Roy Exum: A Diamond Found In Mud

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In Boulder, Colorado, it is so bad that on Monday alone helicopters plucked 215 people who were stranded by a horrific flood out of the foothills. There are 119 homes that have been destroyed, another 111 severely damaged and – to date – over 180 people are still unaccounted for. Anybody who has ever lived through a flood should give thanks the TVA system saved our area an estimated $44 million in damages in a year where we’ve already had 20 more inches of rain than is normal.

So as we look towards Boulder, where it will take months before the mud and debris is finally swept away, we find an old friend who just discovered a diamond in one of the state’s worst disasters in years. Mike MacIntyre is in his first year as the head football coach at the University of Colorado, one of Boulder’s greatest treasures.

I met Mike when he was a kid hanging around Vanderbilt football practice when his father, George, was the Commodores head coach. He played at Vandy himself for two years but, when his dad was replaced, Mike finished up at Georgia Tech and has steadily climbed the coaching ladder ever since. Last year he led San Diego State to a 10-2 record before the Buffs hired him away and it helps to know he was named as the National Coach of the Year by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

You see, that’s part of the diamond. Mike, who is now 47, is real big on what he calls “The Four F’s” and every Colorado player can recite them: Foundation (being solid person on a daily basis), Family (caring about and being accountable to each other and Colorado), Future (“Football is what they do, not what they are … we want ‘em  to have an education and a future”), and – last – Football (“If we do the right things and care about each other, there isn’t a lot of baggage when we try to be successful.”)

By last Friday the continuous rain had turned Boulder into such a “Noah and the Arc” kind of place that a series of urgent phone calls postponed the Buffs home game against Fresno State. That’s a little harder to do than the average person might think. All the food that had already been delivered – enough to feed thousands – and 80 percent of it had already been prepared. All of it would soon spoil. What to do now?

Get this: Back in July the university hired Rick George as the athletic director. George had been working as the CEO of the Texas Rangers baseball team and is remembered as a pretty excitable guy in the nine years he was an assistant AD – where? -- at Vanderbilt in the ‘90s. So the new AD quickly huddled with MacIntyre and they suddenly announced all over Boulder that the Colorado football team would be absolutely delighted to serve hamburgers, hot dogs and all kinds of other food to anyone who had been displaced by the flood waters.

The Colorado football family didn’t stop there, either. They asked that all policemen, firemen, medical techs and any other first responders to please be their guests. The football players, which were soon joined by basketball, soccer, tennis and many other players at Colorado, who would handle everything from serving the food to cleaning up afterwards.

They opened the stadium, turning the huge Jumbotrons in the end zone into king-sized televisions showing games on ESPN and CBS. Athletes of all sizes helped babysit kids, the mascots pranced with the children, and all the guests were treated like kings. Over 800 people showed up and everyone loved it.

"It's been a really nice break and a nice little diversion for us," police officer Matthew DeLaria told the Colorado Daily. "It's nice to see the players and everybody out here working to support the community. It's been hard. It's been exhausting. All the police, fire and ambulance crews are just running and running and running. We're all working 12-hour shifts at least. So we're tired but we're hanging in there. We've got a lot of support from the community. So it's been good."

Will Oliver, a place-kicker on the football team, was one of eight players who live off-campus and was displaced by the water. But he stood in line, serving food to others all afternoon. “A lot of these people have lost their homes. Others are flooded and they have no idea what they're going to do,” he told the Daily Camera. “It's nice to be able to give back and make sure everyone is OK."

Wow! And through the whole think, Rick George and Mike MacIntyre watched their athletes with pride that has been missing in Boulder in recent years. "This truly teaches life lessons," the football coach said. "There are a lot more important things than football."

Remember the Four F’s. Remember that a flood hit Boulder in Mike MacIntyre’s first year as the Buff’s head coach. Above all, never forget you can find a diamond in a sea of mud if you just look hard enough.

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