Boulder, Colo. Six years ago, Bill McCartney was about as popular here in the mountains as a forest fire.
Today he's the highest-paid coach in the Big Eight at $130,000 a year and he's the owner of an unprecedented 15-year contract.
So it goes for college football coaches who go 1-10 one year and 11-1 a half-dozen years later.
Essentially, McCartney's pact is a lifetime deal because he's 50 now and it'll run out when he reaches retirement age.
Certainly no coach in the Big Eight, probably the country, has the job security McCartney has. Yet security can be a double-edged sword.
COMPLACENCY IS often a fatal byproduct. Remember when Jack Mitchell had a 10-year contract at Kansas back in the 60s? And do you recall Hank Stram's 10-year pact with the Chiefs in the 70s?
Both Mitchell and Stram were fired long before their decade-long pacts ran out. For the usual reason coaches are fired, of course. They lost too many games.
Kansas ate most of Mitchell's pact, and the Chiefs had to buy out Stram. Will Colorado suffer the same fate with McCartney?
"If that day comes, I don't anticipate it," McCartney told the Big Eight Skywriters here Saturday.
Complacency is not a factor, McCartney stressed.
"It's really just the opposite," he smiled. "It occured to me I could leave town and they wouldn't miss me, and I want to make sure they don't find that out."
McCartney vows that at the age of 50 he's "energized" and eager to lead the Buffs out of this century and into the next.
REGARDLESS, IT'S irrational to expect Colorado to emulate the 1989 season. It was a storybook year. The Buffs won their first 11 and topped the national polls before losing to Notre Dame in Miami.
Talent had plenty to do with CU's resurgence, and so did the emotional lift the Buffaloes received from the tragic death of quarterback Sal Aunese early in the season.
But the Buffs were lucky, too. Very lucky indeed a fact McCartney readily acknowledges.
"We had only one injury all year. We lose (Eric) Bieniemy and J.J. Flannigan takes his place and makes All-Big Eight," he pointed out.
Also, the Buffs ranked No. 2 nationally in turnovers, losing only 13 all year.
"It's not that we didn't fumble," McCartney noted, "but they seemed to bounce back to us."
IN OTHER words, everything went right for Colorado in '89, at least until the Orange Bowl.
Colorado still has the talent notably Bieniemy and quarterback Darian Hagan on offense and Kanavis McGhee and Alfred Williams on defense and it has a raft of seniors a dozen or so fifth-year players.
However, Colorado no longer has the Aunese Factor. Apparently that's the way McCartney wants it, too.
As conspicuous as Aunese was in everything written or said about the Buffs last year, his name is conspicuous by its absence this fall.
No mention of Aunese is made in this year's media guide, for example. Many people think his uniform number (8) was retired. It wasn't.
"We won't issue it for a couple of years," David Plati, the school's sports information director, told me, "and then we'll probably give it to a special guy."
In the meantime, McCartney seemingly wants this year's team to rise or fall on its own merits, to recognize Aunese as part of Colorado's past but not its present.
"More than anything, the guys remember Sal as a guy who thinks team first," McCartney said. "Other than that, I don't look for there to be much residual effect."