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Exclusive Interview with CU Associate AD Lance Carl – Part Three: “Let’s look at the Pac-12 South – no one there should scare us”

Lance Carl then … A member of Bill McCartney’s first recruiting Class (1983), Carl was a 12-letter winner (football, baseball, track and basketball) out of Fort Madison, Iowa. Carl, a wide receiver who led the Buffs in receiving in 1986, was a member of the team when the Buffs ended a six year run of losing seasons in 1985 – McCartney’s fourth year as head coach. Carl was on the receiving end of one of the most memorable touchdowns in Colorado football history, a 52-yard halfback pass from O.C. Oliver on the first play of the fourth quarter of CU’s epic 20-10 upset of No. 3 Nebraska in 1986 (You Tube video of the touchdown can be found at the end of the page).

Lance Carl now … Carl signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, and also had a four year run as a scout for the Philadelphia Eagles. More recently, Carl spent six years with the Colorado Department of Higher Education, where he was a director for student motivational outreach. In November of 2013, Carl was named to a newly created position, associate athletic director for business development. The largely external role which encompasses business development, community partnerships, Carl serves as the coordinator for non-game day events (such as the Dead & Company playing at Folsom Field the last three summers – returning again this July). Carl is also the sports supervisor for the football program, and teamed up with athletic director Rick George as a “committee of two” when it came to the hiring of Mel Tucker. He has daily interactions with head coach Mel Tucker, the assistant coaches, support personnel and the student-athletes.

Note … For regulars here at CU at the Game, you may recall that Lance has been  gracious enough to do similar interviews the last three springs. If you would like to look back at those interviews, you can find the 2016 interviews here, the 2017 interviews here, and the 2018 interviews here.

Part One: The Hiring of Mel Tucker – “A Committee of Two” … can be found here … 

… Part Two: Assistant Coaches: “It’s a Good Mix”can be found here

Part Three: The 2019 season: “Let’s look at the Pac-12 South – no one there should scare us”

How have the players reacted to meeting Coach Tucker?

Kids want three things from their head coach. They want discipline, they want to know that he genuinely cares about them, and they want to know that he is an expert at what he does. When Mel has met with the players, either collectively or individually, he has shown them those three things.

Of the three things kids want from coaches, what was lacking from the previous staff which kept the team from being successful?

I won’t say anything was lacking. What I would say about the last two seasons of Mike (MacIntyre’s) time here, is that, somewhere in the delivery, the message was not getting in there. That’s not saying that he didn’t care about the kids, it’s just that sometimes, the message doesn’t resonate with the kids.

Also, I will say this, when it comes to recruiting, you have to be able to say, ‘I can sit in the living room with kids, and compete with anyone in the country’. We weren’t there the past few years.

This is the first year for the NCAA “Transfer Portal”, where players have a greater opportunity to transfer. Despite being the only Pac-12 team with a new head coach, Colorado was one of only two schools (Stanford being the other) with no player opting to explore that option. Thoughts?

That’s a testament to Mel. He came in, and was very clear; very direct, and was very honest with the players. I think when you tell players that they will all have the same opportunity, that there is a clean slate here, there are no preconceived notions of who can play and who can’t play – they get excited about that. And … they are at a place that they love.

There were over a dozen guys who entered the Portal from Penn State. They obviously weren’t very happy at Happy Valley. USC, UCLA … a number of schools.

Let me say this. It is also a testament to the guys who are already on the team. They are high character kids. Mike (MacIntyre) did a good job of identifying high character kids – they want to be at CU. Our current team has some skin in the game as well. They want to get refocused, with new leadership – they know they can do some great things here.

National media will spend much of this off-season pointing out that Colorado will enter the 2019 season on a seven-game losing streak. Do you see much hangover from the 2018 season in the locker room or weight room?

No. There are no lingering effects from that season. I can’t recall Mel mentioning that at all. I think everything that Mel and the new coaching staff is doing is forward thinking. ‘What can we do next week to get better? What can we do next month to get better? What’s our plan for spring ball going to be?’ There is nothing related to the 5-7 team from 2018 because that has nothing to do with him.

Now, what your position coaches are doing is turning on the tape from last season and saying: ‘Who is playing hard?’ Not “who is making plays?’ but ‘who is playing hard? Who didn’t give up in games?’. Because those are the guys you know you can build a program with. And not that our kids last year ever gave up, but you want to see what you can do, offensively and defensively, to build those players and get better.

So, there’s no looking back for this staff, other than to see what worked for us, formationally and situationally, so the team can move forward from that.

Last year, Georgia opened its season against Austin Peay. How do you, and other former Buffs like Darian Hagan and Darrin Chiaverini, impress upon Mel Tucker and the other new coaches how important it is to get off to a good start against the likes of Colorado State, Nebraska, and Air Force? How can you impress upon him that CSU will play above their tape, and treat the final Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver as their Super Bowl?

