Guest Column: Why I hate Bill McCartney, and love the berliner

Editor’s note If you are a regular to the comments section of the website, you are familiar with the ongoing verbal battle between posters known as Eric, VK Berlin, and ep. You are also familiar with the baiting, goading, guilting of Eric to write a column explaining why he isn’t a fan of Bill McCartney. Well, here it is … 

Well, much to our boy vk’s chagrin, I don’t hate Bill McCartney.  Never met the guy.  And even if I had, there’s not many people, nor many things in life, that I hate.  Mosquitos?  Gnats?  Sure.  But the vk isn’t even as annoying as those things.  And, to be sure, I have one tragic thing in common w/ Bill.  I’m all too familiar w/ the ravages that Alzheimer’s and Dementia have on a family’s loved ones.  I’m sure it’s rough on Bill and those he loves and that love him.  Nobody deserves that, but sadly many get it.

But, that’s not why we’re here.  To frame my perspective, my time at CU spanned from the fall of 1988 through the spring of 1994 (graduated in December, 1993) interspersed with some time off, living in Winter Park, etc.  Affectionately known as the Glory Days of CU football.

We lived with football players.  We went to class with football players.  We partied with football players.  They were us, and we them.  But a little different.

I do think McCartney was a decent, maybe even good, football coach.  And a pretty good hypocrite, too.  Let’s dive into both.

McCartney did a nice job finding and recruiting, in his own words “the superior black athlete.”  He would drive into inner city neighborhoods with his white Cadillac and wasn’t afraid to go where the players were.  He did this well.  I believe it was with Darian Hagan that he asked Darian’s Mom if he became a Husker and came home on break wearing red, how would that go?  Darian was a Blood, or at least in their neighborhood.  They wore blue.  Did not like the Crips, who wore red.  Darian came to Boulder.

McCartney did a nice job getting some good coaches around him (and some who it turns out may have been a bit lecherous, eh, Les?).

He did a nice job of selling his vision, and getting his players to buy into that vision.

They won a lot of games.  We had lots of fun around those games.

He had tremendous support from Bill Marolt, a Colorado kid from Aspen, Olympian and CU alum.  He had tremendous support from Gordon Gee, who understood what football can do for a university, as evidenced by his time at CU, OSU – not that one.  Nope, not that one.  THE OSU – as well as his current role at WVU.

But, back to Mac: imagine a coach today missing that his team was about to spike a ball on their last down of the game, and it was 4th down (yes it does still happen occasionally, and they’re lambasted for it)?  Granted, many believe (myself included) our Buffs had already scored before that infamous fifth down, so that was just making things right, right?  But still.

And why, why, why would anyone ever kick a ball intentionally to Rocket Ismail?

Nevertheless, his teams won a lot of games.  In my opinion, not because of his coaching, and wishbone attack, nor naming Nebraska as our rival, but because he and his staff were good recruiters.  I’ve written about it countless times on threads throughout CU At The Game stories.  CU was an NFL factory for about a decade, culminating w/ the 1994 team.  By and large those players were not made at CU.  They found their way to CU.

Lots of other names like Switzer, Osborne, Schnellenberger, for some of Mac’s contemporaries, and Meyer and others in the modern era of football have built programs similarly.  With great talent.

But is it possible that McCartney was to CU as Jack Welch was to GE?  Claimed by many to be a genius, only with the benefit of hindsight to have possibly just achieved that level of success by being in the right place at the right time?

Either way, that’s some of the good stuff.  Now, to where I saw the hypocrisy.

His family life was a wreck.  He professed the life of a devout Christian, which is fine if that’s your thing, but he lived quite a different life.  I think it’s fair to say a number of the players that rolled through the Glory Days followed more on the latter track than the former.

I cannot say with 100% certainty, but a reasonably high level of the same, that the players in my classes were not doing their own work.  It was done for them, and/or that professors were being cajoled into passing them.  Now, this is fairly standard practice at the football factory programs.  Always has been, always will be.  I don’t think that’s been the case at CU since the early to mid-2000s, however.

Anyone who’s taught at a football factory college knows this.  My Dad was a professor, and ran into this at Arkansas in the 60’s, Virginia Tech in the 70’s and Wazzu in the 80s (the latter two weren’t even football factories).  It’s been that way since at least the 60s.  Probably longer.  Same thing goes for potentially criminal activity.  It gets swept under the rug in many cases.

I could bore you with examples, both at CU and elsewhere, but we know that’s the case.  We can even look at one recent poster-boy of success, Urb.  https://dailycaller.com/2021/02/02/report-41-members-florida-2008-national-title-team-arrested/

Apparently, his best team at Florida had as many guys go to jail as to the NFL.

