San Jose State football followers should take a deep breath.
The departure of Mike MacIntyre, who is leaving the Spartans for an industrial-strength reclamation project at Colorado, is a blow for the school. But it does not have to be a knockout blow.
The fact is, in a weird way, the exit of MacIntyre is a sign that Spartans football is back in good shape. The challenge of athletic director Gene Bleymaier will be to hire someone who won't lose the program's muscle tone. That can happen. Given his background as athletic director at Boise State before joining SJSU last summer, he should have plenty of names in his Rolodex (sorry, in his cell phone directory) to start making calls. He's likely started
Bleymaier refused interviews Monday but issued a statement that congratulated MacIntyre and thanked him for providing San Jose State "with a nice model moving forward for our next head coach to follow."
Sounds as if Bleymaier wasn't shocked by Monday's development. Why would he be? The history of football coaches at San Jose State is consistent. Any man who doesn't win much -- which has been too often the case in the past 20 years -- is fired or resigns. But any youngish coach who succeeds and wins a lot at SJSU has always left for something better.
MacIntyre said Monday at his introductory news conference in Boulder that he wasn't looking to leave the Spartans -- although he was honest
"Colorado contacted me," MacIntyre said. "I was very flattered that they contacted me."
Of course they did. At San Jose State, that's how it has worked in the good times: Be a good Spartans coach, get a richer offer elsewhere, get to the news conference. It happened in 1976 with Darryl Rogers, who left for Michigan State. It happened in 1984 when Jack Elway left for Stanford. It happened in 1992 when Terry Shea left to become Bill Walsh's top Stanford assistant and eventually the head coach at Rutgers. It happened in 1993 with Ron Turner, who left for an NFL assistant job with the Bears and eventually became head coach at Illinois.
MacIntyre, 47, was never going to be a lifer with the Spartans if he executed a turnaround. The big surprise was the turnaround happened so quickly, from a 1-12 record two years ago to 10-2 and a bowl trip this season. The milder surprise was that MacIntyre apparently did not receive an offer from Cal after Jeff Tedford was fired. MacIntyre then chose to accept a different Pac-12 invitation from Colorado, where the football program's state has been described as a roaring dumpster fire after the recent ugly dismissal of former coach Jon Embree.
Still, the Colorado job is in a BCS conference with BCS economics. That allowed the school to more than quadruple MacIntyre's $450,000 San Jose State salary. How can you blame the guy for saying: "Where do I sign?" San Jose State does not have the resources to match that sort of loot.
So what are Bleymaier's options? In general, they are threefold:
Option A: If he does want to hire someone who might stick around longer than a few years at SJSU, Bleymaier can go find an older coach who has had success in the past and is looking for one more stop and one more round of thrills before retiring. A previous example would be Dick Tomey, who took San Jose State to its last bowl game in 2006 but did not look to leave. He stuck it out while struggling to win before abdicating to his Hawaii residence in 2009.
Option B: Bleymaier can go find a younger man who has done well as a head coach at a lower tier of college football (as Stanford did when it hired Jim Harbaugh from the University of San Diego) or someone who was once successful at the top tier but then fell by the wayside for various reasons. An entrant in that category would be Dan Hawkins, a big winner at Boise State when he worked for Bleymaier there but then flopped at (ironically) Colorado. Another entrant in that category would be Tedford. And here's a wild thought: Ty Willingham. He's lived in the South Bay ever since his ouster at Washington after the 2008 season. He'd have to be worth a phone call even just to get advice, wouldn't he?
Option C: Bleymaier can scout the ranks for a bright young assistant coach from a BCS school who would roll into town and try to duplicate the path of MacIntyre -- who came to SJSU as a bright young defensive coordinator from Duke. There are two worthy prospects just up the road in Palo Alto -- Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and defensive coordinator Derek Mason. There are equivalents at other top-25 schools.
The danger of choosing Option B and Option C would be another potential short-time coach. That's bad for the players -- although from their quotes and tweets, they seemed to understand MacIntyre's decision Monday -- but it would yield the best candidates. With the Spartans moving into the Mountain West Conference next season, SJSU alums must step up with enough money to build new facilities and create a larger salary pool for assistant coaches.
Rest assured, the fundraising will be easier if the winning continues. The price for that might be another coach who wants to showcase his talent at San Jose State for three or four years and then take a more glamorous gig.
That's no crime. That's reality, given the football program's place in the college football universe. It's not ideal. It's just the best way for San Jose State football to do business, if it wants to stay in business.