I’ll be honest, I have probably enjoyed this season of college football more than any other. My Utes are in the Pac-12 with an exciting game seemingly every week. I anticipate each game not knowing what will happen. Utah has reached a level that I never thought possible. Even though my Utes have been up and down; I have loved every minute of it.
I got a little bit nostalgic last night when I heard the news that Ron McBride will retire from coaching after this season.
It made me think of McBride’s time at Utah, and what he meant to the team. I say without reservation that without Ron McBride, Utah is not in the Pac-12 today.
In the 1980’s, Utah was a laughing stock; the punch line of a sick joke. They were the Screech Powers of college football. Sure, they had flashes of solid play, but you always knew they were going to blow it in the end.
In 1990, Ron McBride was interviewed to be the head coach. Upon accepting the job, he was told that as long as he didn’t embarrass the program, and was at least semi-competitive with BYU, he could stay as long as he wanted.
McBride’s response was both prophetic and indicative of the man he is.
“I don’t intend to compete with BYU; I intend to beat BYU.”
And that he did. McBride became the only coach to beat LaVell Edwards four times in the stadium that now bears his name.
But it wasn’t just about beating BYU; it was about putting Utah on the map. The team was competitive again. They even finished ranked #10 in 1994. McBride turned the Utes into more than just the filler before basketball season started, he started to mold the team into the nationally respected program that it is today.
He wasn’t perfect. His teams were noted for their sometimes undisciplined play. They didn’t always live up to their potential. By 2002, it was clear that McBride had taken the team as far as he could, and the torch was passed to Urban Meyer………and you know the rest.
Though the program is better today, there are things that I still miss about Ronnie Mac. I miss the way he handled the rivalry. I miss the way he used to mock fans who took it too seriously. I miss the way he would interact with LaVell. I miss his personality.
But Ron McBride was what the team needed; and he made Utah into a winner. His understanding of the local culture, his willingness to embrace LDS/returned missionary players, his connections in the islands, and his belief that Utah could be a winner laid the foundation for what Utah is today.
I look at the job he has done at Weber. Weber was also a po-dunk team until he got there. Now they are one of the more well-respected teams in the Big Sky Conference.
Thanks Coach Mac, we wouldn’t be here without you.