For our dear ol CU?  That 1993 bench clearing brawl between our Buffs and Miami?  Whhhooooaaaa Nelly!

And, I believe this is why Irie, who posts his thoughts on Stuart’s site, says “the prevailing view on campus was” about McCartney. Those who were there, and were paying attention all saw it.  We lived it.  We knew it.  Some cared, some did not (and yes, some of that led to the storm that blew Barnett out of town).  As I’ve said before, I didn’t really care.  I knew the score.  CU football was a cornerstone of our time there.  It was fun!  But to not see it for its whole, and just the “good” parts is missing the broader perspective.

And, that is my guess, is why McCartney hitched his wagon to the Promise Keepers, and bailed on CU the way he did.  I obviously have no clue – yes, I can admit when my opinions may not be rooted in fact, but instead rely on circumstantial evidence – why Bill moved entirely into his Promise Keepr role.  But, it very well may have been to fill a void he thought was created in his life by how he lived.  Who knows what his motivation was?  I don’t.  But that’s my guess.  Maybe he saw it as a path to retribution?  Moving on to a new phase of life?  Burnout?  Trying to build a brand like Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts?  Trying to make money?  Trying to help others from making similar mistakes?  Whatever his motivations, that’s all well and good too.

Although the Promise Keepers may have been a money making flash in the pan, straight from the televangelist model, I’ve no doubt it helped a lot of people either get, or stay on the right track.  I’ve known some of them.  There are a lot of ways to get through this world as a good human.  To each their own, in that endeavor.

And again, that’s all well and good.  But where I find it off-putting is when you’ve got a guy on his soap box preaching Christian values, etc. and not really living up to his own words.  I call that hypocrisy.  And that sums up my thoughts on the venerable Bill McCartney.

Now, why do I love the berliner?  Because they’re delicious!  You see, if you didn’t already know this, and vk should, a berliner is a German doughnut.  Jelly filled, specifically.  Delicious!

Now, since vk’s been waiting and waiting, every so patiently too, and hoping and praying I write this piece (for what reason, I’ll never know.  Ok, I know… but that’s another story, too) and I “promised” I would, and also said I’d include why I hate – in his words, not mine – Lance Carl, here’s my thoughts (hey, that means opinions) on that guy.

Well, again, I don’t hate the man.  But, my sense is that his management style is a little big-man-on-campus-like.  He got to CU in what, 2013 brought back by Rick?  I think that’s right.  He’s basically been the football chief operating officer for Rick.  He’s the daily interaction guy.  And he knows football, and loves CU.  That’s good.  And granted, the program was raised from the dregs, but has hovered below mediocrity other than the 2016 season.  That’s on his watch.

I believe he mishandled the Tumpkin situation, which seemed to have soured a lot of relationships in the Champions Center.  I believe he drove the bus in both the Tucker and Dorrell hires, neither of which has worked out that well so far.  I’ll continue giving Dorrell a sliver of the benefit of the doubt, but, Tucker was a disaster (and his success this year at MSU I think is a flash in the pan, but that’s a whole other story too, and will be interesting to watch unfold).  Dorrell may be a disaster too.  Hey may not be.  It’s too early to tell.  If he is, I think it’s a clean slate in two or three years, with Rick and Lance out too.  And that cycle of “starting over” isn’t one I’m a fan of either.

So hopefully Karl isn’t a disaster, but the regression this year is staggering.  And to be clear.  I like Karl.  I think he’s very, very bright.  He’s probably a great guy.  The way he stuck w/ Brendon seems to have paid dividends.  He knows as much about football as anyone.  And I like his approach to recruiting (in that he seems to prefer kids from NFL families, if given a chance to get them).  I just hope he shows some massive improvement in the win-loss record next year.  And I believe to do that, they’ll need a better than average QB.  Brendon may grow into being that guy.  Maybe JT is that guy.  Heck, Drew could be, or maybe, just maybe Owen McCown will be a light’s out freshman?  We’ll find out.  And, despite my reservations of Karl being able to turn this around, based on what we’ve seen this year, optimism always reigns.  I’ll be cheering for my Buffs, and Karl’s success, as I always do.

