The man who captained the SJSU football team to its best season in 25 years and in doing so turned the program a complete 180 degrees in a three-year span has vacated the vessel.
He took the program from a record of 1-11 in his first year to 5-7 in his second and ultimately 10-2 in his third season, but Mike MacIntyre is now the head coach at Colorado University. What’s done is done for Sparty.
And while MacIntyre said he plans on bringing many of his assistants with him to Colorado, they must remain with the team for the time being because there is a task at hand for those who still call themselves Spartans.
The undertaking: Capture the school’s first bowl victory since 2006 after bouncing back from losing a head coach.
“When you deal with a loss at that moment you may be down for a little bit but at the same time we understand we still have work to do,” said junior wide receiver Noel Grisgby, the only of four team captains who will return next season. “At the end of the day we have to come out here and work. Us throwing a pity party out here is not going to help us win come Dec. 27 so we put that aside and use it as fuel to be even better.
At the same, life goes on. We have to work. We’re still working on being the best team in San Jose State history and that’s all that’s on our minds right now. As a family when you lose somebody you have to come close. We’re going to bond closer, we’re going to work even harder to reach the goals we have.”
The decision was made with logical reasoning many of us would have used given the same predicament — MacIntyre’s salary will more than quadruple after signing a five-year, $10 million contract with the Buffaloes.
Grigsby said he did not expect MacIntyre to leave but added that he fully understood the financial implications of the decision and how the dollars as well as MacIntyre’s future coaching dreams may have affected his resolution.
“I didn’t think he was going to leave but at the same time I don’t know,” Grisgby said. “I knew it was tough on him. He talked to us yesterday and he was emotional so I know it was tough on him. At the end of the day he has to provide for his family. He’s married, he has kids and that comes first so you can’t be mad be at him for doing what’s best for his family.”
Fellow team captain, tight end Ryan Otten, mirrored similar comments and added that there are “no hard feelings here.”
“I think we’re doing alright,” Otten said. “Obviously we all wanted Coach Mac to stay here, he was part of the family but at the end of the day I understand it’s still business and when opportunities pop up it’s hard to say no to and I don’t think any of us blame him for pursuing that and it’s a big deal for him and his family.”
As noted earlier, MacIntyre will bring some of his assistants with him to Boulder. Defensive line coach Jim Leffcoat and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren are set to make the jump with MacIntyre, according to FootballScoop.com.
Leffcoat, Lindgren and other assistants will coach the team through its Military Bowl appearance then carry on with their coaching careers, wherever they may lead.
“We’ve been with these guys for two three years ... It’s always tough when you develop a relationship with these guys,” Grigsby said about the team’s coaching staff. “These guys are like father figures to a lot of our guys so it’s tough but all we can do it focus on right now. Coach (Terry) Malley taught us that as receivers we have to cherish the moment right now. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Should Leffcoat and Lindgren leave SJSU, their absences will be missed almost as greatly as MacIntyre’s next season.
Lindgren revitalized the SJSU offense around quarterback David Fales, who broke single-season school record for completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, total offense and eventually will break marks in passer rating and completion percentage. Lindgren earned himself finalist honors for the FootballScoop Quarterbacks Coach of the Year in 2012.
Leffcoat, who was a finalist for the FootballScoop Defensive Line Coach of the Year, made huge improvements on the Spartan defensive line in his second season with the team in 2012. He increased the team’s total of 16 sacks last year to 40 by this regular season’s end.
“Like Coach Mac used to tell us, ‘You never know when your last play is’ and we never know when a coach might leave so we want to cherish that moment and we’re going to continue to work,” Grigsby said.
Otten, a graduating senior, said the program will remain in good shape within the careful hands of Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier and the quality players returning next season.
“At the end of the day it’s the players that win the games not the coaches,” Otten said. “Mr. Bleymaier is going to hire someone that’s going to do a good job and come in here. But it’s up to the players to conintue to play well, stay focused and do the right things and now that we understand what it takes to win and be a good program we just need to stay the course and keep doing what we’ve learned.”
Bleymaier released a statement yesterday saying: "We will work to find a new coach as quickly as possible. We will look for the best person who can pick up where Coach MacIntyre left off.”