Mike MacIntyre raised the level of expectations for the Colorado football program.

His own failure to reach those expectations, however, cost him his job.

On Sunday, CU athletic director Rick George announced that he has fired MacIntyre with one game left in his sixth season with the Buffs. The decision comes just two years after MacIntyre won national coach of the year honors and one day after a 30-7 loss to No. 21 Utah in the home finale, which was the 500th game in Folsom Field history

"What this came down to was I wanted to see more consistency with winning seasons," George said. "Mike had an amazing 2016 season and we really hoped that kind of achievement would be continuous, but unfortunately that didn't happen, so I will immediately begin the process of seeking a new head coach."

Colorado athletic director Rick George answers questions after he made the decision to fire head coach Mike MacIntyre on Sunday morning.
Colorado athletic director Rick George answers questions after he made the decision to fire head coach Mike MacIntyre on Sunday morning. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper, in his first season with CU, was named interim head coach, as the Buffs prepare for Saturday's regular season finale at California.

During his tenure at CU, MacIntyre went 30-44, including 5-6 this season. After a 5-0 start, the Buffs have lost six in a row and they are guaranteed to finish no better than a tie for last place in the Pac-12 South division. That will give Buffs five last-place finishes in MacIntyre's six seasons.

With one last chance to achieve bowl eligibility on Saturday at Cal, George felt this was the time to make a move. He said he made the decision Saturday night, and then informed chancellor Phil DiStefano of his decision Sunday morning before meeting with MacIntyre.


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"At some point you know, right?" he said. "In my gut it was the right thing.

"I'd like to have waited for the end of the season, but I just felt like I needed to make the decision now to maybe put some new energy in this team. We have a lot to play for. We're going to go out there and try to win (at Cal) and go to a bowl game. That's our challenge and that's our charge and that's the charge I gave to the coaches this morning."

Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre celebrates after the Buffs won the Pac-12 South on Nov. 26, 2016.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre celebrates after the Buffs won the Pac-12 South on Nov. 26, 2016. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

MacIntyre has $10.3 million remaining on a contract that runs through Dc. 31, 2021. Any salary MacIntyre would make as a college head coach or NFL head or assistant coach over the next three years would reduce the amount of CU's buyout, which is payable in monthly installments over the next three years.

Hired Dec. 10, 2012, MacIntyre came to CU after taking just three years to turn around a sputtering program at San Jose State.

At CU, MacIntyre inherited a team that was the worst in the Pac-12 and arguably the worst among all Power 5 conference teams. The Buffs went 4-21 in two seasons under Jon Embree before MacIntyre took over.

During his first three seasons with the Buffs, MacIntyre went 10-27, but showed steady progress.

Finally, in 2016, the Buffs broke through, going 10-4 and winning the Pac-12 South division. They vaulted to No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll late in the season before finishing at No. 17.

MacIntyre earned several national coach of the year honors in 2016, including the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award — the same honor his father, George MacIntyre, received in 1982 while at Vanderbilt.

The 2016 season ended on a sour note, however, as CU was routed by Washington, 41-10, in the Pac-12 title game, and then by Oklahoma State, 38-8, in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Despite the disappointing finish, CU ended a nine-year bowl drought that season.

It's been a bumpy road for MacIntyre and the Buffs since then, however.

Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre watches his team for the last time on Saturday against Utah at Folsom. MacIntyre was fired Sunday morning.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre watches his team for the last time on Saturday against Utah at Folsom. MacIntyre was fired Sunday morning. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Shortly after the Pac-12 title game loss to Washington, on Dec. 9, 2016, Pamela Fine, who was at the time the girlfriend of then-assistant coach Joe Tumpkin, reported to MacIntyre that she had been violently abused for the previous two years by Tumpkin.

MacIntyre informed George of the allegations, and then George informed chancellor Phil DiStefano. Despite that, Tumpkin, who was the safeties coach, was given defensive play-calling duties for the Alamo Bowl because defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt had left the Buffs for a similar job at Oregon.

In the weeks after the Alamo Bowl, Tumpkin was suspended and then eventually fired. In the spring of 2017, however, CU commissioned an outside agency to investigate how MacIntyre, George and DiStefano handled the allegations. Ultimately, CU president Bruce Benson and CU's Board of Regents gave DiStefano a 10-day suspension and ordered George and MacIntyre each to pay $100,000 in fines to a domestic violence organization.

MacIntyre had agreed to a contract extension and raise in January of 2017, but that was put on hold because of the investigation. In July 2017, the Board of Regents eventually approved the deal, which was to pay MacIntyre $16.25 million over five seasons through 2021.

Given the success of the 2016 season, George said Sunday, "I don't have any regrets about where we were and what we did (with the contract extension) in 2016. We did have a magical year. We had a coach that was national coach of the year. I absolutely would have done the same thing today I did back then. He deserved it and his staff deserved that."

In September 2017, Fine filed a lawsuit against MacIntyre, George, DiStefano and Benson, but that lawsuit was dismissed this past July.

On the field, CU hit its peak on Nov. 26, 2016, when it defeated Utah, 27-22, to claim the South division and finish a 10-2 regular season. Since that day, the Buffs are 10-15, failing to capitalize on the momentum gained that season.

Going into the 2017 season, MacIntyre said, "Everybody thinks we're a one-hit wonder and we hope we're not. I don't believe we are, so we just need to prove it by putting some back-to-back good seasons together."

With the cloud of the Tumpkin situation hanging over the program in 2017, however, the Buffs sputtered past lower-tier competition during a 3-0 start and went 2-7 the rest of the way to finish 5-7 and miss out on the postseason.

This year, the Buffs got off to their first 5-0 start since 1998 and vaulted to No. 19 in the AP poll.

"Six weeks ago we're 5-0, we're one of the talks of the country," George said. "That's where Colorado should be every year in every season. We should be the talk of the country and we're not there. We need to be the talk of the country in a positive way."

Since then, they are 0-6 and MacIntyre has been unable to stop the bleeding.

CU's current losing streak includes a 41-34 overtime loss to Oregon State on Oct. 27. The Buffs led 31-3 in the second half before Oregon State finished the game on a 38-3 run. The 28-point collapse matched the biggest in CU history, and was the largest ever at Folsom Field. That remains Oregon State's only road win since 2014 (also at Folsom Field) and its only win against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) foes in the last two years.

In the last two weeks, CU has been routed twice at home, by Washington State, 31-7, and Utah. The Buffs have lost three in a row at Folsom Field for the first time since 2015.

MacIntyre has the program in better overall shape than it was in 2012 when he was hired, both on the field and off. The Buffs have had academic success, gained national attention for community service spear-headed by MacIntyre, and have become much more competitive on the field and on the recruiting trail.

However, the ugly numbers on MacIntyre's resume became too glaring to ignore:

• A 2-20 record against ranked opponents.

• A 14-40 record against Pac-12 foes (6-38 outside of the 2016 season).

• Five last-place finishes in the Pac-12 South in six seasons.

• Just 8 wins in six years against bowl eligible teams, with four of those coming against Colorado State.

• An 0-9 record in the past two seasons with bowl eligibility on the line (by far the worst mark in the country).

Following the loss to Utah on Saturday, MacIntyre said that while the Buffs are in a "tough stretch," he hoped to continue coaching them to get them out of it.

MacIntyre's time ran out, however, and George has decided to take the Buffs in a different direction.

"I think we have enough talent on this football team that we can beat anybody at any time," he said. "It's why I made the decision, because I want somebody to come in and instill some energy and some enthusiasm into this team."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33