2016 CU football schedule
Friday, Sept. 2 vs. Colorado State (at Denver), 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday, Sept. 10 vs. Idaho State, 3:30 p.m. (Pac-12)
Saturday, Sept. 17 at Michigan
Saturday, Sept. 24 at Oregon
Saturday, Oct. 1 vs. Oregon State
Saturday, Oct. 8 at USC
Saturday, Oct. 15 vs. Arizona State
Saturday, Oct. 22 at Stanford
Thursday, Nov. 3 vs. UCLA, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Saturday, Nov. 12 at Arizona
Friday, Nov. 19 vs. Washington State
Saturday, Nov. 26 vs. Utah
Friday, Dec. 2 Pac-12 Championship (Santa Clara, Calif.)
Bowl or bust
At CU's media days at the Dal Ward Center in early August, head coach Mike MacIntyre professed the bowl-or-bust mantra is one he has lived by since he took over the CU program before the 2013 season.
Now in his fourth season at the helm, MacIntyre is hoping the Buffs' wealth of experience on both sides of the ball leads to the end of the program's nine-year bowl drought.
If the Buffs can avoid any debilitating spates of injury, MacIntyre will have the pieces in place. More than half the roster, 56 players to be precise, are juniors or seniors. Thirty-six of those players have been in MacIntyre's program for at least three years.
The roster boasts a wealth of playing experience, with a total of 1,072 games played marking the resumes of the players in camp. That's the most CU has had since 1,080 in 2005. The Buffs also return a total of 412 games started — the most in the program's history.
Of course, that experience can only take a team so far. The previous mark for the most returning starts was 333 by the 1979 Buffs, who promptly went 3-8. The third-best total of returning starts was 327 was from last year, when a 4-8 final mark was bolstered by a lopsided win against FCS-level Nicholls. However, the experience of 326 returning starts certainly paid off well for the 2001 squad, which went 10-3 and won the Big 12 Conference championship game.
"I think it's all a process, and it builds on top of everything," MacIntyre said. "They've built it in layers. Now they're at the point where they believe they can do it. They see they can do it. It's not only in their words, it's more in their actions more than it ever has been before.
"I think when your words turn into actions, that's when results start happening more often. I see that."
After a rough season in 2015, Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez made the decision to revamp his defensive coaching staff.
That meant firing two assistants that had been with him a long time — defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich.
Rodriguez said dismissing those coaches was "the most difficult thing I've done in my career."
In the world of coaching, however, what's good for the team trumps friendships, and head coaches often have to make the difficult determination that a change is necessary.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre has had to make tough choices, too. Entering his fourth season in Boulder, MacIntyre's coaching staff looks much different than it did during his first season, in 2013.
"Any time you make a change, it's difficult, because you care about the people and love the people and understand it," MacIntyre said. "I think (the key is) the way you handle it and the way you do it. We're all in this business and understand that we have to keep moving forward and keep doing that. It's always tough."
When he was hired at Colorado, MacIntyre did what most coaches do in a new job and brought several assistants with him from his previous stop at San Jose State. In fact, seven of the nine assistants he hired for his original staff in 2013 had worked for him at San Jose State.
MacIntyre's staff remained the same for his second year at CU, in 2014. Most of them worked together to rebuild the San Jose State program, but two years into their time together in Boulder, the Buffs were 6-18 and had managed just one Pac-12 win in 18 tries.
That offseason, MacIntyre began making changes, and after a disappointing 4-9 season last year, he made even more, revamping his entire offensive staff.
Going into his fourth year in Boulder, MacIntyre has just five of his nine original assistants, and only one coach on the staff — defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat — has the same job title as in 2013. In addition to making changes to his nine-man coaching staff, MacIntyre fired strength and conditioning coach Dave Forman (who came to CU from San Jose State) in the offseason and replaced him with Drew Wilson.
Making changes and recognizing when things aren't working can be vital to the growth of a program.
"I haven't been a guy that has fired coordinators or fired a lot of people," Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said. "I hired them, so you have to develop them. On the same hand, you have to do what's best for the team. Sometimes you can make a mistake (with a hire), and if you do, you've got to correct it, quickly.
"You can have one guy out of nine on your staff that's the wrong fit and it causes a lot of problems."
Two years into his tenure at CU, MacIntyre recognized the need to fix the defense quickly. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer was let go, and Jim Leavitt was hired. Last season, the offense sputtered, and the Buffs hired Darrin Chiaverini in December to work with Brian Lindgen as co-coordinators.
"I think it's extremely important that you have to do that and work with (changes)," MacIntyre said. "Those are tough decisions for the betterment of the program and the betterment of the overall direction you're trying to go."
With year No. 4 set to begin, MacIntyre believes the staff is headed in the right direction, not only in terms of the quality of the coaches, but in how they get along as a group.
"I've been very pleased with how the staff has worked together, been extremely pleased with their work ethic," he said. "We all get along well and they care about young people. They all want to be at Colorado and they're excited about being there. All of that to me, is definitely in an A-plus area."
Now, it's time for them to perform during the season, but MacIntyre believes this is a better staff than he's had.
"I think we've got more energy, No. 1," he said. "Better expertise in some areas, No. 2; and I think on the recruiting side of it, we have some people that are more well-rounded recruiters and do a good job in that area."
Brian Howell: twitter.com/BrianHowell33