Ron McBride, University of Utah Football Coach

by KEVIN HUSSEY

Vickie McBride said about her husband: “Ron had only two girlfriends in his life, and he married them both.” (Jacobsen-Wells) Ron McBride got married at an early age to Joann Hefte. They eventually divorced; she said it was because he still was too into football and interested in hanging out with his friends. He later would marry Vickie, who is still his wife today.

Football was always a huge part of McBride’s life. He was captain of the San Jose State football team, and went on to play semi-professional ball with the San Jose Apaches. McBride would make his way up through the ranks, from coaching a high school team in San Jose to being one of the most renowned coaches of all time.

His greatest days were coaching the University of Utah Utes. “Since he became head coach in 1990, McBride has won 83 games, second most in school history.” (UtahUtes.com) That is an astounding number for a college coach. McBride always had a way of putting things simply, as he does here, “They kept getting better as it went on, and the other team kept getting worse.” (McBride)

He had great success with these Ute football players, and that came from his intense coaching style. He stressed to his players that they must take pride in their work and work for what they wanted to achieve. Coach Mac, as they called him, took pride in the rivalry games that occurred once a year. Coach Kyle Whittingham said, “Coach Mac got that thing turned around to where it was a true rivalry again.” (Kragthorpe) The rivalry became as intense as it had ever been before because of Coach Mac and his Utah Utes. “He’s responsible the resurgence of this program.” (Alden) He was commenting in the newspapers and letting people know that this was the year that the Utes would pull off the victory.  This of course caused uproar and chaos within Salt Lake City and Provo and created many years of epic rivalry games. “Utah had managed only two victories over BYU in the twenty years prior to Mac’s attack.” (Jacobsen-Wells)

In 1993, Coach McBride surprisingly led the Utes to an upset over the favored BYU Cougars, 34-31. “The state was stunned.” (Jacobsen-Wells) What made McBride such a star at the University of Utah was the fact that he started out three and one against the dreaded Cougars from down south. That is what mattered most to these die-hard Ute fans.

In 2002 Ron McBride was in the end of his career as Utah coach and he knew it. “There’s dark, and then there’s dark. And then there’s Ron McBride’s mood.” (Miller and Rosetta) This completely described Ron McBride’s career and how he felt toward his Utes. He would even take them to Price every August just to keep them away from distractions. Unless perfection was met, McBride was an unhappy fellow. “In just eight years, Coach Mac became the second-winningest coach in Utah’s 104-year football history and the only coach ever to take Utah to more than one bowl game.” (Jacobsen-Wells) Coach McBride was also very superstitious, especially when it came to rivalry games. Coach McBride talked after a game: “After the BYU game, I knew something was going to happen. There was an article in the Sunday paper that was pretty harsh.” (Dienhart)

McBride knew that his tenure at Utah was going to come to a screeching halt unless he won some sort of championship or kicked BYU’s butt; he did neither. Although he did not win a championship at Utah, he still led a potent football team that grew to the powerhouse it is today. Ron McBride was part of the roots of this football team, and he brought them to greatness. Dick Tomey, coach of the Arizona Wildcats, said about Coach McBride: “McBride is willing to sacrifice anything — time, effort, even his own blood — to earn a victory.” (Miller and Rosetta) He had won a few rivalry games during his tenure at Utah, but it surely wasn’t enough without a championship. Even though McBride had been at the University of Utah for thirteen years, he was still going to be shown the door because he hadn’t won a championship, and he lost to BYU a few too many times. Coach McBride said, “The people in Salt Lake were good to me, and the University treated me well. (Dienhart) He loved this city and how the rivalry made this community and his team come together. He said he deserved more respect at the end of his career because of all that he had done for this team, but in the end, “That’s just the way it is.” (McBride)

Some people didn’t feel like McBride fulfilled his potential. “He may be a decent recruiter, and able to motivate and inspire his players, but in the final analysis, he doesn’t have the resolve or gumption to push the players to the very limit of their endurance. He’d rather be their buddy.” (Neeleman) It is very hard for a coach to have full respect from his players if the player sees the coach as a friend. The coach is supposed to strike some fear in the players because he is considered their boss. If McBride were able to terrorize his players a little bit like Rick Majerus did, as well as mix in being a personable coach, then he would have had the chance to be one of the greatest coaches of all time to go along with his already stellar resume.

Some important stats to his resume: “McBride posted an overall record of 88-63 (.582).” (Wikipedia) He also took his Utes to six bowl games, previously three bowl games in the past 97 years. He beat powerhouse teams such as USC, Arizona, and Fresno State in three out of the six bowl games. “His best season came in 1994 when the Utes won a then-record 10 games and attained the highest post-season ranking, at the time, in school history climbing to No. 8 in the USA Today/ESPN poll and No. 10 in the AP poll.” (Wikipedia) Coach McBride started to look like a genius to Salt Lake City folk, and became a local town hero for turning the Utes into a national contender.

McBride had many nicknames in Utah: “Mac became known as ‘Captain Voodoo,’ the man who, with the sweep of his magical cape, had been known to ward off evil spirits and win games.” (Jacobsen-Wells) This was implying how superstitious that Coach McBride was. He believed in good-luck charms, and who can argue that they didn’t work, just look at his win/loss record? “Mac’s belief: It can’t hurt to have help.” (Jacobsen-Wells) He is absolutely right, why not have karma on your side? That is one of the reasons why the Utes would stay in the same hotel the night before home games, and McBride would stay in the same room every time, and if his team won the previous time then he would wear the same clothes as the previous time.

So why is Ron McBride such a great part of our Utah history? He was the base of our greatness for all Ute football fans. He brought pride back to our community and made people proud to say they were a Ute. People were able to talk trash again to the Cougar community, and flash their red in gloating greatness. He struck confidence into many players, that would go onto have successful careers in the NFL, as well as the workplace. He jump-started a program that continues to grow in talent every year. Ron McBride will always have a place in Utes fans hearts, and will be remembered for a long time.

Kevin Hussey is a senior at The University of Utah majoring in communication with a minor in business. He has played for the Utah baseball team from 2008-2010.  Kevin plans on working in the sports communication business, dealing with advertising.

Sources

Phil Miller and Dick Rosetta. BYU vs. Utah — The Unholy War. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1997.

Tom Dienhart, “…To Get Canned?” July 12, 2004.

“Utah Football,” UtahUtes.com.

J. Neeleman. “Ron McBride’s Fatal Flaw and where the Utah Program May Have Gone Wrong in the Early 1980s.”

Kurt Kragthorpe, “BYU Vs. Utah: Mac’s Legacy Played out in LaVell’s House,” The Salt Lake Tribune, November 28, 2009.

Ron McBride. “Ron McBride Quotes.” ThinkExist.com.

“Ron McBride.” Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_McBride&gt;.

“Ron McBride.” Daylife. <DayLife.com>.

Doug Alden, “Former Coach Returns to Face Utes,” USA Today, September 26, 2008.

JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells. Mac Attack: The Story of University of Utah Football Coach Ron McBride. Springville, Utah: Slickrock Books, 1998.

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