OGDEN -- Coach Mac remembers details of decades-old football games, funny anecdotes about his coaching career and long-forgotten rivalries far better than he can imagine the day less than two weeks from now when he walks off the field for the last time as a college football coach.
"I never really saw myself retiring. I saw myself dying on the field," 72-year-old Weber State coach Ron McBride joked Tuesday as he announced his retirement at a news conference at Stewart Stadium.
"I pictured my heart blowing up and somebody hauling me off and that was it."
Since beginning a coaching career in 1965 that has taken him from the junior college ranks to college football's grandest stadiums, the place the Los Angeles native has felt most at home is in the state of Utah, where he was the head coach at the University of Utah for 13 seasons and at Weber State for seven years.
"I've coached in every conference in the country over the last 50 years. It's been a great ride," McBride said. "The only thing I've known over the last 60 years is football only. That's really been my whole life."
In 20 seasons as a Division I head football coach, McBride has a career record of 129-101 (41-38 at WSU). He made Utah's in-state rivalry with BYU relevant and competitive again during his tenure with the Utes from 1989 to 2002, then was named the ninth coach in Weber State history in 2005.
With Wildcats fans rallying behind a "We back Mac" campaign and setting a Stewart Stadium attendance record in his first home game, McBride began to turn around a program that had run aground with a 1-10 season in 2004.
He led the Wildcats to a share of the Big Sky Conference title for the first time in more than 20 years in 2008 and to a second consecutive Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearance for the first time in school history in 2009, but the Wildcats were 6-5 last season and are currently 3-6 overall, 3-3 in the Big Sky Conference.
McBride suffered a small fracture of his leg during a collision in Saturday's loss to Montana State and came to his news conference Tuesday on crutches, but the injury didn't affect his decision to retire at the end of the season, he said.
"The reality is that it's all about the players, so the reason I've come to this decision -- and it's my decision, nobody else's decision -- is that I looked at the program, and all the players are in the right classes, the program is exactly where it needs to be, and I just feel like they need a new voice at the top," McBride said.
"The only thing that is important to me at this point is the success of Weber State. I built this program, we built this program, with what we had in mind. Everything is in place, and now we just need somebody to take it to the next step."
Saturday's 1:30 p.m. contest against Northern Arizona will be McBride's final home game at Stewart Stadium, then Weber State finishes up the year Nov. 19 at Portland State.
Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee said McBride would have liked to quietly walk away at the end of the season, but it was important to give Wildcats fans a chance to honor him, which they will do Saturday.
McBride will continue in some role with Weber State, Bovee said, though the specifics won't be determined until a new coach is named.
"He's a great spokesman (for Weber State)," Bovee said. "We're proud that he's retiring a Wildcat. He's ours. We're going to utilize that relationship and let him do the things that he has the energy and desire to do. He can still help us."
Saying goodbye to his players is the hardest part, McBride said, but he wants to continue to be around them.
"I want to be involved in their academic life, their offseason life, the stuff they're doing, so I make sure I have some part in them reaching their potential," he said. "I recruited these guys, so I'm responsible for them."
McBride said if it were just about him, he'd keep coaching until he had to be carted off the field.
"To retire, that's not my favorite thing to do, but I think it's the right thing at this point," he said. "I want to do the right thing for Weber State, not the right thing for Ron McBride.
"The right thing for Ron McBride would be to stay here ... but the right thing for Weber State is for me to step down and let somebody push the envelope farther than I pushed it."
The reluctant retiree doesn't have a bucket list.
"This career has been unbelievable for me," he said, listing the parts of the United States and the world he has seen while recruiting. "I've seen it all -- and on somebody else's dime.
"It's been an education, to see all these different places and all these different people over so many years. How could anybody be more blessed than I've been?"