After a long wait, ESPN finally aired its 30 for 30 on Bill McCartney’s Colorado Buffaloes last night. “The Gospel According to Mac,” must have felt like a Hollywood story to those unfamiliar as it went through the endless storylines that populated the Buffs rise to dominance. But for one Buff, the stories were quite familiar, for one Buff it was “The Gospel According to Grandpa.”

“It was actually really fun watching it, just seeing my grandpa back in the day when he was coaching and stuff,” said Derek McCartney, the grandson of Bill and the son of Kristy McCartney. “I had heard a bunch of stories so a lot of the stories were familiar to me, but kind of hearing it again in that kind of way was really cool.”

With all of the controversy that surrounded that era of Colorado football—from player arrests to religious controversy to the story of Derek’s Mom and the late Sal Aunese and so on—you wouldn’t have blamed the McCartney family if they were a little nervous about the tone the documentary would take. But the film told a fair and balanced story, as they always do, and eventually left the family with a good taste in their mouth.

“Yeah, definitely,” Derek said of the family appreciating the film. “I think they did a good job of just showing the character of my mom and the character of my grandpa through all the trials and everything, my grandma, too. I thought they really portrayed my family in a positive way.”

While “DMac” watched the 30 for 30 at home with his childhood best friend, Coach Mac and Kristy took it in at Mac’s house with a few close friends of their own. As you would expect, though, they talked immediately after.

“I face-timed (my mom) and talked with her and my grandpa,” Derek said with a smile that he maintained throughout our interview. “It was really cool to get to talk to them about it.”

It came as a surprise to some that Derek was not included in the film, after all, like his half-brother TC who was profiled, he is also the son of Kristy and a former Buff (Shannon Clavelle, ’95), certainly a storyline that the film-makers could have pursued, but Derek himself wasn’t surprised.

“It was more of a story for my grandpa for his legacy here and stuff,” he explained. “I wasn’t expecting to be in it or anything.”

As for his favorite part, just grandpa being grandpa.

“It’s hard to say a favorite, there was a bunch of things I really liked, I guess just watching it with my best friend—my grandpa used to say a bunch of little things to us growing up and a bunch of those things were in there,” explained the latest part of the McCartney legacy. “We’d look at each other when he said things like somebody being a ‘shooting star,’ he always used to say that to us, so it was really fun to just hear that stuff. We’d look right at each other like, ‘Yep, that’s another one.’ It was just fun hearing all the things that grandpa says and being like, ‘Oh, I’ve heard that all the time.'”

High (and sometimes hilarious) activity on social media showed that Derek wasn’t the only Buff tuning into the latest piece of ESPN mastery, many of the current players gathered in the Colorado “team room” in the Champions Center to follow along.

“It’s cool for me, but it’s also cool for my teammates,” said the Buffs defensive end. “They’ve been coming up to me like, ‘I didn’t know all this about this and that!’ It’s a fun thing to talk about and fun to share my grandpa’s legacy with people.”

He feels the team was truly inspired by the portrayal of the once dominant Buffaloes.

“Honestly, I think so,” told McCartney. “I think just seeing how my grandpa was here and he brought the program back from when they were losing to winning, it just gives people more of a perspective that we can do it, you know?”

“They were really inspired by it, a lot of guys have talked to me about it,” added head coach Mike MacIntyre.

The inspiration has led the Buffs to call off one of their fancy new uniforms this week and instead wear their traditional look with gold helmets, black jerseys, and gold pants, an effort to “honor the legacy” in the words of Mike MacIntyre.

That legacy included a couple of wins over Stanford in the years outlined by the ESPN film, a 31-17 victory in 1987 and a thrilling 21-17 victory during their march to the national title in 1990. Both, of course, while donning the classic black and gold uniforms.

There couldn’t be a better ending to a great week for the McCartney family and the CU community than another win over the Cardinal in Folsom Field this weekend. Who knows, maybe  the first chapter of the next great Colorado Football story.

Ryan Koenigsberg

In 2012, at the age of 20, Ryan became a credentialed reporter covering University of Colorado Athletics. . . despite wearing a wolf-tee to his interview.
A native of Boulder and a graduate of the university, he attended his 100th-consecutive Colorado Football home game in 2015.
Later in 2015, Ryan began spearheading the Broncos coverage here at BSN Denver, riding that wave all the way to San Francisco, where he covered his first Super Bowl.
Now 24, it seems ‘RK’ is trying to make up for that whole wolf-tee thing by overdressing at every event. He apologizes in advance for any cringe-worthy puns.

  • Nate Timmons

    Absolutely loved the 30-for-30 – really nice write up here!

  • It was nice!

  • oldclimber

    Having lived in Boulder through the Mac years, I was originally put off by his proselytizing, but time has provided a perspective on the complex, flawed, but ultimately what seems to have been at heart a very decent, respectful man. Take away the overtly religious language, and you’re left with a person who faced his own shortcomings with honesty and as much transparency as he could; the relationships with his surviving family, including grandsons, seem genuine and loving, and that shines a light on his influence that rises above the ofttimes vicious criticism from many in the Colorado journalistic camp. He never sought a larger audience via politics, or campaigning, but kept his focus more humble, in how to live one’s live with some decency and respect for family and others – in effect, keeping promises. That many found this to be cynical is a sad commentary not on him, but on them, and history seems to have shifted in his favor – not that he seems to care, either way, as it should be. As scandals have rocked programs across the country, his personal family story seems almost quaint, and certainly trivial in comparison. His legacy is secure.