Dave Plati War Stories – Part I – The Resignations of Bill McCartney and Rick Neuheisel

It’s already been an eventful year for Dave Plati.

This spring, Plati, whose official title is CU’s Associate Athletic Director / Media Relations Director, became just the sixth person to be honored with the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Lifetime Achievement Award. Then, in June, Plati was inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Hall of Fame.

More recently, was named to serve on a newly formed national committee that will help oversee press relations with FBS Conferences moving into the 2019 football season. The Access/Press Relations Committee, formed by the Football Writers Association of America, will have two representatives for each of the Power Five Conferences, in which many of the issues arise in terms of accessibility.

Plati is in his 42nd year overall in CU’s Sports Information Office.  He was promoted to assistant athletic director for media relations on July 1, 1988, and attained associate athletic director status in August 2005.

In other words, Dave Plati (full bio can be found here) has been a part of CU athletics history for a long time, and has many stories. He was kind enough to share some of them with CU at the Game

Bill McCartney’s resignation

November 19, 1994.

The 1994 regular season finale for the University of Colorado was already slated to become one of the most memorable in Buff history. In a 41-20 win over Iowa State, No. 7 Colorado finished the regular season with a 10-1 record, with a New Year’s Day bowl in the offing.

Any number of headlines could have come from the 41-20 victory over the Cyclones:

  • “Kordell Stewart becomes the Big Eight’s all-time leader in total offense”;
  • “Christian Fauria becomes the Big Eight’s all-time tight end receptions leader”; or
  • “CU posts 576 yards of offense, sets team record for season average – 495.3 yards/game”.

All good headlines, but what was supposed to be the main headline of the day was:

  • “Rashaan Salaam goes over 2,000 yards, finishing with 2,055 with memorable touchdown run”

As it turned out, however, those stories were about to be over-shadowed. In the post-game press conference, head coach Bill McCartney, the most successful coach in CU history, stunned the Buff Nation with an announcement that he was retiring from football.

Dave Plati on his participation in one of the most memorable days in CU lore … 

Nobody knew. It was strictly just the coaching staff. I’m not even sure when (athletic director) Bill Marolt found out.

Bill (Marolt) comes to me between the third and fourth quarters, and says to me, ‘I’ve got to talk with you up on the roof (of the press box)’. And I’m like, ‘Okay. This is a first’. So we go up to the roof at the start of the fourth quarter, and we had just gotten the ball back with around ten minutes left to play. Bill tells me, ‘After the game, Bill McCartney’s going to resign’. Boom, Rashaan runs around the corner. Scores. Bill and I are high-fiving each other, and I go, ‘What the hell did you just say?’.

So, I went down to the field. It was the only time, in my whole career, that I went down to the field at home before the game ended. I let the assistants run post-game at home. I get enough fun stuff to do, and it’s good for them, so I let them do it.

I walked down to the field, and McCartney looks at me, ‘What are you doing down here?’ ‘What am I doing down here? I’m here for what you are about to do in ten minutes’. So he just laughs.

Now, on the field, Kordell had just been sacked, and lost the record for the Big Eight total offense mark. I went up to Mac – we were well ahead, so I could do that – and I said Mac, ‘Kordell just lost the record. He needs to get seven or eight more yards’. So, Mac puts Kordell back in the game, and he threw a pass a nine-yard gain to Chris Anderson, regained the record, and then he took Kordell back out again. So, if you look at the play-by-play for the game, you’re like, ‘Why did we throw a pass here, at the end of the game, when we’re so far ahead?. Oh, that’s why.’

So, we go back inside, and I tell John Mossman from AP, ‘I can’t tell you why, but you’ll thank me later – you need to go to the post-game press conference’. Because the AP guys, they never go down. They take the quotes off of the sound from the press conference.

At the time, there was speculation in the press box about what bowl game CU was going to play in, and who we were going to play. No one had a clue that Mac was going to resign. John did thank me later. He said, ‘Yeah. I needed to be down there’.

