Since Bill McCartney announced on November 19 that he was resigning as coach of the University of Colorado football team, we've been subjected to an endless stream of the gospel according to Coach Mac, recounted by a number of media disciples.
We've heard that he didn't intend to steal Rashaan Salaam's thunder by making his surprise announcement the same day that Salaam broke the school's rushing record but had simply picked the time that would work best for his team and the school, which needed to start recruiting.
We've heard that those new recruits will somehow survive the disappointment of not playing for McCartney.
We've heard that what his current players will miss most is his sense of humor (which some of us have missed altogether during McCartney's thirteen years with the program).
We've heard that McCartney's supposed sins--his urging prayer sessions on his teams, speaking at Operation Rescue rallies, decrying homosexuality as an "abomination" while standing at a podium in a CU sweater--are all behind him, forgiven if not forgotten.
We've heard that McCartney is actually part of a trend, of men making sacrifices for their families (and moving from the sports pages to the lifestyle pages in the process).
We've heard that he plans to spend less time consoling his star quarterback, Kordell Stewart, in the showers (as he did after a '93 loss) and lots more time with his wife, Lyndi. We've even heard what poses she struck for the glamour-shot calendar that McCartney keeps behind his desk. He can't wait for Miss January, noted one reporter.
We've heard--again and again--that Bill McCartney is concerned that he hasn't been the kind of husband he should have been, the kind of father he should have been.
But in all the endless outpourings of McCartney memories, we have yet to hear what a hypocrite he is. And Denver's TV stations and daily papers are perfectly content not to call his bluff.
The real eye-opener arrived in last week's Sports Illustrated, in which writers Richard Hoffer and Shelley Smith describe how McCartney is "Putting His House in Order." Not a particularly tidy house, it's the sort of place that recalls the adage, "People who live in glass houses..." But so far, the local media have been content to pull the curtains on behalf of Coach Mac rather than mention the story that appeared in the nation's preeminent sports publication. Perhaps it's because, in the business of sports journalism, some things remain sacred. What's suitable for newsroom snickering apparently is not deemed newsworthy for the same folks who are force-fed pap about pinup calendars and subjected to endless--if edited--speculation about why Coach Mac might really have left.
The SI article repeats McCartney's stated reason for his resignation: to be with his wife. "I see an opportunity to put everything on a back burner and have a marriage become all it's capable of being," he told the magazine. "That's what's in my heart, and nothing else. I know it's almost un-American to quit your job, and I know it sounds arrogant, because not everybody can do it. But not everybody has a job as demanding or taxing as being a head football coach. I recognize this is not conventional thinking, but it's very much my thinking. And I wasn't always in touch with that. But now that I am, it's the most compelling, convicting thought that I have."
There are other compelling parts to this story, though. There's the revelation that McCartney's only daughter, Kristen, who in 1989 gave birth to the child of ailing Colorado quarterback Sal Aunese, has had another child. (Aunese, who didn't admit paternity until a blood test did it for him, died of cancer when his son was five months old; McCartney publicly acknowledged his grandchild at Aunese's memorial service.) Fifteen months ago Kristen gave birth to the son of Shannon Clavelle, another of her father's more infamous charges. (Last month the defensive tackle received a deferred sentence on an assault charge; Aunese's rap sheet rated a place in SI's infamous "What Price Glory?" piece on CU's brawlers back in 1989.)
"I had been dating Shannon for a while, which they didn't like," Kristen told SI about her parents. "But I was a grown woman, 24 years old. They couldn't tell me what to do. When I did tell them I was pregnant, they were hurt and upset, but completely supportive."
Supportive, in fact, to the point of continuing to support Kristy, an unemployed, unmarried masseuse, and her growing family.
It's arguably admirable that McCartney has seen fit to embrace his daughter's two children, and that his wife, Lyndi, is willing to babysit while Kristy continues to party. And it's true that it's difficult to tell a 24-year-old daughter what to do. Except that if you are supporting her, you can tell her to stay away from your football players. Or you can resign your position as coach, and stay away yourself.
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McCartney's inability to influence his daughter wouldn't be so annoying if he weren't so busy trying to influence everyone else. This summer he preached to over 50,000 men who'd gathered at Folsom Field for the fourth annual Promise Keepers rally. He told them that their families must be their first priority, that men must take charge of their wives. The speech would have been much more impressive if McCartney actually practiced what he preached--but he's been saying essentially the same thing for years. In his book From Ashes to Glory, recounting the tough time leading up to the 1990 national championship, McCartney wrote of his failures as a husband and father in almost the same terms he now uses to discuss his resignation. But even so, every fall he continued to take the field with his football team, and every summer he filled the same space with thousands of men hungry for Jesus.
And for words served up by a hypocrite.
What made this year different from the others? It could indeed be that McCartney's family needs him--although clearly he was needed many formative years ago. But it could also be that in 1995, the escape clause of his fifteen-year CU contract kicks in. With some helpful paper-shuffling at the CU Foundation, McCartney may take home as much as $150,000 a year for the next decade.
It's easy to have principles when you have the principal.