As to Chev?  (had to toss him in there too, I guess) I’m not convinced he’s the problem either.  Just because a play doesn’t work, does not mean it was a bad play call, as Rob O has pointed out in great detail (thanks Rob).  Those are the same things people hated about Lindgren, and he’s pretty much seen within the profession as a good, if not great, offensive coordinator.  I trust guys who’ve lived, breathed and played football at a high level know more about that than I do. Is Chev a great OC?  Nope.  He’s pretty middlin’ it seems.  But he was better in his prior stints, so why the regression there too?  I think Karl and his philosophies weren’t exactly aligned, and that showed in the first half of the season.  I think their spreading things out a bit is Chev getting to have more control, and they’re simplifying reads for Brendon.  But, back to him as an OC, can they do better?  Yes, theoretically.  But realistically?  What new guys wants to hang their future on what this team was this year?  And I’m sure as heck convinced, they can do worse too.  Fortunately, that’s Karl’s job to sort out.  Not mine.

And there you have it, folks!  Pretty exciting and enthralling opinions, huh?

Go Buffs

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16 Replies to “Guest Column: Why I Hate Bill McCartney”

  1. As someone who attended CU from 1980-1985, please let me know how Coach Mac was in the right place at the right time? Stu, please help Eric with knowing just how great it was to be in the stands for 62-42, or any of the other myriad of football debacles we were blessed to see. It was so easy to recruit great players to Boulder with the stench of what Fairbanks had done here. They were longed up ready to sign their scholarship paperwork.

    Remind him of the agony that Coach Mac went through with the injury to Ed Reinhardt. It was anything but falling into the right situation at the right time.

    College football is not a sewing bee. It is a business. Whether it should or shouldn’t be is not up for discussion. Coach Mac was as good a person as we could ask for and I’m grateful he coached here.

    1. Hey WarBuff, I too am happy McCartney coached at CU. I said it. The Glory Days of CU football were a huge part of my life, and social fabric. And he definitely was good at setting a vision and getting people to buy into it, whether coaching, or in his Promise Keeper role.

      However, had his first three or four years not been in the early 80s, with a supportive AD in Bill Marolt, and President Gordon Gee, he probably would not have had the opportunity to turn the program around. Some might say that was very fortunate. Some might say he created that good fortune. It’s probably a bit of both.

      Go Buffs

      1. Barry alverez went
        1-10
        5-6
        5-6
        10-1-1
        then rolled

        similar to the Real Mac

        Not similar to the wacmac

        Oh well the only coach you really give full credit too is wacmac. Against all odds you said……….
        There are many examples of this success and it is because of the coach.

        Go Buffs.

        Note: Your middle name must be “Median Strip”

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write the story. Now can we please all just move on from this stupid topic and talk about Buffs football in the present?

  3. “But where I find it off-putting is when you’ve got a guy on his soap box preaching Christian values, etc. and not really living up to his own words…”

    Since your writing is full of guesses and maybes and very very little facts, please provide some concrete facts and explanations for this comment.

    Could you do that please.

    Note: And please provide facts, other than your guesses your wild accusations and assumptions about Lance.

    Note 2: ep has you pegged

    Note 3: It took for months and I hope your response to legitimate doesn’t take that long. Facts please.

    Note: Buffs beat your washed up dogs and Badgers beat your down the drain corn mealers. All is well in the world.

  4. Ask Mac’s players what they think of him. I don’t GAF about Eric’s or anyone else’s opinions. I read 3 paragraphs and understood he had nothing new or interesting to say. But at least he took time to fulfill a promise. Let’s move on now.

  5. Hey Eric,
    Thanks for the article. Always interesting to read a more in depth perspective than we get in the comments section. Yours was a bit easier to read than VK’s but then I am an optimist and VK’s was a bit more optimistic as I read it. I suppose it was the subject and the dare? That turned it so negative…. There are a couple of things about McCartney that I think really stick with me as a coach (forget the personal stuff).
    1. That saying you here repeated so often – The mental is to the physical is as 3 to 1…. I think the ratio might be off but I gotta say he had something here. I think you get a bunch of kids, who know what they need to do and believe in it and are not asked to do something they cannot do you will get success, even with worse athletes….
    2. I forget who said this but they were recounting a game week. And it was all about getting the team to understand the very concepts they were putting in to beat a team. Why it would beat that team and then getting the players to buy in and believe. That is powerful stuff.

    I have to say I think Dorrell was surprised by how bad Lewis looked this year. But in the pros you ride or die with your starter and so Dorrell did. Did we see some gains, sure but was it enough to beat an ok UCLA team, nope. The defense lacked adjustments……. The offense lacked adjustments. To be honest I see the head coach of a football team as a CEO. Dorrell needs to go find himself some dudes. I was surprised by Summers getting let go, but then pleasant.y surprised when Wilson’s D held up so great….. now not so sure that was the right decision. On Chev…. As you said above, there are a lot of plays out there that are not being executed….Lewis is just lost at times and a Qb that is lost is tough for a play caller to overcome when they stack the box. But frankly, at this point they need a change to make a change….. I won’t cry if they keep Chev, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved in either….. at the end of the day they need him to create an offense his players can execute and he has not.