Rick Neuheisel’s resignation

Four years later, the Buff Nation was again taken by surprise by their head coach leaving the program.

Shortly after Bill McCartney resigned after the Iowa State game in November, 1994, CU quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel was chosen as McCartney’s successor. Neuheisel went on to post a 33-14 record over the next four seasons

The 1998 campaign concluded with the Buffs taking on Oregon in the Aloha Bowl. The 7-4 Buffs took out the 21st-ranked Ducks in a wild game in which the Buffs allowed the Ducks to turn 44-14 rout in the third quarter into a 51-43 thriller.

What should have been a satisfying end to a 8-4 season became another coaching search a few days later, when Neuheisel accepted an offer to leave Colorado to coach the Washington Huskies.

Dave Plati on Rick Neuheisel … 

I’ll tell you a story which puts Rick Neuheisel in a different light.

My mom died in June of 1995. She would always leave a message on my home answering machine, after every game. So that fall, we kicked Wisconsin’s butt in the season opener, and I’m off to the side after the game, and it occurred to me that, for the first time, I’m not going to get that call from my mom.

I wasn’t crying, but I was kind of … you know, it just kind of hit me. My dad was totally lost after my mom died, and it was hard on us. When you are in this business, sometimes you have to grieve at a later time, and it was at that moment that it hit me that my mom was gone.

Rick sees me, and he says, ‘Do you have your cell phone? Let’s call your dad”. I said, ‘What? You haven’t even spoke to your dad yet (to celebrate a victory in his first game as a head coach)’. So, we called my dad.

People want to rip Rick, but they really don’t know him.

Rick wasn’t a coordinator before he became head coach, and that bothered most people. The media got on him for the rides in the creek. That wasn’t a problem when we opened 20-4 under him. But it became a problem in ‘97 (when CU went 5-7). Then they blamed him for CU having to forfeit games. No. That was Darren Fisk, who came in under McCartney, and it wasn’t even him. It wasn’t a football problem. It was a compliance office thing. He didn’t write down that he was at a second JUCO for a week before he went to another, and they tagged us for that. I can guarantee that there are other schools where that happens, and it gets swept under the rug.

As for his leaving CU for Washington …

He turned down (Washington athletic director) Barbara Hedges twice. That was borne out of the only time that they ran two bowl games out of the same stadium on the same day. We played Oregon in the ‘98 Aloha Bowl, followed by Air Force against Washington after us. So Barbara Hedges is there, watching us play in the Aloha Bowl. Obviously, when you thump Oregon with 51 points, it gets the attention of everyone at Washington.

She liked how Rick was conducting the program. She got a hold of him the next day, and made him an offer. Rick said, ‘No, no. I’m happy at Colorado’. She called him again a two days later, and he tells her, ‘Here’s what you need to do to get a really good coach at Washington, and gives her the A,B,C, D of what she needs to do’. She calls back a few days later, ‘I’ve done all that. I still want you’.

Rick comes over to my house that Saturday morning. We call (Dick) Tharp (CU’s athletic director) from there. Tharp gave him the impression that he would either get back to him with a counter-offer, or at least a contract. What it all came down with Rick was that he wanted a contract, for security. Dick wasn’t willing to give him one. Washington was, and we were just waiting to hear back from Dick.

At that point, he calls all of the assistants over. The assistants are all over at my house. I’m working the Denver/Miami playoff game, so I’m like, ‘Sorry guys, I’ve got to go. So Rick, call me later and tell me what’s going on’.

So, I haven’t heard from him. I get down to the stadium, get down to the press box, and everyone is all over me. Well, Tharp told John Meadows. John Meadows told Dan Creedon (at the Boulder Daily Camera), and Dan Creedon told the world. Next thing you know – it’s out there. At that point, he’s gone.

Nobody realizes – Rick would have stayed.

