By Mark Ellis, Special to ASSIST News Service
BOULDER, CO (ANS — November 11, 2015) — When Coach Bill McCartney took over as head coach of the University of Colorado football team it was one of the worst programs in the nation. But just as McCartney’s life had been transformed by Jesus Christ, Coach “Mac’s” Christ-centered influence changed Colorado football during his emotional and sometimes controversial tenure on the road to a national championship.
The dramatic journey is chronicled in a documentary released recently from ESPN’s award-winning 30 FOR 30 series, “The Gospel According to Mac,” which explores Coach “Mac’s” impact on the University of Colorado (CU) football team from 1982 to 1994. After his retirement from CU football, McCartney devoted his time to “Promise Keepers,” the men’s movement he founded.
Without a doubt, “The Gospel According to Mac” is one of the finest documentary productions that has appeared on television this season or any season.
30 For 30 briefly describes McCartney’s early years, coaching high school football and basketball in Detroit. “As a young coach I was full-throttle. It was all-consuming,” McCartney recounted to ESPN. He became the only coach to win the Michigan state championship in football and basketball in the same year.
During his first year as a high school coach, he married his college sweetheart, Lyndi Taussig, who grew up in Santa Monica, California. Lyndi devoted herself to raising their four children, while her husband spent long hours coaching. “She was a perfect coach’s wife: gorgeous, she was amazing – and she liked me,” he told ESPN.
Early in his career, McCartney began to struggle with alcohol. “When you win you want to tip a few, so we would
go to a saloon and have a few drinks and sometimes more than a few. I started to struggle with wanting to drink. I should have been home,” he confessed on the documentary.
University of Michigan Coach Bo Shembechler noticed McCartney’s success on the field and hired McCartney for his staff. The moved brought a change in McCartney’s life he didn’t expect.
A dramatic change unfolds
One of the players on Michigan’s team invited McCartney to a Campus Crusade for Christ conference in 1974. “The guy speaking said, ‘You must be born again. You must be born of the Spirit of God,” McCartney recalled.
“As a Catholic growing up I never heard that before. He showed it to me in the Bible (John 3) and I knew the Bible was the Word of God so I was born again. I invited Jesus Christ to come into my heart and take dominion in my life.”
The impact was transformative. He began to arise before dawn to read Scripture, prayed regularly over his children, and fasted every Wednesday and Friday. With all the zeal of a new convert, he evangelized friends, neighbors and even strangers. It was a ”compulsion,” he said in an interview.
After McCartney’s life-changing encounter with Christ, he knew he had to deal with a demon in his life – heavy drinking. “One of the things I did was to get down on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, take away alcohol. Lord, give me victory over alcohol.’
“He did. He took it away. I haven’t had a drink in over 40 years,” McCartney told ESPN.
After eight years as an assistant at Michigan, he interviewed for the head coaching position at CU. “In my interview with Arnold Weber, President of the University of Colorado, who was Jewish, I took a chance. I looked him in the eye and I said, ‘You need to know that I’ve given my life to Jesus Christ. He lives and reigns in my heart. He’s my Savior, my Master, and my Redeemer. He’s my all in all.’
Weber paused, sat back in his chair, and said, “Really…” McCartney wasn’t sure if his brash declaration had cost him the job.
Photo captions: 1) “The Gospel According to Mac” on ESPN’s 30 for 30. 2) Coach Mac in his office.
About the writer: Mark Ellis is senior correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, and also the founder of www.Godreports.com), a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos fom the church around the world to build interest and involvement in workd missions.
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