Ron McBride figured they'd probably have to carry him off the field, not on their shoulders or even on a stretcher, but in something a little more, um, permanent.
The old-school Weber State football coach said as much Tuesday afternoon at a press conference announcing his retirement.
"I never really saw myself retiring," he said. "I saw myself dying on the field basically. That's the way I always kind of looked at it. I never pictured myself being retired. I pictured my heart blowing up and somebody hauling me off."
Thankfully, Mac didn't do it that way. Instead the 72-year-old decided to go out with his heart still beating proudly, with as much passion as ever.
Although he suffered a knee injury on the sideline during last weekend's loss to Montana State, McBride indicated he had already begun to think seriously about stepping down. If the injury had anything at all to do with his decision, it was only to cement it.
And so he sat there at Stewart Stadium, in front of so many friends, family members and close associates, and announced he was leaving at the end of the season.
The Wildcats have just two games left, one at home vs. Northern Arizona on Saturday and another on the road at Portland State on Nov. 19. At the urging of WSU athletic director Jerry Bovee, Mac made it official this week so the school can properly honor him here in Ogden.
Of course Mac was reluctant to have a big fuss made, but he deserves exactly that. He deserves a celebration, not just for what he did for Weber State's program, but for all he's done for football here in the Beehive State.
The truth of it is, Mac deserves to go out in the best possible way. He may not be going out on his own terms -- he'd coach forever if he could -- but he's going with a celebration.
Contrast that to the sick mess surrounding 84-year-old Joe Paterno at Penn State. Paterno is indeed a legendary coach and he's had a proud, storied career with the Nittnay Lions. Here in Utah we marvel at how long Mac's been coaching, but imagine him sticking around another 12 years.
Under better circumstances, Paterno would be allowed to go out like Mac, with his head held high. But sadly, he's about to see his career end under the most inauspicious conditions imaginable.
See, Paterno did nothing technically wrong back in 2002 when he merely reported to his athletic director that then-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky had been seen sexually molesting a young boy inside Penn State's locker facility. Morally, however, Paterno is a disgusting hypocrite who allowed a monster to operate unchecked in so-called Happy Valley, an unfortunately named place if there ever was one.
Sandusky was recently arrested on 40 counts of child sex abuse. In the wake of those allegations it was learned Paterno knew his top assistant had acted inappropriately, but did nothing more than pass along the information to his superiors. That absolved him of any legal wrongdoing but it didn't come close to meeting the standard for moral decency.
Clearly, Paterno -- long esteemed as a shining example of ethics and values -- should have done much more to stop Sandusky's alleged abuses. Instead, he essentially looked the other way and now it appears his career is over.
His legacy will forever be tarnished by a sick, cesspool of a scandal.
If ever a coach deserved to go out with a celebration, it was Paterno. At least that's what I used to think. Now I'm certain he doesn't. He forfeited that right when he tacitly allowed one of his assistants to prey on children.
Unfortunately, this column has become too much about Paterno and not enough about McBride. So rather than continue on in such a sad direction, let's stop right now and salute Coach Mac.
He's not going to coach forever, as he'd once hoped. But at least he'll be going out with a celebration.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247