I’ve had that discussion with him. We talked about the long history of playing CSU, and their mindset going into the game, and how our mindset has always been in the right place. We don’t take anything for granted. We play as hard, compete as hard. Once again, his focus not on what CSU is doing. As he said in his press conference, ‘When you’re prepared, there is no panic. When you are prepared, you understand that there are going to be peaks and valleys, and that you are going to come out the other side well because you have prepared for those moments’.

Whether it’s third-and-goal, whether is a two-point conversion, we’ll be prepared for anything that might happen in a game … no matter who you are playing. CSU will come out firing, this will be their biggest game of the year. But it’s a new day for Colorado football, and I know a lot of Colorado fans have been waiting for this day.

There are people on your website, on Rivals, at 247, fans who love Colorado football. You have been with us through the ups and downs, and we appreciate all of those people. What we want – what Rick and I want – is to give those fans the opportunity to relive those great times again … and there is no reason why we can’t do that. It’s been done before, and Mel said that. It’s just a matter of having the right plan, the right blue print. Mel believes we have that in place. Rick and I believe we have that in place. We’re going to go out there to try and win the Pac-12 South, win the Pac-12 championship, and bid for national honors. That’s where we want to be, that’s where you deserve to be.

One thing I said to Mel, when we interviewed him, I told him, ‘We have a “no excuses” facility’. When he came, he said, ‘This is a “no excuses” facility’. There are no excuses not to win here. I think when you look for excuses, you’ll find any excuse. Here, there are no excuses.

The 2019 schedule lays out to be more difficult than did the 2018 campaign. Thoughts?

It’s a tough schedule, but it gets back to preparedness. If you are prepared, it doesn’t matter who you are playing. The guys who get flummoxed, they’re the ones who get nervous – ‘I’m not sure who I am as a coach. I’m not sure who I am as a player’. But if you have alignment with your unit, alignment with your team, alignment with your administration – you feel good about what you are going to put out there on the field. And then, it’s about execution – and this team has the talent to do that.

Is winning a championship a realistic goal from Year One, or will it take time?

I think that there are no unrealistic expectations. When you understand how important a culture is within a program, a winning culture … Mel’s been around winning cultures throughout his career. He understands what a winning culture looks like, but he’s not going for an Alabama culture, a Georgia culture, he wants a Colorado culture, and that’s going to come from what he’s learned at various places, and certain head coaches he has worked with. He can say, ‘That won’t work for me; that’s worked for me’, picking and choosing what you want to use at your university when you get the opportunity.

Mel has said to me many times, ‘Let’s not emulate Alabama. I’m not copying their culture. I’m trying to create something at Colorado’. But he understands we have everything in place here to win. Do we have all the players we need to win in place? No. No one would ever say that. Nick Saban would never say that. You always want to improve yourself, year-in and year-out. Every time you have a Class graduate, it’s a new team the next year.

So, the team that lost close games last year? They’re not here. The players we have coming in this year? This is their team. So, when you ask, ‘Are we looking back at last year’s 5-7?’ No, we’re not. This is a totally different team.

Hagan, Chiaverini, Els, they were a part of that team last year, they saw what happened. So they have an understanding of some things, maybe X’s and O’s-wise, culture-wise, that didn’t enable us to finish the way we wanted to last year. They can give that insight to Mel. But Mel has an understanding of what a winning culture looks like, how you establish a winning attitude in the locker room, how important it is for your seniors to be the leaders of your team.

It really is your seniors team, validating who they are as young men, recognizing that they want more than what they have had here. So Mel is telling them, ‘I can take you where it is that you want to get to’, but he also knows that you don’t get trust when you walk in the door. You slowly build trust with student-athletes as young men, and that’s what he is working on right now.

This nine-week program (of conditioning, as opposed to the five-week program utilized under Mike MacIntyre) is great because (strength and conditioning coach) Drew Lewis already has their trust, he’s already been there. Now, Mel can sit down with Drew and talk about certain student athletes, talk about how they are motivated, what makes them tick in the weight room – you don’t coach everybody the same. And now, because Mel has worked with so many coaching personalities, like Jim Tressel, or Nick Saban, or Kirby Smart, he’s seen what works and doesn’t work – personality-wise, leadership-wise – and he’s going to tailor that vision to the guys he has here.

Mel’s talked to me about the student-athletes – personality-wise, academically-wise, background and family-wise. With me and Drew talking with Mel about individual players, individual attitudes, that helps him as well, and all of those things are in place.

Speaking of support, will Mel Tucker have a shorter leash than does say, Scott Frost, who can get away with a 4-8 first season, or a Chip Kelly, who can get away with a 3-9 first season?

No, I wouldn’t say that. We don’t think of it that way at all. We don’t think of this as a rebuilding process at all. What this is, is a leadership process. It’s new leadership; it’s new direction; it’s new philosophy. Will there be some bumps initially? Yeah. But we will work through those, because the long-term goal is to be nationally recognized. To get there – it doesn’t happen overnight. But with this year’s schedule, you have some great opportunities to reignite our fan base with how you play in those games.

