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National and Big Eight Recap – “Salesman Bill” McCartney

// Sep 1 - 1983

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National and Big Eight recap – 1983

The Miami Hurricanes finished on top of the polls for the first time in school history, defeating the Nebraska Cornhuskers 31-30 in the Orange Bowl. Miami head coach Howard Schnellenberger completed the resurrection of the once dormant program, bouncing back from a 28-3 setback to Florida in the season opener to run the table and finish 11-1. Freshman quarterback Bernie Kosar teamed with fellow frosh Alonzo Highsmith to account for three touchdowns in the national championship game, as Kosar passed for 300 yards. Schnellenberger shared coach of the year honors with Ken Hatfield of Air Force. Hatfield, despite having the inherent obstacles associated with recruiting for a service academy, led the Falcons to an unlikely 10-2 record, and only the second final ranking (13th) in school history.

In the Big Eight, the cliché of the year could well have been: so close, yet so far. Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne fell a two-point conversion short of his first national championship and an undefeated season in what many believe to be one of the best college football finales ever. Osborne lost the game, but gained the admiration of millions of football fans, when, with only 48 seconds remaining in the Orange Bowl, and only an extra point away from a tie and an almost certain national championship, Osborne went for the two-point conversion. The conversion pass, and the Cornhuskers’ title chanes, though, were batted away.

Of some consolation, the Cornhuskers swept the national awards, which came as little surprise for a team which scored an average of 52 points a game. Running back Mike Rozier, who rushed for 2,148 yards and 29 touchdowns, won the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. Guard Dean Steinkuhler followed Dave Rimington’s example from 1982, capturing both the Outland and Lombardi Trophies.

Salesman Bill

Bill McCartney came to the University of Colorado with no major college football head coaching experience. With no track record as a coach, two other factors were key in McCartney being hired. First, there was his ability to motivate and inspire. This talent was put to the test in 1982, and Coach Mac passed with flying colors. Despite the 2-8-1 record, the defense had hung tough throughout much of the season, and the (relatively) minuscule deficit of only six points in the fourth quarter against Nebraska gave many Buff fans hope for the future.

Inspiration could only take mediocre talent so far, however. For McCartney to be successful in the Big Eight, the second strongest attribute on his resume – recruiting – would have to shine.

Being hired in June of 1982, McCartney had no input or say in the recruiting class of 1982. With national signing day for high school recruits coming in early February, Chuck Fairbanks had recruited and signed all of Coach McCartney’s players for the 1982 season. With the incoming class of 1983, McCartney would be able to leave his first imprints upon his team. The result was a class that, while not given much acclaim nationally, laid the groundwork for the bright future which was to come to the Colorado football program.

For those who were not around for the lean years, or who have blocked those seasons from memory, the recruiting class of 1983 brings the first scent of memories more familiar and pleasant. In Coach Mac’s first class were future NFL performers like Mickey Pruitt, Jon Embree, David Tate, and Barry Helton. There were also names which would later become attached to Colorado football lore, such as Lance Carl, Mike Marquez, Dave DeLine, Curt Koch, Eric McCarty, and Ed Reinhardt. While Bill McCartney’s first recruits would not make an immediate impact, Coach Mac had the faithful believing he was building a solid program.

Now, if the Buffs could only win once in a while ….

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