Colorado Buffaloes football has undergone a bit of transition in its long and storied history. In the last two decades, success hasn’t been as readily available as it once was.
There have been far more losses than wins over that span, and the hope is that Deion Sanders can change things as the new head coach. Here are some of the best coaches to hold the position over the last century of Colorado football.
Check here how to bet on Colorado football next season.
Bill McCartney (1982-1994, 93-55-5)
McCartney spent his entire 13-year career in Boulder, and it was a wild success. Though it took some time to get there, an 8-4 season in 1988 was just a taste of what was to come. In 1989, the Buffs went 11-1, winning the Big Eight Conference and finishing fourth in the AP poll.
That would be followed by an 11-1-1 season in 1990, which led to the program’s only college football national championship. A year later, the Buffs won the conference again, finishing 8-3-1. After another 11-1, top-4 finish in 1994, McCartney called it a career. He left very big shoes to fill for anyone to follow, leaving the game as the unquestioned greatest coach in Colorado football history.
RANDOM TEAM: 1988 Colorado
COACH: Bill McCartney
RECORD: 8-4 (4-3 Big 8)
BOWL: Lost to BYU in Freedom Bowl, 20-17
Colorado achieved its highest win total since 1976, briefly spending time in the AP Poll. Each of Colorado’s three regular season losses came to top-15 teams. pic.twitter.com/XHALMsfY9G
— Always Next Year Sports (@NextYearAlways) January 19, 2021
Eddie Crowder (1963-1973, 67-49-2)
Crowder coached at but one place in his career, spending all 11 years at Colorado. His time there was largely spectacular, though the Buffs couldn’t match fellow Big Eight competitors Oklahoma and Nebraska.
The Buffs arrived under Crowder in 1967, going 9-2 and finishing second in the Big Eight. A 10-win season in 1971 saw them finish third in the AP polls behind their conference mates listed above. Crowder still has the third-best record as head coach at Colorado, with eventual replacements McCartney and Bill Mallory being hand-picked by him.
16 Days! Eddie Crowder, 1949-52. 3yr letterman at QB. 4x Big 7 Champion & 1950 National Champion. 2x All Big 7 & 1952 All American. He went on to become the Head Coach & Athletic Director at The University of Colorado.@MPSallusti73 @Soonerorthodds @MolohaMonte @JWarwickINS pic.twitter.com/Bobh8JFX2U
— Chris Lambakis (@chris_lambakis) August 18, 2022
Rick Neuheisel (1995-1998, 33-14)
Hired as one of the hottest assistants in the game, Neuheisel had the unenviable task of following McCartney. During his four years at the helm, Neuheisel only had one losing year, a 5-6 campaign in which they were national title contenders to start the year but a blowout loss to Michigan quickly derailed the season.
Neuheisel had a pair of 10-win seasons to start his career at Colorado and left after an 8-4 season in 1998. NCAA violations followed him throughout his career, especially at his next stop at Washington.
Performance relative to opportunity, are we looking at the worst coach in CFB history?
Since 1946, only 1 head coach has posted a negative #CoachEvaluation score at 3 different jobs.
His name is Rick Neuheisel.
-11.4% at Colorado (4)
-8.9% at Washington (4)
-39.1% at UCLA (4) pic.twitter.com/HAyeWemJbZ
— Andrew Percival (@PDawg206) December 17, 2021
Everett Grandelius (1959-1961, 20-11)
Following a brief NFL career, Grandelius returned to his alma mater Michigan State for four years before taking over the head coaching job in Colorado. At just 29 years old, he became one of the youngest head coaches at the time.
Grandelius was known for controversy as much as winning during his time in Boulder. Rumors about his using a slush fund to pay top recruits wound up costing him his job in 1962. It was a short but memorable tenure, to say the least.
Sonny Grandelius Michigan State Football Hall of Famer. Was the Spartans first ever 1,000 yard rusher in 1950. Played 1 season in the NFL for the New York Giants where he was their leading rusher with 278 yards (1953). Went into coaching was the HC at Colorado with a 20-11 record pic.twitter.com/4VyfiT9F1g
— Cool Old Sports (@CoolOldSports) March 10, 2023
Gary Barnett (1998-2005, 49-38)
Barnett spent eight seasons at Northwestern before becoming the 22nd coach in Colorado University history. Barnett is also the last coach to have real success with the program achieving some pretty great things in his seven years of being in charge.
In year three, after two mediocre seasons, Barnett led the Buffs to a 10-3 record and their first Pac-10 Championship since 1991. Barnett’s Buffs would win the Pac-10 North in three of the next four seasons, even winning the Houston Bowl in 2004. Barnett quietly resigned in 2005 following recruiting violations, calling it a career.
— Reid Fischer (@ReidFischer) September 1, 2017
Bill Mallory (1974-1978, 35-21-1)
After his first head coaching gig at Miami (OH) from 1969-1973, Mallory took over the head coaching job in Boulder. And like so many others at the helm, Mallory experienced quality success bookended by disappointing seasons.
Colorado went 9-3 in 1975 but finished third in the Big Eight Conference. In 1976, the Buffs won the conference with an 8-4 record. After a 6-5 season in 1978, Mallory moved on to Northern Illinois for four years before spending the final 13 years of his career as head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers.
Bill Mallory, former head coach at Miami (OH), Colorado, N. Illinois, and Indiana, has died pic.twitter.com/VXgt7DiFho
— Siva Kodali (@kodali_siva) May 25, 2018
Bunny Oakes (1935-1939, 25-15-1)
Oakes began his coaching career as a line coach at the University of Tennessee following his graduation from Illinois. By 1934, he was announced as the head coach of the University of Colorado. Over the next five years, Oakes would carve out an impressive, if brief, resume.
During his time at Colorado, Oakes and the Buffs captured the Rocky Mountain Conference championship in 1935 and 1937, the latter of which featured not only an All-American halfback but future justice of the Supreme Court Byron White. He also led the program to its first bowl game appearance, the 1938 Cotton Bowl Classic, finishing his career with a first-place finish in the Mountain States Conference before returning to his Alma Mater in 1940.
On this date in 1940, the University of Colorado spent $6,480 to buy out the remaining three years of head football coach Bunny Oakes's contract after all but three of his players had signed a petition calling for his firing. pic.twitter.com/dg6faJ4Swb
— Quirky Research (@QuirkyResearch) March 26, 2021
Mike MacIntyre (2013-2018, 30-44)
How does a coach with a losing record make the list of the best coaches of Colorado football in the last 100 years? Well, MacIntyre may have been the last real hope the program had until Coach Prime took over the reins earlier this year.
MacIntyre left San Jose State after some success, taking over the helm in Boulder. In 2016, the Buffs looked to be back. They went 10-4, finishing 8-1 in the Pac-12 following a 4-9 campaign in 2015. Unfortunately, records of 5-7 and 5-6 would follow, seeing the end of MacIntyre’s tenure at Colorado.
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre has been named 2016 Walter Camp National Coach of the Year. pic.twitter.com/2v6ahS5LKx
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 1, 2016
The history of Colorado Buffaloes football has been an up-and-down path. There have been times of immense success and periods where a win became hard to find. Nonetheless it’s still one of the best sports teams in Colorado.
Though the current standing of Colorado football is very much in transition as Coach Prime takes over, there has been great success throughout the program in the past.
Whether you came up in a time featuring Grandelius, saw the rise of Bill Mallory, remember the glory days of Bill McCartney, or remember the recent disgrace that was Jon Embree, there have been many memorable names to coach black and gold.
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