Do you want to win all of those games? Of course, you want to win all of those games. But if the team is physically tough and competes, the fans will support us.

We went out with a list of candidates, and when we got to Mel, I told Rick – at the time, we had two other candidates to interview, I told Rick, you can call those agents, and cancel those meetings. When you know, you know. There was no reason to go any further.

How does Colorado match up with the rest of the Pac-12 heading into the 2019 season?

Let’s look at the Pac-12 South – no one there should scare us. It’s up for grabs, It’s not like we’re facing Washington, Stanford, and Oregon, who are established programs in the North. There is turmoil and chaos in our division. The most stable team in our division is Utah.

Let’s take a realistic view of where we are – all those games last year were winnable games. It’s all right there for you to take advantage of. It’s frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating losses, where does the Oregon State game fit on your list of worst defeats for the CU program?

I was there for Sacramento State. I was there for Montana State. Oregon State tops those. What was our record then? 5-2. You win that game, and what happens? We’re going to a bowl game. You win that game, you don’t go lose at Arizona – and perhaps other games. That is why, in my history of watching CU football, that game is the most aggravating, frustrating, demoralizing game I’ve ever been a part of. You are up 31-3, at home, Homecoming, fans are going crazy.

My son was at the game, with six of his friends, They left after we scored to go up 31-3. They go to my house to play basketball. They think the game is over. That happened to people across the country. ‘I went outside to mow the lawn’ – no one could believe what happened. That was a tough game to swallow.

I remember leaving the Montana State game, and I went home to my wife and said, ‘I think we made the wrong hire’.

How can the Oregon State game not have a lingering effect on the 2019 team going forward?

It’s what you instill in your team. That’s something that allows you to connect with your team, and say, ‘Let’s gather here, when the lead has been cut to 31-17, and say, “I want the whole team out here. Let’s everybody get out here. I’m going to tell you how we are going to finish this game” … and it’s not going to be the way we finished the Oregon State game. I waited for that to happen (during the second half of the Oregon State loss). Mike had the chance to gather and galvanize the team, but didn’t. Everyone has different ideas on how you do that. But one thing you don’t do is nothing. You’ve got to gather up your team and chew their ass. It’s unacceptable. And it’s not just the head coach. It’s the position coaches, who are down on the sidelines with those guys.

It’s unfortunate that that happened. But it’s behind us, and we have new hope, a new direction. I’m excited for our kids. We have so many great kids in this program. They deserve to be playing for championships; playing in bowl games, instead of sitting home in December thinking, ‘Here we go again’, and that’s what happened last year.

It goes to the type of character of kids we have here. A lot of kids would have said, ‘I’m out’, but other than Israel Antwine – and I love Israel Antwine, he just wanted to get closer to home – to only lose one guy? That’s amazing. I would love for our fans to recognize that, because a lot of programs lose a lot of guys, but our kids? They want to be here … so we’re doing something right here. Academically, Boulder, facilities … we’re doing some good things here.

My heartfelt thanks to Lance for his agreeing to be interviewed again this spring. I am not a journalist, but Lance is still willing to take the time to sit down with me and talk CU football, giving Buff fans insights to the program. His candid discussion about the hiring of Mel Tucker was particularly welcome to those of us who bleed black-and-gold, and appreciate how much Lance and Rick George want CU programs to be successful. 

I’ll leave you with this highlight of Lance. I know I posted it with the first interview segment, but it gives me chills every time I see it, so it’s worth posting again. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Buffs of the 1980’s, you can just hear in the tone of voice of Larry Zimmer, KOA’s long-time play-by-play announcer for CU games, just how important (and unexpected) CU’s upset of No. 3 Nebraska was to the program:

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6 Replies to “Lance Carl Interview Part III: The 2019 Season”

  1. The Embree/Bieniemy/Brown $!@%-show should be included in the previous coaching failures. One that Mr. Carl conveniently omitted. Stu should run a vote on whether that staff or Chuck Fairbanks was the worst in CU history.

  2. Stuart, While you are not a journalist (as you say), this is the best, most insightful reporting I’ve seen from any outlet on the future outlook for CU football. Mr. Carl has the legacy with this program to organically understand what it will take to return to its former glory. Many thanks!

    1. What is interesting, especially if what you say is correct (organically understand) is it appears that this ability is being used by George which is great. (Of course George understands as well.)

      Whereas the previous AD used search committees made up of all sorts of people in the school that came to some kind of unanimous decision. Sheesh see what they got.

      Buffs.

      Note: Mac got paid. Buffzone get his damn video off your home page. Its embarrassing. Not a good look for recruits. Not a good look for the new staff. Sheesh arama

  3. WOW! His comments about Hawkins and MacIntyre are pretty damning. A lost decade+. Let’s hope Mel Tucker is the answer.

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