Building the CU Brand
When was the last time?
When was the last time it felt really good to be a member of the Buff Nation … I mean, really good? When was the last time that donning CU gear felt not like putting on a “Shirt of Shame”, but rather a real source of pride?
When was the last time?
It’s been awhile.
No, I’m not saying that you (or I, for that matter) ever stopped being proud to be a Buff. I’m just saying that it has been some time since you could be a proud Buff … without having to feel like you had to explain yourself to others as to why.
The 75-72 buzzer-beater by Askia Booker took out not only an old nemesis in No. 6 Kansas, but it put the cherry on top of what has been a very good fall for the University of Colorado.
- The football team, at 4-8, did not prove to be world-beaters this fall, but they won the games this year which they were supposed to win. A low bar for success, to be sure, but a threshold not surpassed by other Buff teams in recent years. The Buffs don’t have to carry the weight of a school-record conference losing streak into the off-season, and that alone is huge. The Buffs fought hard, and demonstrated that they believe in this coaching staff. The Buffs’ leading passer (Sefo Liufau), second-leading rusher (Michael Adkins), and leading tackler (Addison Gillam) were all freshmen, with Adkins and Gillam both two-star recruits brought in by new head coach Mike MacIntyre. There is great hope for the future of the program, if not necessarily for 2014, for 2015 and beyond;
- The men’s basketball team is off to an 8-1 start, with the only loss to a ranked Baylor team (which just happened to knock off No. 3 Kentucky Friday night). The win over Kansas exorcised many Big Eight/12 demons for the Buffs, with the vast majority of the Coors Events Center crowd of over 11,000 wearing black, not blue. But the win also helped to demonstrate that the program has arrived nationally. CU has all of ten wins over top ten teams in the 35-year history of the Coors Events Center, with four of those ten coming in the 3+ seasons under Tad Boyle. Boyle has already taken CU to heights never before seen in CU basketball history (three consecutive 20-win seasons; three consecutive post-season appearances). The Buffs will likely be ranked this week, something which has happened only three dozen times in the history of the program. Welcome to the big time, CU basketball;
- The women’s basketball team, meanwhile started the season ranked, and remains undefeated to open the season. The women’s team, in its 40-year history, has been ranked 177 times, and have been ranked now in 19 consecutive polls. The Buffs, ranked No. 11 last week, may crack the top ten nationally this week after rolling past Wyoming and Illinois;
- The cross-country teams did themselves proud this fall, with both the men and the women winning Pac-12 titles. The men’s team went on to win the national championship, the sixth for CU cross-country; the 26th for Colorado overall (the women finished a more than respectable seventh nationally). With the cross-country team’s national title, the University of Colorado is presently the reigning national champion in two sports (with the ski team winning title No. 19 last spring);
- The women’s soccer team earned a bid to the NCAA tournament this season, joining the bracket for the first time since 2008. Not content to just earn a bid, the Buffs knocked off DU and BYU in the first two rounds, making it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to No. 1 seed Florida State;
- The women’s volleyball team also earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, with the Buffs getting an invitation for the first time since 2006. Playing in a tough league (nine teams from the Pac-12 earned bids), the volleyball team took out Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to home-standing No. 10 Minnesota in the second round.
All of the above contributed to Colorado taking the early lead in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings. Formerly the Sears Cup, the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup goes to the school which accumulates the most points across all of the NCAA sanctioned sports.
Granted, the Buffs have zero chance of winning the Cup next spring, as Colorado does not have baseball, softball, gymnastics, swimming and diving, et al., which are sports necessary to compete for the overall title (Stanford, which has the resources to field teams in every sport, has won the Cup 19 years in a row).
Still, being in the early lead for the Directors’ Cup certainly lends credence to the notion that the University of Colorado has had a good fall on the field of play.
And yet, even with all of the success the Buffs have had on the field, it was an accomplishment off the field this week which may have the greatest long-term impact.
On Wednesday, the University of Colorado Board of Regents gave its approval to a $142 million package of facilities upgrades. The stadium addition would house a new “high-performance sports center” — geared toward psychological health, “resiliency,” medical history, metabolic health, biomechanics and nutrition — as well as a rooftop terrace, offices, new bathrooms and concession areas, a lounge, locker room and strength training area for football, meeting rooms and a recruiting lounge.
“I want to be clear that this isn’t a want that we’re here for today,” CU athletic director Rick George said. “This is a need that we have at the University of Colorado in Boulder for our athletic facilities.”
In the Executive Summary, the Regents were told: “The new corner building will bring the operations center up to the standard that is expected of a BCS level football program in today’s market. The improvement in spatial allocation for the support services through the building will be a drastic improvement from the previous allocations and will provide the athletes of CU Boulder’s future with a truly first class facility to learn, train and grow”.
Along with the giddiness of having a plan submitted to and approved by the Regents, there was this reality … Only $10 million of the $143 million has been raised to date.
Remember that $50 million goal … to be raised by December 1st?
CU didn’t quite make it.
As to the $50 million goal, George said that number “was never one that we had to meet by December. We are enthusiastic, focused and driven on raising the initial funds needed for the plan . . . however, it is not, and never has been, a deal-breaker to have raised the money by the first of December”, adding, “In the last two months, we’ve canvassed all areas of the country, from our own backyard to each coast and have ‘asks’ out there in the neighborhood of $40 million more.”
Buff fans have scoffed at the Colorado State plans to build a new stadium in Ft. Collins, with little actual fund-raising actually done in advance. Buff fans ridiculed the notion of, “If you design it, they will donate”.
Now, Colorado is in that same position.
The athletes at the University of Colorado have stepped up their game.
The question now becomes: Will the CU fan base step up theirs?
Building the CU brand takes not only success on the field, but support from its fan base off of it.
The ball is in your court, Buff Nation.