By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
PHILADELPHIA, PA. — I’ll never forget the first time I met Ron McBride, the veteran coach at Weber State.
I was part of the media group attending the 2007 Big Sky Conference media event in Park City, Utah. We were eating lunch on a Monday and getting ready to hit the golf course for a round of 18 holes when Coach Mac took ill and had to be taken to the hospital for tests.
We were all nervous for the likable coach and athletic director and former WSU coach Jerry Graybill ended up doing McBride’s interviews that week. McBride was released from the hospital a day, or two later and went on to lead the Wildcats to the playoffs in 2008 and 2009.
I was informed late Monday night of a press conference that will be held on Tuesday afternoon at Weber State’s Stewart Stadium and sources tell me that the event will be to announce the retirement of McBride, one of the good guys in college athletics and an unsung hero as a coach at both Utah and Weber State.
McBride is expected to step down at the end of the season.
McBride always made me laugh when we were together and didn’t take the game of football too seriously, win, or lose.
He also had trouble remembering names. It seemed like every time we met he wanted to refer to me as “Don” instead of David. But just as easy-going as Coach Mac was, I tried to laugh these eccentricities off as well.
McBride is in his seventh season as the Wildcats’ coach and has compiled a record of 41-38 overall, including a 32-21 mark in the Big Sky Conference. That is after he took over a program that won just one game the year before his arrival.
With two games left this season, WSU is 3-6 overall and 3-3 in the Big Sky.
The Wildcats will play their final home game of the season on Saturday against Northern Arizona and then finish up the season and McBride’s career the following weekend at Portland State.
On Saturday in a 44-24 loss to Montana State, McBride was struck on the sidelines and injured by a player going out of bounds after an interception in the first quarter.
What was initially believed to a torn ACL in his right knee turned out to be a broken tibia. As tough as ever, the 72-year-old coach stayed on the sideline for the rest of the game.
Though the Wildcats have experienced a disappointing season, with three consecutive losses, McBride will be remembered for better times.
His teams were always competitive against FBS opponents, coming close to several upsets and in 2008, his squad broke a long losing streak against Montana, in a game I watched in person, on their way to a share of the Big Sky Conference title with the Grizzlies.
It was the first title for WSU in 40 years and the Wildcats finished 10-4.
That team also went on the road and bounced a talented Cal Poly squad out of the playoffs in the first round before losing a rematch to Montana, this time in Missoula, MT. It was the first playoff appearance for the Wildcats since 1991 and the first 10-victory season in 21 years in Ogden. Utah.
Not only did McBride resurrect the Weber State program, he had done the same earlier in his career at Utah. In 13 years with the Utes, Coach Mac was 88-63, with six bowl appearances — twice as many bowl games as Utah had made in the previous 97 years of the football program.
McBride also had his share of success in the state’s most intense rivalry game, the annual matchup with Brigham Young University that is known as “The Holy War.” Coach Mac won six of the last 11 meetings after BYU had dominated the series with 16 wins in the previous 18 years.
Another thing most insiders respected about McBride was his ability to develop talent. Few coaches sent as many players to the NFL, both from Utah and Weber State as Coach Mac.
Here is wishing for a speedy recovery from the broken leg and the best in whatever you decide to do in the future, Coach Mac.
From your friend, “Don.”
As expected, McBride announced his retirement on Tuesday afternoon. Here were his comments:
“I’ve coached all over the country over the last 50 years, and it’s been a great ride,” said McBride. “Football has really been my life. The reality is that it’s all about the players, so the reason I’ve come to this decision is that I looked at the program, and all the kids are in the right classes, the program is right where it needs to be, and I just feel like they need a new voice at the top.
“The only thing that is important to me right now is the success of Weber State. We built this program. With what we had in mind, everything is in place, and now we just need somebody to take it to the next step.”
McBride had turned 72 last month is currently the sixth oldest active head coach in Division I football.
Penn State’s Joe Paterno, Albany’s Bob Ford, Appalachian State’s Jerry Moore, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder and Florida Atlantic’s Howard Schnellenberger are the five head coaches older than McBride.
“Today is a day where we celebrate a coaching legend,” said Weber State Athletic Director Jerry Bovee. “Coach Mac has done some great things here at Weber State, and we would like to thank him, and his family, for all the hard work that he has put in. Where we go forward from here will be determined another day. Really, today is a day that needs to be what it is, and this is Coach Mac’s day.”