Northern Colorado fires Ed McCaffrey: Former All-Pro WR went 6-16 in three seasons marred by controversy

Northern Colorado fires Ed McCaffrey: Former All-Pro WR went 6-16 in three seasons marred by controversy

Ed McCaffrey, a former All-Pro wide receiver with the Denver Broncos, will not return as the coach at FCS Northern Colorado after three seasons, the university announced Monday. The Bears did not play football during the 2020 pandemic season, but McCaffrey led UNC to a 6-16 record across two seasons in the Big Sky Conference. 

The firing ends what became a strange tenure for one of Colorado’s most well-known athletes. McCaffrey was hired at Northern Colorado despite not having any coaching experience above the high school level. He served as coach at Valor Christian High School, but previously worked as commissioner of Pacific Pro Football, a failed pro league, and a radio analyst for Denver Broncos games. 

« This is never an easy decision, » said Northern Colorado athletic director Darren Dunn in a statement. « We appreciate all the work, time and energy Coach McCaffrey has put into the program and we wish him the best in the future. »

During McCaffrey’s tenure, players alleged that he tampered with scholarships in ways disallowed by the NCAA and showed favoritism to FBS transfers, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald. The staff also reportedly did not get scouting reports on upcoming opponents and often installed plays one or two days before games. Twenty-eight players transferred from the program after McCaffrey’s first full season, ranking for the third-most among FCS teams. 

In another bizarre incident, offensive coordinator Max McCaffrey — Ed’s son who was hired without any previous coaching experience — was reprimanded after throwing a broken clipboard into the stands and hitting a fan during a game against Montana State. An MSU fan told the Denver Post that he heckled McCaffrey about his pants size after the coach broke a clipboard following an interception. 

The elder McCaffrey earned All-America honors at Stanford in 1990 and went on to play 13 seasons in the NFL for three different organizations, winning three Super Bowls. However, his best years came next to John Elway in Denver. In 1998, McCaffrey earned All-Pro honors after catching 64 passes for 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

The McCaffrey family has a long lineage of athletes. Ed’s wife, Lisa, was a Stanford soccer player and the daughter of Olympic sprinter Dave Sime. Their son, Christian, was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy at Stanford and is now an All-Pro running back for the San Francisco 49ers. Other sons Max (Duke), Dylan (Michigan and Northern Colorado) and Luke (Nebraska and Rice) also played Power Five football. Luke has caught 51 passes for 656 yards and six touchdowns for the Owls in 2022. 

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