In a day and age when college football coaches are cutting corners to win games by agreeing to pay their student athletes to come play at their school, failing to report broken rules and now even allegedly molesting children while doing it, Coach Mac is one of the good guys. He is and has always been in it for the right reasons.
He is in it for the kids.
"The biggest thing I'm going to miss is seeing the players every day," he said at the press conference announcing his retirement last week, "dealing with their problems, not being happy with them sometimes and being happy with them other times."
His players' problems were his problems.
In interviews with some of his Weber State players over the last few months, I've asked kids from all over the country "why Weber State?" Unequivocally, every kid answered, "because of Coach Mac."
Everywhere he went, Ron McBride was known for creating a family atmosphere that fostered unparalleled team unity and personal growth. His players epitomized one of his favorite mantras: MAFU, which stood for Mental toughness, Aggressiveness, Fanatical effort and Unity.
When he walked into a family's home and promised the parents of their 18-year-old young man that he was going to do everything within his power to get their son graduated, he meant it. Even as he retires and leaves behind athletes he promised to graduate, his plans haven't changed.
"I recruited these guys, so I'm responsible for them," he said. "I'm responsible to their parents and I'm responsible to them. When you go into a home and tell people that, you need to fulfill that. … I said I'd see them graduate and I will, just (from) a different (perspective)."
You better believe he'll see his recruits through to the podium. His hands were molded to a handshake, but that often wasn't good enough for him. Every time I've seen him since I got to know him as a friend, he's pulled me in for a hug.
Ute fans who have jumped on the Pac-12 bandwagon don't realize that they would have never gotten there without Coach Mac. He walked into a football program that was dead in the water at the University of Utah. Four years later, he beat BYU in Provo for the first time in 22 years after Chris Yergensen kicked a game-winning 55-yard field goal, which, as Mac pointed out just last week, "is still going."
He made that rivalry relevant again while also keeping it civil, something that seems to have gone out the window since his departure. His off-field relationship with former BYU head coach LaVell Edwards was unprecedented in the Holy War and unseen in the history of any rivalry. The commercials the two starred in were priceless.
On Saturday, Mac won his final home game, 34-31. How perfect. I think it's safe to say that we know what his PIN number is. Former players from as far away as the islands to Philadelphia traveled to support Coach Mac by braving the snow and cold on Saturday to stand on the sideline next to their coach.
The positive influence he had on football in the state of Utah is far-reaching and far too unrecognized and unacknowledged. Yet, at the end of his historic career, he felt indebted to the community of football fans who owe him so much.
"Everybody in this state has treated me better than I deserve over the last 26 years at Utah on and off and seven years here at Weber State," he said. "I've coached a lot of places, but never have I felt better than when I was in the state of Utah."1 comment on this story
It's been said that the best measure of a CEO is what happens to his company after he leaves it. He didn't leave Utah on his own terms, but the players he left behind for Urban Meyer won Utah a Fiesta Bowl.
He took over at Weber State and took them to the playoffs twice. Now, he leaves the program loaded with athletes and potential.
His preferred style of football mirrors his style of living. He lived for the cold November days of slow-motion football in the snow when offensive linemen lined up against defensive linemen and told them they were going to run it down their throat … and they did.
Coach Mac did it the old-fashioned way, without cutting corners or compromising principles. He walked into a young man's home and told him and his parents that he would take care of them and he did. The athletes came to him in droves because they believed him. Indeed, Coach Mac was one of the good guys. He will coach his last game in Portland today and guess what … it's supposed to snow. Here's to another 34-31 win.