A name to watch in UK football search: Mike MacIntyre

From what I’m hearing, there’s one name in particular that bears watching in this Kentucky football coaching search.

The name: Mike MacIntyre.

After a 40-point home loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday marked the end of the Joker Phillips era, it’s the son of a former Vanderbilt coach whose name might well end up atop the leader board when UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart sits down to make his final decision on a replacement.

MacIntyre, 47, has done an amazing job in three years as the head coach at San Jose State, going from 1-2 his first season to 5-7 last year and now 7-2 this year after the Spartans’ 42-13 win Saturday at Idaho.

MacIntyre has decidedly Southern roots, but he has experience in both the pro and college ranks, coaching on both sides of the football. And he has worked for two coaches whom Barnhart holds in high regard: David Cutcliffe and Bill Parcells.

The son of ex-Vandy coach George MacIntyre (who led the Commodores to an 8-4 record in 1982), Mike MacIntyre graduated from Brentwood Academy in Nashville. He played free safety for Georgia Tech under Bobby Ross, then was an assistant at Georgia, Davidson and Temple before hooking up with Cutcliffe at Ole Miss, where MacIntyre coached wide receivers and then defensive backs.

When Ole Miss fired Cutcliffe, Parcells hired MacIntyre to be his secondary coach with the Dallas Cowboys. Parcells and George MacIntyre were assistant coaches together at Vanderbilt in the 1970s. Mike MacIntyre was the DBs coach with Dallas all four years that Parcells was the head coach of the Cowboys.

When Parcells stepped down in Dallas, MacIntyre coached defensive backs for Eric Mangini with the New York Jets. Cutcliffe then hired MacIntyre away from the NFL to be the defensive coordinator at Duke.

The same season Phillips took over as the head coach at UK, MacIntyre became the head coach of a woebegone San Jose State program that had gone 2-10 the previous year under Dick Tomey. The school had been to one bowl game in the previous 20 years. It was battling APR problems that had caused scholarship reductions. Its facilities had suffered because of the school’s financial difficulties.

The Spartans won just one game in MacIntyre’s first season, when the Spartans played five ranked teams, including No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Wisconsin.

His 2011 team showed marked improvement. After an 0-3 start, it ended up with five wins after beating Navy and Fresno State in the final two games, the latter on the road. It was San Jose’s first win over Fresno State in 24 years.

This year, the Spartans nearly upset Stanford in the season opener, losing 20-17 in Palo Alto. Its only other loss was a 49-27 home loss to a good Utah State team that is 25th in the current Jeff Sagarin computer rankings. The Spartans have put together a three-game winning streak since, and they should run that to four this Saturday at New Mexico State.

In an interesting twist, San Jose State hosts Louisiana Tech in the season finale on Nov. 24. Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes also is thought to be on UK’s list of possibilities.

As for recruiting, MacIntyre’s current freshman class was ranked the best in the WAC by Scout. As for a contract, MacIntyre did sign an extension through the 2017 season. His salary is thought to be about $500,000 a year.

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