  6. Thank you, Eric, for taking the time to produce a thought-filled guest column. When I think of Coach McCartney, I think of a truly dynamic motivator. The NFL Films documentary on Lombardi detailed how he won high state championships as a football coach, and, after reading ONE basketball book, went out and coached a basketball state championship as well. Coach McCartney won state championships as a high school football AND basketball coach as well. He loved coaching and building teams. Yes, because he was such a motivator, he could RECRUIT. He built the program based on will, motivation, and, one of his favorite words “resolve.” Players would run through a wall for him. He also had an incredible set of assistant coaches over the years.

    As far as Promise Keepers, he said that one day in church, as he listened to a sermon, the preacher said “look at the face of your spouse,…” He looked and saw pain, anguish, and saw the “fruit” of his time spent coaching instead of at home. He needed the change. In terms of the “toll” taken on coaches, recruiting, and time away from home, I think of so many coaches who have regretted the long hours away from family,… One example of Coach McCartney, he told the story of playing in the Blockbuster Bowl in late December, and then taking a few days off (Nebraska had played New Year’s Evening in the Orange Bowl). Coach McCartney said he felt “good about myself” when he boarded the plane to recruit a player on January 2nd. He planned to visit the high school senior after second period (about 10:00am). When he arrived, he learned that Coach Osbourne had visited with the SAME player BEFORE school (having caught the “Redeye” flight overnight). That time away from home takes a great toll on any family.

    Coach McCartney was an amazing motivator and coach, and, rather than take money in coaching, made an incredible decision to turn his life around. Quite the story,…

    1. Well said. I remember hearing that about him as well but I forgot. Adds perspective. Anyone working at that level takes a big toll on their family. He wanted to change that and did.

  7. You are also familiar with the baiting, goading, guilting of Eric to write a column explaining why he isn’t a fan of Bill McCartney. Well, here it is …

    bushwah Stuart……………
    He committed to write one
    Held his feet to the fire

    When you commit you commit.

    Gonna read it now……………..maybe later

    Can’t wait for the innuendos, what if’s, I think, but I don’t now, and all the other “earachisms” that will undoubtedly appear in the this thing.

    Opening a new bottle of wine

    Go Buffs………….Beat earaches doggies

    1. I read it, I was right:
      an’t wait for the innuendos, what if’s, I think, but I don’t now, and all the other “earachisms” that will undoubtedly appear in the this thing.

      I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I

      What a joke that was. Wishywashy krappola but so earachy………
      sheesh I’v read it twice and bigbuff97 is correct.

      Buffs

      Note: It sounds exactly like a political nutjob. But earache, you spent 4 months on it so there is that

  8. Well in comes down to this, winning a national championship is about coaching and recruiting talent. So the rant above is just that…….a rant about a number of issues that really don’t have anything to do with football and more to do with Eric’s own personal issues. JMHO.

  9. I overlap Eric’s years at CU pretty closely (’87 to 92). I can’t remember what was the name of the weekly comic strip was that was printed in the campus newspaper, but…

    What I do remember is around the 1990 or 91 season, that weekly comic strip did a whole series where Coach McCartney had recruited *god himself* to play for the Buffs and the team was rolling over Big 8 teams with scores like 105 to 7. Due to his Promise Keepers stuff, while going weekly to bail out some scholarship player from Boulder County jail, while fielding a top 10 football team… it was pretty dang good commentary about McCartney’s situation, I felt.

    Anyway…

    I think McCartney’s era at CU is no different than any top 10 team in College Football. There are lots of things happening that shouldn’t, and as long as the team is winning, somehow it doesn’t matter. I’m not saying it is correct or the way things should be, but it is certainly the way things have been and are.

    In Stewart Mandel’s book titled “Bowls, Polls & Tattered Souls” he points out that when the CU Football / Gary Barnett recruiting scandal happened, the only difference between CU and any other major Football program in the country was that, quite simply… CU got caught.

    Anyway, McCartney was a heck of a recruiter, and I think he took his role of leadership with his players seriously. But it was probably all the stuff that everyone wants to ignore, all the stuff that isn’t above the table in a top performing program, that finally drove McCartney to quit the CU job out of nowhere and go full time to his Promise Keepers role. Just a hunch.

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