February 28th

Sipili to enter a plea on April 15th

Former Colorado linebacker Michael Sipili can be tried for sexual assault, according to a Boulder County Judge. Sipili, who was arrested in January on suspicion of sexual assault, will enter a plea on April 15th.

The hearing on Monday was a preliminary hearing, and the state only needed to show that there was enough evidence to take the matter to trial. According to police reports, the woman was found by a friend after the assault “balled up” and “crying and upset”. Boulder police detective Chuck Heidel testified that there was blood on the sheets, and that she told Sipili to stop.

Sipili’s defense to the charge appears to be that the sex between the parties was consensual. The defense called the woman’s memory of events into question, and pointed out that the woman had been drinking earlier in the evening. The defense also brought forth witnesses who said that they were in the apartment that night, and did not hear anything from the bedroom, and that the woman and her friend were in good spirits when they left the apartment following the alleged incident.

Sipili will not enter a plea until April 15th. It will be months before this case reaches a conclusion …


Solder heading for Black-and-Blue division?

Kevin Seifert from ESPN calls Colorado offensive lineman Nate Solder “intriguing”. Seifert says Solder “would be a nice value pick at No. 12 for the Vikings … The Detroit Lions could target him at No. 13, as several early mock drafts have suggested. And there is no doubt the Chicago Bears would benefit from a left tackle prospect of Solder’s level, even if they have to trade up to do it.”

As to Solder’s talents, ESPN analyst Todd McShay had this to say: “The biggest thing with him is his ability to move laterally and bend,” said McShay. “He plays high too much of the time, and you see him get in trouble when he does. But he’s close. If he gets with a good coach, he could be a good starting left tackle for a long time in this league.”

Combine McShay’s comments with that of Sporting News’ “drafnik” Dennis Dillon. When asked who he considered to be a “risky picks” in the NFL draft in April, Dillon included Solder, stating, “(Solder) reminds me of that great athlete who’s so raw and technically terrible that he gets beaten”.

It seems like there is a consensus developing about Solder … a quality athlete; a physical specimen; but a raw and undeveloped talent.

Nate Solder: a consensus All-American … and he could have been even better with better coaching … sigh …

February 26th

CU assistants total pay “competitive”

The Colorado assistant coaches’ pool will be higher in 2011 than it was in 2010. The nine full-time assistants under Jon Embree will receive a total of $857,109 more than did the last group of coaches under Dan Hawkins. “It’s the whole question about being competitive,” said Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn, calling the increase in assistant coaches’ salaries, “an investment in the program.”

Six of the nine Colorado assistants are making $225,000 or more, while the highest paid assistant under Dan Hawkins was offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, who earned $217,976 in 2010. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has a salary which is close to $500,000, not including a one-time, $150,000 signing bonus. Longtime CU linebackers coach Brian Cabral received a much deserved $76,000 raise.

Much of the money for the new assistants is coming out of Jon Embree’s pocket. In 2010, Dan Hawkins made $1,391,903, while Jon Embree in 2011 will have a base salary of only $725,000 (with a multitude of incentive bonuses). “As we talked with Jon, from the very first time we talked with him in New York to finalize our job offer to him, we recognized the importance of having high quality assistant coaches with great experience, passion for CU, and the ability to recruit marquee student-athletes,” said Bohn.

Overall, counting both coaches and assistants, the pool of dollars paid to the ten coaches at Colorado will be about $200,000 more than last season. With Colorado facing a budget shortfall this season as the Buffs make the transition to the Pac-12, this is no small gesture. “The response from our boosters and supporters and sponsers has been very favorable,” said Bohn. “We recognize the ability to grow those resources to the point where we can properly fund the commitment we have made to Jon and the program.”

Bohn reported that the assistant coaches at Colorado will receive total compensation ranking Colorado in the top half of the Pac-12, certainly a step up from the commitment to assistant coaches in the past.

And this is directly attributable to the sacrifice in pay taken by Jon Embree.

“While we love to glamorize rock-star coaches, the secret to becoming a rock-star coach is hiring a great staff, and paying said assistants enough to keep them around for awhile,” wrote ESPN Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller. “And guess what? If Colorado starts to compete for Pac-12 South titles, Embree will get paid. And he knows that. The big money is on the back end. If you are confident enough that you’ll be successful, then patience is a virtue.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Hawkins took the best salary he could get, and he was certainly entitled to do so for himself and his family. Unfortunately, Colorado is hamstrung when it comes to offering long-term contracts, so the best way to keep assistant coach talent in Boulder is to pay salaries commensurate with salaries they might receive elsewhere. Hawkins didn’t understand that (or didn’t care), while Jon Embree understood that from day one.

Dan Hawkins had a buyout of $2 million dollars in the fifth year of his contract (renegotiated after 2007). In year five of his contract, Jon Embree has a buyout of $0 dollars (the same for year four). Jon Embree, understands, as Mike Bohn put it, “It’s the whole question about being competitive”.

March 6th will mark the three month mark of the Jon Embree era … and the honeymoon continues.


