"Some will say these disciplinary actions go too far. Some will say they don't go far enough. Not everyone will be happy." — CU president Bruce Benson.
After six months of sordid intrigue and more than enough billable lawyer hours to fund a grocery list of academic endeavors, perhaps no more accurate assessment of the Joe Tumpkin domestic abuse fiasco and the ensuing external investigation of the University of Colorado's handling of the matter has been offered than that succinct summation earlier this week by CU's president.
This stinks all around. And there is no "right" answer as to what punishment should have been handed down for head football coach Mike MacIntyre.
On Thursday, MacIntyre's long-delayed yet wholly-expected contract extension finally was approved in a unanimous decision by the board of regents, just three days after the results of an outside investigation from the Cozen O'Connor legal firm led to MacIntyre's punishment — a $100,000 mandated donation to domestic violence organizations, in addition to a letter of reprimand and further Title IX training.
MacIntyre's extension, worth $14.85 million through 2021, should just about cover that 100 grand.
The timing of the punishment and final approval of a contract originally agreed upon in January is an unsightly script for a university facing criticism for putting football glory ahead of the victim of years of alleged domestic abuse at the hands of Tumpkin, the now-former defensive assistant from MacIntyre's staff.
For a university obsessed with outward appearances throughout this saga, it was bookended by two completely avoidable missteps — MacIntyre awarding Tumpkin the play-calling responsibilities of the vacant defensive coordinator position during the Alamo Bowl, despite being well aware of the grotesque accusations swirling over Tumpkin's head, and this week's punishment-turned-contract extension celebration.
Should the punishments have been more extensive? Would anything short of firing MacIntyre have appeased the most vocal of the victims advocate sector? Again, there is no definitively correct answer to either question. Instead CU appears to have taken the route most advantageous toward turning the page and moving on.
Had the university, for instance, put the approval of MacIntyre's contract on hold until after the 2017 season, the move would have sent a far more stern message that football success shouldn't outweigh institutional integrity — a lesson one would have thought CU had learned painfully enough more than a decade ago when a sex recruiting scandal precipitated the program's downward spiral that MacIntyre finally reversed.
Of course such a delay may have alienated MacIntyre, who still would have been under contract through 2018 with a base salary of $2 million per year. Other opportunities for 2018 might have seemed more appealing to MacIntyre under that scenario, though it's difficult to envision his stock being higher on the open market than it might have been this past December. Presumably that extension would still be there for MacIntyre next January, and such a delay would make complying with additional Title IX training a requirement for the lucrative raise, and not merely a nuisance to be handled after the bigger paychecks started rolling in.
In a more dramatic scenario, a failure to approve the extension on Thursday could have prompted MacIntyre to leave immediately, possibly forcing the Buffaloes to exchange the Pac-12 Conference and AP national coach of the year for an interim replacement, most likely co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini. Yet leaving in an abrupt huff after mishandling this situation wouldn't be a good look for a man who preaches integrity and routinely wears his faith on his sleeve.
A far more palatable and reasonable punishment would have been to add a one to three game suspension through nonconference play to MacIntyre's fine/donation and Title IX training. That at least would have taken a small bite out of the boatloads of cash CU heaped upon him days after handing out punitive measures.
If MacIntyre and athletic director Rick George were handed identical punishments for failing to report the Tumpkin allegations to CU's Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, an additional suspension for MacIntyre would show in no uncertain terms how unseemly it was to give Tumpkin a de facto promotion while this legal storm was brewing.
Sure, it also would leave the Buffs without their leader for the season opener against rival Colorado State. But if the Buffs are as good as they believe they are his absence wouldn't be a game-changer. Never mind how CU could roll its other two nonconference foes at home, Texas State and Northern Colorado, while making play calls by drawing them randomly out of a hat.
Regardless if fans believe MacIntyre's punishment was too thin or too harsh, with the contract finally done CU's coach likely is here for the long haul. For some fans this week was like bitter pill, a remedy difficult to swallow. For the football-at-all-costs crowd it was a welcome relief, an opportunity to turn the page and look forward to the CSU Rams on Sept. 1.
It's up to MacIntyre now to make this a harsh yet meaningful learning experience in what otherwise still has the potential to be a CU career that puts him among the program's all-time coaching greats. If not, we'll know he had $14.85 million reasons to look the other way.