colorado, and second of all we will start talking football and show them what we can do, what I can do for them and go from there. And we want the right fit now, I can't say that enough, evaluating a person and talent is the key to being successful."