The Rise ended in the latter stages of 2016. It only became official on Sunday.
Colorado athletic director Rick George finally announced the inevitable Sunday, confirming the exit of head football coach Mike MacIntyre less than 24 hours after the Buffaloes' sixth consecutive defeat, a particularly listless 30-7 thumping at the hands of Utah.
It was roughly a year and a half ago when George was painted into a corner regarding MacIntyre's looming contract extension. Granted, it was a predicament partially of George's own making, yet it was a headache of a decision nonetheless.
On the field, MacIntyre had finally achieved what he was hired to do, leading the resurgent Buffs to 10 wins and a berth in the 2016 Pac-12 Conference championship game. Off the field, though, a storm was brewing. MacIntyre had become aware of domestic abuse charges against now-former assistant coach Joe Tumpkin prior to the Buffs' date in the Alamo Bowl. Instead of relegating Tumpkin to the background until the legal dominoes fell into place, MacIntyre handed Tumpkin the play-calling duties for the bowl game. That honor made Tumpkin the face of the defense and gave him, literally, a platform in the spotlight representing the university in San Antonio.
George signed off on the arrangement, and had CU's athletic director done the right thing by notifying the university's Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance as soon as he learned of the allegations against Tumpkin, MacIntyre's own insistence that he had done the right thing by notifying George, and not the OIEC as required, might have been easier to digest.
Instead, all the forward momentum gathered by that turnaround season of 2016 was abruptly erased. The Buffs under MacIntyre were never the same.
Granted, it is difficult to correlate missteps from two years ago with the massive swoon that ruined what had been a promising 5-0 start for CU in 2018. But the Buffs were playing with fool's gold in winning those games, four of which occurred against teams well on their way to terrible seasons. (Never mind how one of those four teams, UCLA, managed to inch ahead of the Buffs at the bottom of the Pac-12 South standings on Saturday.) Even when MacIntyre got that 10-win season and his extension, he arguably had yet to defeat a single team he wasn't supposed to. He leaves Boulder having never cleared that hurdle.
MacIntyre also leaves Boulder with nearly $10 million worth of payments due his way over the next three years from that extension, which was finalized in June 2017. That number will mark MacIntyre's tenure alongside several others. The 0-9 (and still counting) record with bowl eligibility on the line the past two seasons. The 10-15 mark since clinching the 2016 Pac-12 South title, with half of those 10 wins occurring against lightweights like Colorado State (twice) and Texas State alongside FCS-level programs Northern Colorado and New Hampshire. The Rams rivalry aside, those aren't the teams MacIntyre was paid to beat. And finally there is MacIntyre's 14-40 record in the Pac-12 (including the '16 title game), with eight of those wins coming in 2016.
Let that sink in a moment. 6-38.
Too often this season the Buffs' game-day strategy seemed at odds with itself. As one example of many, when a Ronnie Blackmon punt return set the Buffs up with a prime scoring opportunity at the outset of the Nov. 2 game at Arizona, MacIntyre perhaps was reticent at using injury-replacement kicker Tyler Francis, a true freshman walk-on, and in turn opted to go for it on fourth-and-two. Yet instead of beginning the drive by aggressively attacking the end zone to possibly bypass that rookie kicker, MacIntyre opted to call two identical wildcat runs on first and second down before finally getting aggressive on a fourth-down play that never had a chance.
If you start the drive conservatively, then kick the chip-shot field goal and take the points on the road. MacIntyre altered strategies from conservative to aggressive in the span of one play clock.
The bright side of the coaching change program and CU fans is that, unlike the state of things upon MacIntyre's arrival, this is not a cupboard-is-bare situation. Certainly roster defections always are a reality in the aftermath of change, but on paper this is a Buffs team set to welcome back solid veterans such as Laviska Shenault, KD Nixon, Steven Montez, Nate Landman, Mustafa Johnson and Israel Antwine, just to name a few.
The Rise was a fleeting dream. Yet the new coach will have an opportunity to restore that glory in short order.