Fans, faculty, and community alike are buzzing on the University of Northern Colorado campus following the new coaching announcement. The rumor wheel started turning early Thursday morning and became official at 3:10 pm MT when Ed McCaffrey confirmed it on Twitter. The former Denver Broncos super bowl player, successful business owner, and former Valor Christian head coach Ed McCaffrey will be the next coach of the UNC Bears football team. Earnest Collins Jr. tried his best but ultimately did not create a winning formula on the field. Off the field, Collins helped the Bears lead the Big Sky and the FCS in graduate players while raising the academic standards. During his introduction, Coach McCaffrey told the crowd both winning and individual success were important to him.
So how and why Ed McCaffrey?
President Andrew Feinstein and Athletic Director Darren Dunn both eluded to why they thought McCaffrey would be a good fit and how it happened. The qualities McCaffrey presented as coach at Valor Christian really impressed both men. His ability to inspire the best in his players, determination to win, and big-picture mentality that both school and athletics are important to a healthy life. McCaffrey even said he was ultimately vouching for someone else he knew to get the job, but the focus soon turned to McCaffrey and he was ecstatic for the chance. President Feinstein sees McCaffrey as someone who can motivate the players to be the best they can on the field and in the classroom. McCaffrey not only had to go through this process himself but also has four boys in various stages of competing in college football and completing degrees. That experience should help him guide student-athletes through their time at UNC successfully. Darren Dunn sees this as a turning point and even the start of a new era in the Bears football team. Dunn knows how well acquainted McCaffrey is with success and hopes that he can bring that success to UNC. While only two years of coaching at Valor Christian high school in Colorado McCaffrey holds a 24-2 record and one state title. This year, Valor Christian lost 37-30 to Columbine in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
What McCaffrey Brings to UNC
McCaffrey sounds eager to conquer all aspects of the collegiate head coaching world. A motto he kept stating throughout the introduction was that he “hates losing” and “remembers every loss”. This is highly relatable to Bears fans as the majority of games have been losses since moving to Division I and the fans that are still here are tired of losing. Instant success is what every revamping of every struggling program hopes for, but it may be a learning curve and competition curve that McCaffrey will battle early on. An important part of McCaffrey’s introduction is he seems to make this is a personal mission for him. Not only is this a dream to coach at the college level, but UNC is a special place for McCaffrey to get his chance to start coaching. Some of his first memories of being a Bronco started on the UNC campus back when the Denver Broncos would have some of their training camp here in Greeley. McCaffrey nostalgically remembers practicing on the practice fields, eating in the dining halls, and staying in the dorms when they practiced in Greeley. McCaffrey reflected on several fond memories of practicing, taking pictures with his young family, bringing teams here for training camps, and Christain McCaffrey’s first pads came from the UNC locker room.
The unique perspective of coaching one of the highest caliber high schools in Colorado and the Western Region is how to relate to players and their goals. Many of those players’ goals included playing for out-of-state schools that sadden McCaffrey since some of the best high school athletes are playing their college days outside of Colorado. Not only is bringing in top talent a priority to McCaffrey, but he also plans to develop the players already here. With all coaching changes, it is expected there will be growing pains including players who may not believe in McCaffrey’s short resume. Unphased McCaffrey explained those are the kids he wants to coach the most since he expects them to be skeptical of what he can provide and in return he will push them to their maximum effort every day.
Another show of commitment from McCaffrey was the fact that he just wants “a chance to compete”. He wants to invest in the players, the staff, the school, recruiting, and the facilities. McCaffrey could do no wrong today, but he took it a step farther and explained in multiple ways how he is all-in and wants to elevate the program. McCaffrey believes that he can “bring championship football back to UNC and that it starts today”. McCaffrey explained his gameplan starting next week is to develop a coaching staff first off. He also wants to meet with each player individually over the course of the break and next semester so that he can better lead the program. McCaffrey ended his speech with the fact that he wants football in Greeley to be fun. He wants input from the students, faculty, and community how he and the football program can better serve the gameday atmosphere. McCaffrey already promised he would be bringing “a few party buses of his friends to the games next year”.
