San Jose State back on map under Mike MacIntyre
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)
Mike MacIntyre's father has never seen him as a head coach in person. George MacIntyre is bedridden 24 hours a day with multiple sclerosis back home in Tennessee, glued to the television each time San Jose State takes the field.
They talk before and after each game, with dad often quick to offer praise for his son's players and even instructions to target a particular receiver more regularly.
''Yes, sir, I'll throw it to 82 more,'' MacIntyre promises his 73-year-old father and former Vanderbilt coach, who ''lives and dies with it.''
There's already plenty to cheer for the MacIntyre family, with Mike's Spartans (10-2) ranked No. 25 in the BCS and heading to the Dec. 27 Military Bowl in Washington, D.C., two years after a 1-12 showing in his first season. San Jose State accepted the bid Friday.
MacIntyre had held out slim hopes of coaching in front of his father in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
''He was in phenomenal shape and it just hit him when he was 57, 58, and he's progressively gotten worse,'' MacIntyre said. ''He's basically bedridden, but you can walk in the house and go, `How you doing, dad?' `Fantastic! Awesome!'''
MacIntyre's younger brother, Matt, will travel to the nation's capital to represent the family. Matt didn't tell their parents there had even been a possibility of San Jose State visiting Nashville, so now ''Coach Mac'' - as their dad is known - and their mother, Betty, will gear up to root from afar.
Just to be talking bowl games is a big deal for the Spartans, who take a back seat to just about everybody else in the sports-heavy San Francisco area - the 49ers and Oakland Raiders, Stanford and California football, and a handful of other professional teams.
''It's all new for all of us,'' senior tight end Ryan Otten said. ''I was here on teams when we won one game, two games. We were toward the bottom of college football. Now, to crack the top 25, we've come so far.''
The 47-year-old MacIntyre took over a program still reeling from limited scholarships following academic penalties by the NCAA stemming from problems before previous coach Dick Tomey arrived. After the 1-12 season featuring a heavy schedule of ranked teams, the Spartans went 5-7 in MacIntyre's second season for the school's best finish in five years. San Jose State won at Fresno State for the first time in 24 years and also beat Navy and Colorado State.
They're winning this season behind little-known quarterback David Fales, who transferred from Monterey Peninsula College before spring ball this year.
''It's amazing,'' Fales said. ''I know for a lot of guys it's just crazy to think about where we're at now.''
These days, the Spartans have a full allotment of scholarships, a year-round program, and a serious commitment to academics, too.
''Now you start having a really good product on the field,'' MacIntyre said. ''When I first got here, people said, `You know, we would wear our San Jose State shirts out and people wouldn't say much and now we're walking down the street and everybody's got San Jose State shirts on.' When I walk around campus or go out somewhere, they say, `Way to go, coach!' The kids are getting that, too. What a gratifying thing that they've done it the right way.''
There were plenty of moments the past two seasons when MacIntyre was wondering if they'd ever truly get things turned around, questioning if he had made the right move to leave his post as Duke defensive coordinator for his first head coaching gig. He also worked as a secondary coach for the Cowboys and New York Jets.
''How can we do this? How can we do this?'' he would ask himself.
MacIntyre reads a saying on the board in his office each morning as a daily reminder: ''In life, worthwhile accomplishments and acquisitions take time. Usually, the better the reward, the more time it takes to acquire it. Never, never, never give up.''
When it popped up on one of his coach's phone last Sunday that the Spartans had cracked the BCS Top 25, the coaches made a special announcement to the players during their already-scheduled team meeting that night. Most hadn't heard the news.
''The first thing I did was say, `Guys, you did this,' and I stood back and had them put it up on the screen,'' MacIntyre said. ''You should have heard them cheer.''
MacIntyre's name is already beginning to swirl around vacancies around the country.
''When you're losing, they talk about you as a coach and when you're winning they talk about you. It's a lot better when you're winning. It helps our program, it helps people get involved in our program,'' he said. ''It gets our name out there.''
MacIntyre seems comfortable handling all the increased national attention on him and his rising program.
He carries with him at all times a special coin commemorating his dad being honored as 1982 Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year at Vanderbilt - a constant reminder when he needs faith, or when it's time to make a tough decision or something just isn't going right.
He doesn't consider the coin a good-luck charm - it goes much deeper than that. MacIntyre played two seasons for his father at Vandy before finishing his career at Georgia Tech.
''I grab that coin and I pray, I think, I reflect on things he did,'' MacIntyre said. ''It's a way of calming me and getting refocused. It has his name on it, `George MacIntyre.' I look at it many times a day, a reminder of what my legacy is, the legacy I have to carry on, where my heritage is. I think that's important because I'm very proud of my father and what he stood for and how he lived life.''
And, now, MacIntyre is leaving his own mark - one that has made his dad equally proud.