November  21st – at Kansas State          Kansas State 17, Colorado 14

Aside from Iowa State, Kansas State was the only team from which Colorado could find no sympathy in 1980.

The Wildcats were the “Mildcats”, representing little mention in the annals of Big Eight history.  In 1954, Kansas State went 7-3 overall, 3-3 in the then Big Seven.  Not worthy of mention?  Don’t tell that to Wildcat fans.  The 1954 record represented Kansas State’s moment in the sun in the school’s Big Seven/Eight conference history.

Kansas State was in the Big Six, Big Seven, and Big Eight for all of the 68 campaigns between 1928 and 1995 … and no titles were ever recorded (Kansas State did finally win a title, in the Big 12, in 2003).  When the Buffs and Wildcats played in 1980, the Kansas State program was still two years away from its first-ever bowl bid.

A total of only 17,510 (about the same size as a Montana/Montana State crowd) even bothered to come to the season-ending game between Colorado and Kansas State.  The home team prevailed, but the Wildcats had little to celebrate for their efforts.  While the rest of the country settled down to watch season-ending rivalry games before huge audiences, fans of these two teams simply were glad to see the seasons of their teams come to a quiet end.  Jim Johnson kicked a 17-yard field goal with one second remaining to give the Wildcats the victory.  KSU had come into the game 2-8, 0-6 in conference play.

There was one bright spot for the Buffs in a season which witnessed the school’s first ten-loss season. Running back Lance Olander rushed for 113 yards on the day, giving him 1,051 yards for his career, the 24th Buff in history to rush for over 1,000 yards.

First Win! Only win…

The first win for Colorado in the 1980 season did not come until November.  The fact that it would be the only win for the Buffs, then, was not much of a surprise.  The Colorado record of 1-10 was the worst since CU’s first season of 1890, when the CU went 0-4, and the poorest modern showing since posting three consecutive 2-8 seasons from 1962-1964.

After only two years, it was clear that Chuck Fairbanks was not the answer as coach. After a strong showing in most of the decade of the 1970’s, the Buffs had posted a 4-18 record under Fairbanks.

The 1981 season, though, would still have to be endured before the inevitable would occur.

Game Notes –

– Games against Kansas State in Manhattan routinely drew less than 20,000 per game, all the way through the 1980’s. It wasn’t until Bill Snyder turned the program around in the 1990’s that the Wildcats began to draw decent crowds, even for conference games.

– While 1980 represented a one-win, ten-loss season for the first time in Colorado history, it was old hat in Manhattan. By 1980, the Wildcats had already recorded five ten-loss seasons, and had posted one or fewer wins in a season 14 times since the end of World War II.

– Kansas State was coached by Jim Dickey, in the third year of a seven year run as head coach of the Wildcats. Overall, Dickey was 24-56-2, including the school’s first-ever bowl appearance (a 14-3 loss to Wisconsin in the 1982 Independence Bowl). In 1980, the win over Colorado was the only Big Eight win for Kansas State, with the only other victories in a 3-8 season coming over South Dakota and Arkansas State.

– The final Big Eight standings in 1980: Oklahoma, 10-2, 7-0; Nebraska, 10-2, 6-1; Missouri, 8-4, 5-2; Kansas, 4-5-2; 3-3-1; Oklahoma State, 4-5-2, 3-7-1; Iowa State, 6-5, 2-5; Kansas State, 3-8, 1-6; Colorado, 1-10, 1-6.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *