CU Buffs can’t let Mel Tucker experience scare them off in coach search


Mel Tucker was a charming, self-serving, punt-happy, duplicitous sonofagun. But he was the right idea.

What happened to be true in November 2018, when then-CU football coach Mike MacIntyre turned news conferences into prop comedy, is even more apt today. Three coaches later.

The Buffs job is a lot of things, not all of them pleasant. But it isn’t too good a gig for a first-timer.

If you’re CU athletic director Rick George, you’re outta mulligans. You can’t be too scared to get used. You can’t be afraid to become a stepping stone if the next “right guy” comes along.

“Colorado has woefully underperformed,” a longtime national television analyst, who asked not to be identified, told me the other day. “And it’s a program that could and should expect to be much better. It’s a program that has enjoyed a great tradition.

“It’s one of the very few schools that can call themselves an AAU (academic) university with a national championship, a Heisman Trophy (winner), a Butkus Award (winner), a Jim Thorpe Award (winner). There are very few schools that have that type of legacy. And with the right fit, CU can be a (contender) in the top 25 most years.”

Don’t sweat the future. Sweat the fit. CU should be chasing the hottest coach on the market, not worried about how they’re going to get dumped should he do well.

Karl Dorrell was never going anywhere, and not just because he’d built a home in Lafayette. Aim higher.

Matt Rhule, who became the umpteenth guy to win big at the college level and then crash out in the NFL, is in the pool, having been cut loose by the Carolina Panthers Monday morning. has already tagged the Buffs as 8-to-1 odds to land the former Baylor and Temple coach, behind Nebraska (3/2), Auburn (3/1), Wisconsin (5/1) and Arizona State (15/2).

If Steve Addazio has scared you off former Owls dudes forever, then what about Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters?

He’s young (36), he’s a Buffs legacy, the son of a CU football player who then became one himself, a local kid who rolled at Grandview, then rocked in Boulder.

Oh, and his defenses are legit. Illinois heads into the weekend ranked No. 24 and with a 5-1 record, thanks in part to a Walters scheme that’s No. 1 nationally in fewest points allowed (8.0 per game) and No. 2 in yards allowed per game (228.0).

Local context: A Wyoming offense that averaged 25 points, 18 first downs and committed just one turnover in home wins over Air Force and UNC managed only six points and 10 first downs while giving it away three times against Walters’ defense during a Week 0 whuppin’ in Champaign, Ill.

Walters’ 2021 defense at Illinois finished 29th in the country in points per game allowed (21.9), shaving almost 38% off the program’s 2020 total of 34.9 points per game under Lovie Smith and Rod Smith. Walters’ 2019 unit at Missouri ranked 16th (19.4) in fewest points allowed.

Statistically, he’s a Jim Leavitt in waiting. So what if he’s never been a head coach before? And so what if CU’s institutional stubbornness and academic stonewalling could drive him batty the way it did Midnight Mel?

CU faithful walk into Folsom Field and they see history — Rashaan Salaam running to daylight, Bobby Pesavento to Daniel Graham, Nebraska fans shuffling toward the exits in tears.

But coaches, search firms and media outside the Front Range look at the Buffs and see a coaching graveyard. A place where careers go to die.


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