*Note: If you haven’t watched the documentary yet, it is being re-aired Wednesday at 6 p.m. on ESPN U.
University of Colorado Football has never been perfect, and this notion was on display when some of its best and most controversial moments were shown to a national audience on ESPN Tuesday night.
“The Gospel According to Mac,” part of the 30 for 30 documentary series, chronicles former head coach Bill McCartney’s years at Colorado. The two-hour program (including commercials) focused on riveting story lines in the 1989-1990 and 1990-1991 seasons, when the Buffs made consecutive Orange Bowl appearances.
McCartney’s polarizing character embodied Colorado during his tenure, and drama and controversy always followed him: McCartney’s daughter having a child with team’s quarterback, Sal Aunese. Aunese dying of cancer while at CU. McCartney’s views on homosexuality and racism. Promise Keepers, a Christian men’s group McCartney helped start. The fifth down. The clipping call in the Orange Bowl against Notre Dame. It’s all there.
If these events don’t ring a bell, even more reason watch. Coach Mac’s years at Colorado slowly brought the Buffs back into the national spotlight.
The documentary features dozens of interviews with formers players, coaches and media members. Some prominent names include include McCartney himself, his daughter Kristy, former Buffs coach Gary Barnett, current Louisiana State coach Les Miles, reporter B.G. Brooks and a myriad of players (Darian Hagan, Alfred Williams, Eric Bieniemy, Mike Pritchard, Chad Brown and Charles Johnson, among others).
The first hour or so focuses on the relationship McCartney had with players and how they both dealt with the mostly white community of Boulder. In the documentary, Mac and the team talk about how black players adjusted to a new place and the struggles that went along with it. There were many run-ins with the police. McCartney used his Christian faith, which he is vocal about, to help himself and the team get through tough times.
The second hour, after touching on Aunese’s death due to stomach cancer, chronicles how the team rallies around him, eventually winning the 1990 AP National Championship.
“The Gospel According to Mac” doesn’t shy away from touchy topics, and neither does McCartney himself in his interviews. He remains a controversial figure and this installment of 30 for 30 ultimately lets the audience decide what they should make of him and his time at Colorado.