Out With McCaffrey, In With Lamb at Northern Colorado

Photo via UNC Athletics.

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) has made drastic changes to their football program in the past 15 days. Ed McCaffrey was fired after three years and two played seasons as the team struggled with a 6-16 (4-12) record. Additionally, there was the “clip-board scandal” at Montana State with Max throwing a broken clip-board at fans, stories of Collins-Era players being washed/ forced out of the program, alleged scholarship discrepancies, and a general sense of fractured leadership from part of the roster. In an effort to “right the ship” Athletic Director Darren Dunn conducted a brief national coaching search with little communication to anyone outside of the University and a swift decision of Ed Lamb.

Who is Ed Lamb?

Photo via Jaren Wilkey/BYU.

Ed Lamb played college football at BYU-Idaho and BYU from 1992-93 and 1994-96. He went on to be: University of Redlands (DIII) Defensive Line Coach and Defensive Coordinator (1997-00), BYU Graduate Assistant (2001), Idaho’s Defensive Coordinator (2002-03), San Diego’s Special Teams Coach (2005-07), Southern Utah’s Head Coach (2008-15), and most recently BYU’s Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coach (2016-22). Lamb has a quarter-century of coaching experience, two Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conference titles (Great West, Big Sky), and two FCS playoff appearances.

During Lamb’s time at Southern Utah he went 45-47 (27-21) with two conference titles, two eight win seasons, and two FCS playoff appearances. Lamb also helped produce two NFL players (Marques Harris and Nick Miller) and LeShaun Sims, Miles Kilebrew, and James Crowser all attended Southern Utah the year after Lamb left and went onto the NFL. Southern Utah’s two playoff losses under Lamb came to playoff juggernaut Sam Houston State with 51-20 and 42-39 results. In Lamb’s last year at Southern Utah he finished with an 8-4 (7-1) record.

Lamb rakes in high praises from all of his former colleagues in Provo, Utah as those asked in pressers only had glowing remarks of his high football IQ, ability to lead, and ability to develop players into good men. Lamb has seen many positions, roles, and important mentors in his 25 years of coaching, including being on Jim Harbaugh’s staff in San Diego where they won three conference titles together.

What Does This Mean for UNC?

Photo via UNC Athletics.

UNC had to do something to drain the poisonous venom that the McCaffrey Mafia left behind with a decimated culture, lack of integrity in leadership, lack of transparency, questionable decision making, and dilapidated fan base. The fact that UNC chose a greatly experienced coach with high moral values is a perfectly positive step in the right direction to rebuilding the trust in Greeley. Surprisingly, UNC saw less transfers out with the firing of McCaffrey (12) than under his leadership (35). This is an extremely encouraging note for Bears fans as the roster is made up of many players from the highest recruiting classes the University has ever been able to land. Once Lamb meets with the team those unsure of their future can assess whether or not to spend another trip around the sun in Greeley.

While Lamb is coming in part way through the winter transfer portal period other previously staffed coaches have continued their original recruiting duties. This may initially have UNC only partially behind the crowd in landing winter recruits, but knowing Lamb’s track record he will try to make the most of the spring signing period. As Lamb builds his staff of coaches and advisors it will be interesting to see what kind of leaders he chooses and if any of the previous staff who stuck around and worked are retained.

Ultimately, UNC is in a more positive situation than before culturally and structurally. It will be up to Lamb to establish a healthy culture and develop the students into great men on and off the field like Lamb’s peers believe he will continue to do. The rest of the needed qualities are easy: create a winning culture that has not yet existed in Greeley at the Division I level, recruit the best of the best, and elevate the program consistently.

What Will it Take to Recover From the McCaffrey Mafia?

Photo via CBS 4 Denver.

The pandemonium and blind optimism of a local NFL legend and family coming to coach a struggling local University with nostalgic roots on his rise to stardom is the opening line to a Romeo-Juliet style tragedy. Fans and locals buzzed as a celebrity chose “little-ole” UNC to get their college coaching beginnings. In reality, UNC was used and abused for a washed-up four-star quarterback who barely averaged 10.07 yards per completion this season and 8.325 yards per completion in 2021. Between Dylan’s short and often incomplete passes, Max’s uninspired and uneducated play-calling, and Ed’s nepotistic blindness to start his son just to lose due to his turnovers, incompletions, or Ed’s own lack of awareness on in-game management.

Two disappointing seasons that misused talent, overlooked potential contributors, and stalemated to three measly wins each year is the bottom of where UNC can afford to be. If Lamb can avoid unethical scenarios, surround himself with equally experienced and motivated coaches, and unlock the key to gradually winning more in Greeley this will be a momentous success. The ability of the program to breathe and rehabilitate itself from the filth it withstood from 2019-2022 alone will be a massive upgrade. The biggest building blocks the program will need right away is an ability to establish trust, recruit well, and build an identity and scheme on offense and defense that fits the talent available. The Big Sky will not give UNC time to recuperate as the 2023 season will feature one FBS opponent and five FCS playoff teams from this season.

Photo via UNC Athletics.