A lot of violations he got tagged for were so minuscule. Like reimbursements for mileage, that recruits got for traveling to the airport. Like, they should have gotten six dollars, but they got nine. That’s not him. That’s the business office. So the bulk of it was in the grey area that the NCAA doesn’t like, like driving by the recruits house in a non-contact period. Creative, a grey area, but to the NCAA a grey area is a violation.

Still to come Part II: Dave Plati stories on broadcasters (Keith Jackson; Chris Fowler; Joel Klatt; O.J. Simpson) … Part III: On memorable CU games (the 1986 Nebraska game; The 5th-down game; Salaam’s 1994 season) … and Part IV: Some memorable occasions (inventing the “red zone”; the Oklahoma State plane crash; Chuck Fairbanks) …

5 Replies to “Dave Plati – On The Resignations of McCartney and Neuheisel”

  1. I dont usually listen to ESPNU because of; 1. their slavish devotion to the SEC, and 2. Slick ricky is the main moderator there. I tuned in yesterday anyway because I had to drive 200 miles and wanted to here some things about media days. Ricky definitely has an air of arrogance about him and still has a crick in his neck over CU. When discussing the most fun places to watch college football he said Boulder was a “horrible” place for that even though any hard feelings were created by his jilting. Yesterday he tried to bait Viska during an interview and really hacked me off. Viska refused to take it thankfully. At one point ricky tried to knock Viska down by asking him what his 40 time was, mentioning that Westbrook ran a 4.29 knowing that Viska probably wasnt that fast.
    I suppose a jerk like Ricky is capable of a kind deed once in a while but he still holds a place on my sh-t list with the cobs, Baylor, Enfield, Miller, serial lying politicians and Dan Hawkins.

  2. The weird interesting thing with Slick Rick is “was it actually better for CU that he left?”. He didn’t exactly have huge success at either Washington or UCLA. But his exit from Washington was bullshit (betting on March Madness? Really?). How much of CU’s success under Rick was due to players/coaches that were holdovers from McCartney? I’ve heard stories on the radio (back when there was actually a CU-focused radio show on Mile High Sports Radio a few years ago) about how detailed the scouting reports and game plans were under McCartney, contrasted with how non-detailed they were under Neuheisel.

    Barnett was obviously a great coach. CU got screwed out of the chance to get obliterated in the BCS championship game by 0.001 points or whatever. But Rick would probably have dealt with the whole Katie Hnida thing better (after all, it was his fault she was there in the first place), since he was a better politician than Barnett.

    Does the whole ESPN “Outside the Lines” story about how CU was taking recruits to strip clubs happen under Rick Neuheisel? Does the entire CU administration turn their back on the football program for a decade as a result, hamstringing recruiting with obviously shortsighted (but feel-good) policies related to what recruits can do and who they can stay with and for how long?

    Does Betsy Hoffman sign the bill that would have given CU independence from the state of Colorado if she hadn’t spent the last few years dealing with drama related to athletics?

    1. Um, I don’t recall the team going to strip clubs at all. That was the golf team and several years later at that.

  3. The way that Mac quit never sat well with me. He upstaged what should have been Salaam’s shining moment. I never could understand why he wouldn’t wait a day or two after the Iowa State game. What was the rush? Also, I’ve heard Plati’s defense of Neuheisel and even Hawkins as being great guys. Fine. No one is disputing that. I’ve never met either in person. Any criticism is due to them ultimately not being up to the job.

  4. I had the privilege of being a student assistant for CU sports information when I was a student at CU. It was a blast. I got to work in the press box, work the sidelines, keep stats for basketball and volleyball. But I also got to work under Dave Plati. He was an amazing boss. He is the type of guy that as long as you do your job and work hard, he will always go to bat for you. I got yelled at a few times, as does anyone young and naive but he always would explain later why. It was an honor to work for him, there is no one else better in the business than him, I mean he invented the red zone. Today they still keep me around to keep stats for CU volleyball as a side job. Its awesome to see this and I look forward to seeing what’s next. Go Buffs!

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