February 24th

USC in the news …

The NCAA is after Tennessee, but it’s more interested in its former head coach.

In a Notice of Allegations, the NCAA notified Tennessee that it was investigating numerous recruiting violations, by both the men’s basketball team and the football team. The Volunteer program might end up with some limitations on scholarship visits and some in-home visits as a result of the allegations, but is not likely to lose any scholarships.

In fact, the consensus from the report is that the NCAA is more interested in keeping an eye of the Vols former head coach Lane Kiffin, now the head coach at USC.

The most serious charge, “failure to monitor”, was slapped on Kiffin, but it was not brought against the athletic department as a whole. This was seen as a victory for Tennessee, and a condemnation of Kiffin. While at Tennessee, Kiffin refused to adhere to the simpliest of NCAA rules and monitor his assistant coaches. Even when warned, Kiffin found a way to sidestep NCAA regulations.

Kiffin and his assistants are accused of making improper phone calls to recruits even after Tennessee officials had warned them against making such phone calls. Kiffin was making impermissible phone calls to recruits from January 3-9, 2010, just 14 days before ending his 14-month tenure at Tennessee and leaving for USC. Among those who received improper calls was recruit Seantrel Henderson, who signed with USC after Kiffin was hired (Henderson, rated the No. 1 offensive lineman in the country, and the No. 2 overall prospect of the Class of 2010, was later released from his commitment. Henderson went on to sign with Miami). Other improprieties alleged against Kiffin include a recruiting intern visiting a Florida high school on October 12, 2009, after Tennessee officials warned that the intern was not permitted to make on-campus visits, and trips taken by members of the school’s athletic “hostess program” to visit recruits (imagine CU being allowed to have a “hostess program”? Not in our lifetimes … ).

USC athletic director Pat Haden backed his coach. “Until the (NCAA investigation) is complete, it would be unfair and premature for me or USC to comment on this matter,” said Haden. “However, I will say this: Since his return to USC last year as our head football coach, Lane has been vigilant in making sure he and the football program follow the NCAA’s rules and compete the right way. Lane has my support as our head football coach”.

For now …

Meanwhile … After ruling Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo received improper benefits while at USC, the NCAA gave USC a two-year bowl ban and a three-year reduction of scholarships at the rate of ten scholarships per year. USC appealed, asking the infractions committee to reduce the bowl ban to one year, and to reduce the loss of scholarships from ten down to five.

A decision was initially expected in four to eight weeks after the appeal was heard … It has now been four weeks since USC made its appeal to the NCAA infractions committee. “I’m not sure where it is,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “I hope it’s coming to a conclusion fairly soon.”

It will be interesting to see how the ruling comes down. USC recruited this off-season as if there appeal would be successful. If USC loses the appeal, it will have a significant impact upon the USC Class of 2012.

And … USC has hired former Nebraska coach Ted Gilmore as its new wide receivers coach. Gilmore had spent the past six seasons as the wide receivers coach for the Cornhuskers, and as the recruiting coordinator for the past four. Gilmore also had the title of assistant head coach, but was dumped by Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini last week.

Gilmore replaces John Morton, who left USC to join the staff of the San Francisco 49ers under new head coach (and former Stanford head coach) Jim Harbaugh.

Arizona State News

Steven Threet, Arizona State’s starting quarterback for most of the 2010 season, is done with football.

Threet would have been a senior in 2011, but suffered four concussions while at ASU, three last season. Threet is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome, and deals with constant headaches. Doctors told Threet that another concussion could be debilitating. Last season, Threet completed 62 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,534 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Threet transferred from Michigan, where he was the starting quarterback for the Wolverines in 2008.

Junior Brock Osweiler, who started the final two games of the 2010 season, is expected to be the starter in 2011.

Meanwhile … Arizona State has added two defensive backs to its recruiting Class of 2011. West Los Angeles College safety Kevin Ayers will have three years to play two for the Aztecs. Ayers is the brother of UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, who declared for the 2011 NFL draft, and had interest from Kentucky and Northern Arizona.

The other new recruit is Pahokee (Florida) cornerback Joe Eason, considered to be a two-star recruit by Rivals. Eason did not have an offer from any other BCS schools, but did have some offers from mid-majors like Buffalo, Western Michigan, and Florida International.

“On the advice of my legal counsel, we cannot comment, other than to say that we look forward to working through the process with the NCAA,” said Kiffin in a statement.

February 22nd

Embree/Bieniemy contracts approved

The University of Colorado Board of Regents unanimously approved contracts for head coach Jon Embree and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

Embree will have a base salary of only $250,000, with $200,000 for radio, television and public appearances and $200,000 for sponsorship support (read: Nike). There is also $75,000 for summer football camps, and $20,000 for moving expenses.

There are a number of bonuses for which Embree will be eligible, including $75,000 for academic progress towards graduation; up to $75,000 for the “welfare and development of football players”; and up to $50,000 for “development of the football program’s reputation on campus”.

