Why CU Held Up Coach Mike MacIntyre's Contract Over Joe Tumpkin Assault Case

CU Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre. Additional images and more below.
CU Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre. Additional images and more below. YouTube
The delay in approving a contract extension for University of Colorado Boulder head football coach Mike MacIntyre has everything to do with domestic-violence accusations against Joe Tumpkin, one of his assistants. Tumpkin allegedly abused his significant other more than 100 times, as is documented in an arrest affidavit on view below, and a CU representative makes it clear that the university wants to avoid allowing the situation, and MacIntyre's role in dealing with it, to turn into a mess on par with a previous recruiting scandal from which the football program took more than a decade to recover.

"Obviously, when you have a history of things that damage the reputation of the institution like that, you want to be more attuned to them," says Ken McConnellogue, CU's vice president of communications and a frequent spokesman for the president's office and the board of regents. He adds that the decision by CU chancellor Phil DiStefano not to put MacIntyre's extension before the regents until April at the earliest is "absolutely an indication of how seriously we're taking this."

The events that led to this move are detailed in "Will Joe Tumpkin Domestic Abuse Case Become Next CU Football Scandal?," an early February post that examined the way the university dealt with the incidents that preceded the filing of criminal charges against Tumpkin.

As we wrote at the time, the actions of MacIntyre, with whom the alleged victim in the case shared her story weeks before Tumpkin's arrest and firing, looked so questionable in a Sports Illustrated exposé that he "shouldn't assume the recent upturn in CU's football fortunes will guarantee that he'll emerge from this latest embarrassment repercussion-free."

The CU Boulder portrait of Joe Tumpkin. - CUBUFFS.COM
The CU Boulder portrait of Joe Tumpkin.
According to Sports Illustrated, Tumpkin's accuser began trying to reach MacIntyre and his wife, Trisha, with whom she was friendly, in early December and finally succeeded on December 9, eleven days before a restraining order against Tumpkin was granted.

During a subsequent conversation, as we've reported, the woman (identified in the piece by a pseudonym, Jane) told the SI reporter that MacIntyre was kind and solicitous. Yet Tumpkin remained on the CU payroll until January 6, when a reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera reached out to CU associate athletic director Dave Plati for comment about the allegations against Tumpkin. Only then was Tumpkin suspended, and he resigned under pressure on January 27, after he was charged with five counts of second-degree (felony) assault and three counts of third-degree (misdemeanor) assault.

Afterward, DiStefano put out a statement in which he admitted that CU should have acted more quickly even though the incidents didn't involve a student and took place off-campus.

This acknowledgment was followed by the release of the aforementioned arrest affidavit, which adds even more detail to the horrors outlined in a request for a restraining order that had previously been made public. In it, the woman describes a March 2016 fight that resulted in a neighbor calling the Broomfield police after hearing a man telling a woman, "I will fucking kill you." At that time, she and Tumpkin denied having an altercation and claimed the noise had resulted from "having loud sex."

Even more disturbing is an account from mid-November, in which the woman confronted Tumpkin over "a girl he may have been seeing." At that time, she told investigators that Tumpkin choked her, shook her and pulled her across the room by her hair. He also ordered her to "get the fuck out of my house," called her "names like 'cunt' and told her that if she died, 'he would not go to her funeral.'"

Joe Tumpkin during his time at Central Michigan University. - YOUTUBE
Joe Tumpkin during his time at Central Michigan University.
Another passage: "I asked [deleted] to tell me how many times she was physically assaulted by Joe and she said in excess of 100 times. She told me she was choked in excess of 100 times and that on at least three occasions she had trouble breathing. In addition to these incidents, she claims that he placed a cellular phone against her jaw causing an injury to a tooth that she had just undergone an implant on. The implant later failed and she is missing a tooth and must wait several months for the area to completely heal before a replacement implant can be inserted. She also advised that he would grab her face and place his face near hers and sneer at her, repeating, 'So you want to leave? So you want to leave?'"

Details like these created an optics problem for CU when it came to MacIntyre's contract extension. The agreement had been put forward in the afterglow from the Buffs' best season in years and MacIntyre being named the Home Depot Coach of the Year.

As such, McConnellogue says, "the chancellor made the decision both to postpone the regents' review in voting on the contract and to have an inquiry into the whole situation. We're looking at, did we violate any of our policies, and also, do we need to tweak, change, improve any of our policies or procedures. How we handled this particular issue is one part of it, but we also want to look at how we operate more broadly."

The current case "is an odd situation," McConnellogue continues. "A woman made a personal call to Coach MacIntyre, and at the time, there was no police complaint, no charges filed, nothing like that. So it was a bit of a different situation than the typical thing we deal with — and it's hard to write policies for every circumstance that might arise. But we're trying to provide as broad a framework as possible so people know what to do in a variety of situations."

CU chancellor Phil DiStefano. - YOUTUBE
CU chancellor Phil DiStefano.
In his view, "We've got a pretty good framework in place now — and I'm not saying the system is entirely broken. But this is an opportunity to look at it in the light of what happened. Certainly, as we've said, we didn't handle things as well as we could and should have. And this inquiry will speak to that. We felt it was important to have an independent look at this."

The specifics of the investigation should be set soon.

While McConnellogue doesn't reject references to the previous recruiting scandal out of hand, he says, "That's in no way to suggest that these are on parallel tracks. They're not. All of us who have worked at the institution for a while remember those days and the damage they did. I don't think this situation is anywhere close to what we went through a decade-plus ago. But Title IX issues and sexual-assault issues have really been front and center at the campus in the past several years. They are very high on the radar screen. And we're also looking at what's happening nationally. Intercollegiate athletics is being held to a pretty high level of scrutiny, and rightfully so. I think what we're seeing here is reflective of that."

As for whether MacIntyre's job at CU could actually be in danger as a result of the Tumpkin matter, McConnellogue points out that the coach still has two years left on his contract. Otherwise, he says, "I'd hate to speak for the regents, whose job is to approve this contract. But as coach MacIntyre expressed in a recent statement, he is a man who has devoted his professional career to not just being a football coach, but to being someone who takes the great responsibility of shaping the lives of young men and understanding his place in the university community and beyond. It's obviously difficult when questions like this come up, but I think he's got a great track record of being a man of integrity."

Who will have to wait a while longer to enjoy the financial security a contract extension will bring. Here's the Tumpkin arrest affidavit, from which the victim's name has been removed.

Joe Tumpkin Affidavit

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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