Questions We Wondered and Answers
Some questions from the media included (answers condensed and edited in written form for ease of reading):
What made you want to transition to college coaching from high school? And what are your career aspirations for this job?
McCaffrey: I took a break from coaching to just be a Dad and be with my family. I did not want anything I did to overshadow or put pressure on my kids while they were in high school. Once they all graduated I felt like it was a good time to go back and that coaching is ultimately what I am meant to do. At this point, I do not have any aspirations since I plan to be here for a long time and there is a lot of work to do. These players have a lot of work to do. I want to help them in the classroom and in life. That is not going to happen overnight, but I am going to give all I got.
How did this all come together? What was the timeline like?
McCaffrey: Believe it or not, I was actually trying to help someone else out at the time. Then it was brought back up with me and we had that talk. Subconsciously, I think I knew this is where I hoped it went, but it was a very fast process. After talking with President Feinstein and Director Dunn I felt like it was right. It feels like I have a purpose and that is to serve this team and this school. The timeline was a quick few weeks.
How confident and how excited are you for the recruiting process? Is there a kid you are most excited to coach?
McCaffrey: I cannot wait, I think I will be pretty good at it honestly. I remember when I was getting recruited. I also know parents want to know they are sending their kids to a university and a coach that will care about them. I will think of each one of them like they were one of my own. I want to serve them and make sure they are able to accomplish all of their dreams. It is one of the things I am most excited for. When I met with our players they are hard-working, respectful, and get good grades. That is what I want from them and that is part of what brought me here. I want to coach kids who are going to buy into the program. We can control our effort, our attitude, and how hard we work. We will be the hardest working team in the country, bar none. I want kids who want to be the best they can be and continually set their individual bar higher. I want kids who will play anyone, anywhere, and anytime that are afraid of nothing.
Overall Reaction to the McCaffrey Hire
Locals, students, alumni, and even Greeley residents, in general, seem excited about this move. Albeit a risky move by Director Dunn and President Feinstein with a lack of experience in college football coaching, this seems like a great risk to take. The McCaffrey family knows all about succeeding in sports so this should be a natural pursuit for Ed to eventually find success in. What were the other options? Other alumni in assistant positions out of state who have never led a team solely? Promoting Marty English to lead from within and hope the magic Division II roots are enough? Drag Bob Stitt back to Greeley from the FBS because he was here that one season as an assistant? Ask Dave Logan to drop Cherry Creek and KOA radio casting the games? All of these options would have been similar in risk and less in potential payoff as well. The Bears may have gotten the snag of the year for a rebuild at a small school coaching position. There was a small bit of negativity about the hire though. Some Bears faithful are worried they are getting a wonderful person who is connected to football, but maybe not seasoned enough to take over the head coaching of the college ranks just yet. That was the minority of the negativity though as some wondered if the timing of the release was somewhat strategic to annoy in-state opponent Colorado State. A significant chunk of Ram faithful are unenthused or simply disappointed with the hiring of Steve Addazio from Boston College. It just so happened that as the press conference was starting many reporters’ phones blew up with more exciting news of the local “little brother” Division I school taking a risk on a former Super Bowl Champion Bronco player for their head coach. Was this on purpose? Unlikely, but it is fun on a local level to stir up emotions that the little school has something nicer for once. Overall, the Bears should be thankful for a cunning administrative staff that gave them a wholesome, eager, and determined coach with a whole lot of football knowledge to help turn the ship around. Hire Grade: A- (Everything the Bears need and want, only lacking the experience of actually righting the ship to make it a near-perfect hire).
My name is Ben Schleiger and I’m your representative for the Big Sky Conference. I have done work for multiple newspapers and sports blogs including The Johnstown Breeze, The University of Northern Colorado Mirror, and Mile High Maniac. I am a proud alumnus of the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Political Science. In my free time, I like watching sports, playing video games, and trying new foods.