|« Monmouth getting Sterling effort from freshman||Pay to Play: How Much of a Business is FAMU's Non-Conference Games? »|
Mac Takes a Look Back
Football is Coach Mac’s life – but what even people who have followed Ron McBride’s 46-year coaching career may not know is this: He’s also a baseball guy.
When the Weber State coach was asked Tuesday at his retirement announcement about memories of the biggest victories in his 46-year-long career, few could have predicted an anecdote about a high school baseball playoff game would be his first response.
McBride was just starting at the beginning.
“We won the conference championship and I was able to save my pitcher for an extra day because it was wet,” McBride said. The principals decided the field was OK to play on, but McBride refused.
“I had this big right-hander and he needed another day’s rest, right? The other principal said we’re going to write this up and put it in your (file). I said, do whatever you want, but we play on this field, you’re liable. If someone gets hurt, they’re going to sue your (butt), not me.”
“We played the next day and we won – the pitcher had about 17 strikeouts, he was mowin’ ‘em down.”
Baseball runs in McBride’s blood, though he eventually dedicated his life to coaching football.
“My dad was a professional baseball player. That’s all he cared about, was me playing baseball,” McBride said. “Academics or anything else was secondary. As long as you were playing baseball every day, you didn’t have to do anything around the house, you didn’t have to cut the lawn, you didn’t have to do anything – just go play. From the time I was old enough to pick up a ball and bat, that’s what I did.”
McBride’s father, Donald, played in the Pacific Coast League and in the Texas League until the league closed up during the Great Depression and he had to get “a real job,” McBride said.
The group of kids McBride was raised with in Los Angeles was very into athletics. “In high school we won the L.A. city championship in baseball and football, same group of guys,” he said.
After playing college football at San Jose State and professionally in the USA League in San Jose, McBride turned to coaching.
“It was the natural thing to do. All the guys I was playing with in college were all going into teaching. And the Eastside Union School District was where all the new schools were being built and where most of my friends were getting their jobs, and so we all ended up in the same school district, most of us as coaches. That was kind of the deal. We went from college to coaching.”
McBride remembers all the big games while he was working his way up the college football ranks as an assistant and later as the head coach at the University of Utah from the 1990 season until 2002.
“At Wisconsin, it was no question the Ohio State game when (Keith) Byers was supposed to win the Heisman Trophy. That day our running back ran for 190 yards and they took Byars out on a stretcher,” McBride said.
“Arizona, it was a game against Oklahoma we had where we needed two first downs to win the game,” he said. “We went on fourth down two or three different times. It was all 2 yards, 3 yards, 21âÑ2 yards, then we’d start again … to get another first down. It was a slugfest. You could hear the pads popping, you could see the helmets and hear the noise, it was unbelievable because they were getting after it. It’s kind of remarkable how it stays in your mind.”
As an assistant at Kentucky, there was a seven-overtime game in the rain with Arkansas that McBride remembers because his linebacker missed a tackle on a blitz that cost Kentucky the game.
During McBride’s 13 years as the head coach at the University of Utah, his favorite memory was the game in 1993 when Chris Yergensen kicked a 55-yard field goal in the final minute to beat BYU in Provo for the first time in 20 years.
The field goal for the win reinvigorated a Utah-BYU rivalry that has become one of the most fierce in the country since McBride turned around Utah’s fortunes.
“That kick is still goin’,” he said. “That changed the whole complexion of Utah football.”
McBride’s best memories at Weber State came from the 2008 season, when the Wildcats went 7-1 in the Big Sky Conference and shared the league championship for the first time since 1987.
Weber State also defeated third-ranked Cal Poly, 49-35, in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
“That Cal Poly game, and Trevyn (Smith, a current Weber State student coaching and the school’s all-time leading rusher) was a big part of that, that was probably the best football game we’ve ever played here. Cal Poly I thought was the best team in the country that year, but we played a perfect game that day,” McBride said. “It’s probably one of the best football games I’ve ever been involved in, as far as execution, toughness, with two teams really going after each other.”
By Roy Burton, Standard-Examiner