“Road, Dreary Road”

I’m a stats freak.

Not a great revelation there. Anyone who has been a part of CU at the Game for more than a day knows that I can’t write a paragraph without some numbers being involved.

I am also a history Buff – in more ways than one. I received a B.A. in History from dear ‘ol CU, and I am a student of history when it comes to the University of Colorado football game (I can tell you, for instance, without looking and without fear of contradiction, that today – October 25th – is the 23rd anniversary of the signature game of the past 30 years, the epic 20-10 win over Nebraksa in 1986).

Being a stats freak and a history major is making it all the more difficult to endure what Dan Hawkins has done to the University of Colorado football program.

He was not the coach to break the Buffs’ eight year run in the polls (143 consecutive weeks), nor was he the first to post a losing season in over a decade (Rick Neuheisel took care of both of those records in 1997, when the Buffs posted a 5-6 record). He was not the coach to endure an eight loss season in almost two decades, nor the coach which caused an unfavorable national spotlight to shine on the Colorado program (that would be Gary Barnett, who suffered a 3-8 season in 2000, then was the focus of the recruiting scandal storm which haunted the program for most of the decade).

No, what Dan Hawkins has brought to the University of Colorado is a new set of lows, not thought possible just a few short years ago.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs will post their fourth straight losing season in 2009, only the second time in school history CU has been mired in such a streak.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs played their first-ever game against a Division 1-AA team – and lost.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs were shut out for the first time in 20 years, ending one of the longest streaks in NCAA history.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs are not even casually mentioned in the Top 25, after being a fixture for the better part of two decades.

And then there are the stats.

I used to love the Game Day Notes put out by the Colorado Athletic Department. I used to devour the 40-page weekly report handed out to the media (ballooning to near 60 pages by year’s end). Now, however, the Game Day Notes are a painful reminder of what once was, as Dave Plati gamefully tries to put a positive spin on what has happened to the CU program over the past four years.

One of the cornerstones of the Game Day Notes is the printout of “Top College Football Records (1989 – present)”. Here’s how far we’ve fallen:

When Rick Neuheisel took over in 1995, the Buffs had the 5th-best record in the country (1989-94), and had the best conference record of any team in the country (36-3-3);

By the time Gary Barnett took over the reigns, in 1999, Colorado had fallen to the 7th-best record in the nation (1989-98); and

When Dan Hawkins became head coach, the Buffs were out of the top ten, but still respectable, coming in at No. 14 (1989-2005).

Now? Colorado started the season ranked 21st, a few percentage points behind – of all teams – Kansas State. The Buffs this season have since been passed by … pause for irony … West Virginia and Toledo, and have been lapped by Kansas State. That’s right. The University of Colorado, using a starting date most favorable to the Buffs (1989), with a national championship and six ten-win seasons over that span, still has fewer wins in the past 21 seasons than one of the most feeble programs in the history of college football, Kansas State (the numbers are much worse if you start in 1990, taking away the Buffs’ 11-1 season and the Wildcats’ 1-10 season in the first year under Bill Snyder).

Equally sad, and particularly poignant as the Buffs’ road losing streak hits two full seasons, is Dave’s insistance insistence on continuing to include the “Road-Sweet-Road” column in the Game Notes. Going back to 1988, Dave points out, the Buffs have the 13th-best road record in the nation over that span. This record is incredible, considering the Buffs are now 2-17 on the road under Dan Hawkins over the past three-and-a-half seasons.

When Rick Neuheisel took over, the Buffs had the 4th-best road record in the nation.

When Gary Barnett took the helm, the “Road-Sweet-Road” column still had the Buffs with the sixth-best road record.

There will a few more road losses before the Dan Hawkins’ era comes to a close, as the Buffs still have to play in Ames and Stillwater (after Iowa State knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln, anyone still looking at that game as a “gimme”?), making it all the more difficult for the next head coach to pull the Buffs back into respectibility …

… and give us back “Road, Sweet Road”.

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