JOE BIDDLE: Coach Mac never lost faith

The 2010 Nashville flood produced numerous compelling stories.

Former Vanderbilt football coach George MacIntyre’s survival as water kept rising inside the family condo at River Plantation is my favorite.

It took a miracle to save him.

MacIntyre’s youngest of two sons, Matt, knew he had to go to his parents’ condo that day. It took him two hours to reach them as police closed down a number of flooded roads. Matt ditched his car and ran the rest of the way.

When Matt finally got inside, there was already four feet of water there and rising by the minute. Matt knew he needed help, as Coach MacIntyre was bedridden with Multiple Sclerosis and there was no way Matt could take his parents to a safe place.

Matt went outside and screamed for someone to help, but all he saw were older people trying to save their lives.

Matt dropped to his knees and asked God to help him and turned it over to Him.

He went outside a second time and yelled. All of a sudden Matt sees what appeared to him to be a fullback crashing down the hill at full speed. He dived in what was then a raging river and popped up on the porch.

It was Tennessean photographer George Walker IV, who earlier helped his wife’s grandfather reach higher ground.

“It was funny. I prayed for help and a guy named George showed up to help rescue another man named George,’’ Matt said.

Walker knew who Coach Mac was and they went to work. They swam out with Matt’s mother, Betty, and another friend of hers.

But they had to figure out how to rescue Coach Mac.

“I knew you would come,’’ Coach Mac told Matt. Now that’s pressure.

Matt remembered they had an air mattress used to prevent bedsores. They inflated it. Matt told his father he had to hold on as tight as he could.

They swam him out with no time to spare.

A resident who lived on higher ground told them she would let Coach Mac and Betty stay in their condo until they figured out what to do.

The woman asked Coach Mac if he wanted a drink of water.

Coach Mac never lost his sense of humor. He shook his head and said, “I’ve had enough water today,’’ he said.

Coach MacIntyre lived 20 years with MS.

We were in the same Sunday School class. Even though he was dealt a bad hand, his faith remained rock solid.

You would visit him and invariably would leave feeling we had been blessed. Coach Mac made it happen.

He died this week at 76 years old. They were having a memorial service Saturday (2 p.m.) at Forest Hills Baptist Church.

Yes, he was known as a Vanderbilt football coach who won eight games in 1982 and played Air Force in the Hall of Fame Bowl game in Birmingham.

That season they defeated nationally ranked Florida and Tennessee. Coach Mac was Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year and won the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year.

He was a player’s coach. His son Mike played for his father until Coach Mac was not retained in 1985. Mike finished his playing career at Georgia Tech and is currently head coach at Colorado.

But I will remember Coach Mac most of all for his enduring faith. He left a legacy and blue print for others to follow.

Psalms 23:2 says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”

George MacIntyre kept the faith. RIP, Coach Mac.

Joe Biddle is in the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at

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