Most Coach of the Year awards boil down to “coach we didn’t expect to have a good year that had a good year,” and now the American Football Coaches Association has created an award honoring that specific concept.
The organization has created the Comeback Coach of the Year award, given to a coach who “faced significant obstacles or adversity in the past or current season, but led his team to a great season despite the adversity. Examples might be losing a key player or players to injury, but still having a successful season; a head coach coming back from illness; dealing with a difficult situation at his university; or bouncing back from a bad season.”
Finalists for the inaugural honor are Eastern Michigan’s Chris Creighton, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre and Idaho’s Paul Petrino.
Each of the three led teams to bowl trips after prolonged absences. Eastern Michigan is back in a bowl game for the first time since 1987, Colorado for the first time since 2007, and Idaho for the first time since 2009.
Beyond reaching bowl games, MacIntyre led Colorado to a worst-to-first finish in the Pac-12 South and the program’s first 10-win season since claiming the Big 12 title in 2001, while Petrino guided Idaho to an 8-4 mark — the Vandals’ best win total since 1998 — after inheriting a program dealing with scholarship losses and reduced practice time due to NCAA APR benchmarks missed by the previous regime.
MacIntyre has already claimed national Coach of the Year honors from just about every outlet that awards them, which should seemingly make him the prohibitive favorite here.
The winner will be announced at the AFCA Coaches Awards show from Nashville on Jan. 10 (9 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).