Bill McCartney cut short his coaching career by at least a decade 19 years ago in his mid-50s to devote more time and attention to his wife and family and found an organization rooted in the same purpose.
McCartney spent much of the past two decades building his Promise Keepers organization and caring for his wife, Lyndi, who battled emphysema until her death in March.
Lyndi McCartney would have been proud today to see her husband receive the highest honor possible from the game he loved. Bill McCartney has earned induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.
The National Football Foundation announced McCartney as a member of the 2013 class this morning. McCartney is the seventh CU representative in the hall and the first coach from the school to receive the honor. He is one of two coaches joined by 12 players in the class. McCartney and the rest of the class will be inducted at the NFF annual dinner in New York on Dec. 10.
McCartney is expected to meet with media members later today at a Westminster restaurant where the athletic department planned an end-of-the-year press briefing on the state of the department.
"The College Football Hall of Fame is a huge honor for him, but I guarantee you to the players who played for him, he's a hall of fame person and leader," former CU quarterback Charles Johnson said. "This honor is well deserved."
No one in the history of the CU athletics has been more popular and polarizing at the same time than McCartney.
He became beloved by fans of his program and the school because of the results he achieved on the field from 1982 to1994, including winning the program's only national championship in 1990 and Heisman Trophy in 1994. But he irked others with comments rooted in his deep Christian faith such as calling homosexuality "an abomination of Almighty God" during a 1992 speech at CU.
One of the players who played a key role in McCartney leading Colorado to that national title was former quarterback Darian Hagan, a dynamic playmaker whom McCartney recruited to Boulder from Los Angeles.
"He meant everything to me. He meant the world to me," Hagan said of playing for McCartney. "I think to me and a lot of other kids who come from the inner city and didn't have fathers in their lives we were all looking for that in a coach. He provided that guidance, that discipline and that tough love for us."
McCartney went 93-55-5 in his 13 seasons as coach to become the career leader in wins at the school.
The Buffs returned to national prominence under his leadership. He came to CU from Michigan where he had coached under fellow hall of famer Bo Schembechler. When McCartney arrived in Boulder, he inherited a program that had gone 7-26 in the three previous seasons combined.
McCartney is responsible for pointing his finger at Nebraska shortly after being hired and saying the Cornhuskers were the team the Buffs would consider their rival and would aim to beat. By the end of the decade, McCartney had made that vision a reality by winning three straight Big Eight Conference titles and not losing to the Huskers in 1989, 1990 or 1991.
Colorado played for the national championship twice under McCartney in 1989 and 1990. Both times the opponent was Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.
The Buffs were the sentimental favorite in 1989 entering the game unbeaten after rallying all season around the death of quarterback Sal Aunese to stomach cancer. But Notre Dame crushed CU's dream season by beating the Buffs to claim the title.
The Buffs won the rematch the next year, despite what was certainly one of the most questionable decisions of McCartney's coaching career. Late in a tight game he chose to punt to electric return man Raghib Ismail, who returned the kick for a touchdown. The return was called back by a clipping penalty and the Buffs beat the Fighting Irish 10-9.
The Associated Press voted the Buffs national champions, but McCartney's peers in the coaches' poll gave the title to Georgia Tech.
Some of the coaches were likely persuaded against the Buffs by a controversial win for the Buffs earlier in the 1990 season at Missouri. CU scored the winning touchdown over the Tigers on a fifth down mistakenly allowed by officials. It remains one of the iconic blunders in the history of the game.
McCartney led the Buffs to nine bowl games in 13 seasons. He coached 18 first-team All-Americans, including fellow hall of fame inductee linebacker Alfred Williams, who earned the honor three years ago.
McCartney joins Byron White (1952), Joe Romig (1984), Dick Anderson (1993), Bobby Anderson (2006), Williams (2010) and John Wooten (2012) as hall inductees from Colorado.
During his tenure, 43 Buffs were drafted into the NFL, including five first-round selections.
McCartney attempted to return to coach at CU in 2010 when the school fired Dan Hawkins. McCartney made the case at the time to CU officials that he could serve as a bridge between Hawkins and another coach by filling the role during tough rebuilding years he saw on the horizon.
The school chose to hire his former player, Jon Embree, instead and the program has endured two difficult seasons since. Cu fired Embree, its first black football coach, after last season. He had gone 4-21 as CU's head coach.
McCartney lashed out at school officials following the decision saying the school didn't give Embree enough time on the job and questioning whether racism played a part in the decision to pull the plug early. McCartney asked why Hawkins, who is white, had been given five years and Embree was given just two.
Perhaps today's announcement will help to heal some of those wounds.
Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleRingo