McCartney's Passion

Former University of Colorado Head Coach <b>Bill McCartney</b> spoke Sunday at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Author of numerous inspirational books and the founder of Promise Keepers, Coach Mac still knows how to fire up an audience. It very well could have been the locker room at Folsom Field, but this day former CU Head Coach <b>Bill McCartney</b> traded in his playbook for a bible.

Coach Mac told his life story to a huge audience at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. You would have thought he was speaking to his players before a big game. Walking back and forth on the stage and raising his voice so the upper balcony felt like they were sitting in the front row, McCartney is as passionate a preacher as he was a football coach.

For those who don't remember, Bill McCartney, the Buffs all-time leader for football games coached with 153, abruptly retired as head coach in 1994 after an 11-1 season and 13 years on the job. He coached CU to their only National Title in 1990 and owns a 93-55-5 record. He also made those red coats in Lincoln take the University of Colorado seriously. He was at the top of his coaching career when he decided to walk away and form Promise Keepers, a Christ-centered organization dedicated to introducing men to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

Many could not understand this decision. But for McCartney, this decision was a long time coming. He had God in his life since he was an assistant coach at the University of Michigan and felt it was his turn to spread the word of Christ. He walked away from the game and has never looked back.

Coach Mac never really talked about it to the media when he was coaching, but he believes that God was a big reason he was successful on the football field and he received several signs throughout his coaching career.

McCartney began his college coaching career at the University of Michigan under legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembecler. He was 33 years-old, married for 12 years and had four children. This was his big break after coaching high school football for several years.

His religious beliefs were strong and he prayed regularly, but it was a 19 year-old named Chuck Heater and a campus crusade group that changed his life.

McCartney was coaching the 19 year-old Heater, who was one of the Wolverines star running backs. McCartney noticed that Heater was one of the most intense players on the field, but off of it, turned into a different person. He was mellow and very laid back, something McCartney could not understand. McCartney wondered how he could be such a contrast when not playing football. Heater said it was his belief in Christ and invited the coach to a campus crusade where several athletes would meet. Bill McCartney was never the same after that meeting.

He was soon driving to these gatherings at 6:30 am before he would report to the football field. When that schedule got to be too much, McCartney started his own group in Ann Arbor.

A few years later, McCartney had been promoted and was now Michigan's defensive coordinator. He claims a sign from God helped him come up with a defensive scheme that the NFL or college football had never seen before.

The year was 1980 and Wolverines were preparing to face quarterback Mark Hermann and the Purdue Boilermakers. A team that was averaging 45 points a game and was the most dominant offense in the game.

"They didn't punt. What would you do if you were defensive coordinator and you're going up against a team that doesn't punt? You'd pray!" McCartney said.

The Tuesday before the Purdue game, with the help of some divine intervention, McCartney decided he would counter the Boilermakers potent offense by added more defensive backs into the game. Never playing against a defensive scheme like this before, Purdue struggled and eventually lost 26-0. The media had never seen a defensive game plan like that and wanted answers after the game.

"I told them, God gave me an idea", McCartney said. "Unfortunately they weren't buying it."

Mac was named Big 10 "player" of the week and the Wolverines went on to play in the Rose Bowl. Suddenly McCartney was a hot coaching prospect and he would soon be hired to take over CU's football program.

Colorado fans know the legacy he created at CU. McCartney struggled his first three seasons in Boulder, going 7-25-1 after taking over for Chuck Fairbanks. Finally in 1985, he turned it around and Colorado finished 7-5, their first winning season since 1978.

McCartney has numerous stories of how God played a part in games, seasons and ultimately in his life. But the story he told about the famous Kordell Stewart Hail Mary game in 1994 is a little scary.

The night before the game, McCartney and his wife were with a group of Christians in Ann Arbor. As the group was praying, a girl shouted out "God, you are going to shock the nation!"

All Buff fans know the miraculous outcome, but they don't know what McCartney heard on the sideline before Stewart threw the infamous pass. Down 26-21 with :06 seconds left, a Michigan fan behind the CU bench yelled loud enough for McCartney to hear, "Where's your God now, McCartney?"

Apparently God was watching and is a CU fan. Stewart's 64-yard pass was tipped by Blake Anderson into the outstretched arms of Michael Westbrook in the end zone and Colorado stole the game 27-26. It was named the national play-of-the year for 1994.

McCartney would retire at seasons end, but not before Colorado hammered Notre Dame in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl 41-24.

McCartney is still involved with Promise Keepers but in a limited role. He has just written another book called Blind Spots, which focuses on the ineffectiveness of the leaders in many of our churches today. McCartney did not comment on the CU football scandal, but has made it known he is a big supporter of Head Coach Gary Barnett.

While you may not agree with McCartney's beliefs, listening to him preach makes you feel like you are ready to take on the devil himself. Or at least those devils in Lincoln.

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