If the Buffs are successful on the field of play, Embree can more than double his salary. For seven wins, Embree will pocket an additional $50,000; for a non-BCS bowl game, an extra $200,000. If Colorado earns a national championship, Embree will take in an additional $750,000 (and will almost certainly earn a contract extension).

One interesting aspect of the contract … after three years, if Embree is terminated, he will be entitled to exactly zero dollars. That’s right; no buyout. For going 19-39 in five seasons, Dan Hawkins walked away with a check for $2.1 million.

Overall, Embree is probably going to be the 2nd-lowest paid head coach in the Pac-12 (just ahead of Paul Wulff at Washington State). Still, the contract is loaded with incentives, and Jon Embree came to Colorado knowing that his opportunity would be tied directly to the success of the team. Embree is signing a five-year contract, but, with no guaranteed money in the final two years of the contract, it is basically a three-year contract.

Jon Embree is willing to put his money (and his career) where his mouth is.

Every day, in every way, it’s getting easier and easier to get excited about the long-term future of the CU program.

Bieniemy’s contract

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, like his head coach, has a $250,000 base salary. Bieniemy will receive $100,000 for sponsorship support; $125,000 for community outreach; and a $150,000 one-time payment due 30 days after the contract is signed.

Bieniemy also has incentive pay bonuses (though smaller than Embree’s), but, interestingly enough, has a buyout clause which stretches into year four (though it is only $125,000).

February 21st

Former Buff joins Arizona staff

Former Colorado safety Ryan Walters has been hired on as the defensive backs coach at Arizona. Walters, who played for the Buffs from 2004-08, was in Tucson last summer as a defensive graduate assistant under his former Buff secondary coach, Greg Brown.

While at Colorado, Walters was an honorable mention All-Big 12 safety his senior year, and received accolades from many different sources: his teammates honored him with the Zack Jordan award, given to the team’s most valuable player; his coaches tabbed him for the Hang Tough award (overcoming the most adversity); while the Colorado chapter of the National Football Foundation gave him first-team all-Colorado honors. Finally, Walters was honored by the “fans behind the stands” with the Buffalo Heart award.

Fans of the Buff nation certainly want nothing but the best for this former Buff … at least until November 12th, when Arizona visits Folsom Field for the first time as a Pac-12 opponent.

 Utah suspends linebacker indefinitely

Nai Fotu, senior linebacker for the Utah Utes, has been suspended indefinitely from the team after being arrested for DUI. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Fotu was arrested around 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, and was also cited at the time for speeding and having an open container in his vehicle.

This was not Fotu’s first brush with the law. On March 20, 2009, Fotu was arrested for a series of misdemeanors, including giving false information to police, public urination, and possession of alcohol and a controlled substance as a minor.

Fotu was being counted on as being a starter in 2010, but suffered a season-ending knee injury during spring practices. In 2009, Fotu played in all 13 games, including one start.

February 20th

Cal reinstates three of five cut sports programs

There is still no joy in Mudville, as the University of California baseball program will play out its last season this spring. However, due to the fundraising efforts of a “Save Cal Sports” campaign, three sports – men’s rugby; women’s lacrosse; and women’s gymnastics – have been reinstated.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau partially reversed a decision announced last September, when five programs, including baseball and men’s gymnastics, were eliminated due to shortfalls in the University’s budget. Campus officials said they received between $12 million and $13 million in pledges to retain the programs. In all, the school is looking for the “Save Cal Sports” group to raise $20 million, enough to fund and retain the one men’s team and two women’s teams which were reinstated, and believe the goal can be met.

Men’s baseball, the most visible of the sports, remains on the outside looking in. Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary said the pledges specifically for men’s baseball was between $1.5 and $2.5 million, but that baseball would need at least $10 million on its own to remain viable. “The challenge for baseball is it is a larger sport in terms of costs,” said Yeary. “From the very beginning, we said we could not agree to short term or stopgap measures. We need a sustainable solution.”

The cuts last September were blamed on a broader campaign to reduce UC-Berkeley’s annual support for intercollegiate athletics from more than $14 million per year to around $5 million by 2014. Recently, California governor Jerry Brown has since proposed an additional $500 million in cuts for the UC system budget, which would take another $80 million from the UC-Berkeley budget. “This was always about our ability to fund the programs,” said Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour. “This was about getting our expenses down to the point where we have a financial model that would fit with what the university was providing us in terms of institutional support.”

Supporters of the baseball program pledge to fight on, but Chancellor Birgeneau was not impressed with requests for more time. He sent a message out to supporters 16 months ago, warning that cuts were imminent, but that it wasn’t until the five programs were given the axe in September that fund-raising began in earnest.

For Buff fans, the news about Cal’s financial issues is a mixed bag. Considering that the University of Colorado gets virtually no support from the legislature, and the athletic department receives zero dollars from the CU administration, it is tempting to say, “Welcome to our world, Bears!”.

But you also have to be impressed with the effort to save at least three of the five programs.

Makes you wonder where the CU faithful were in 1980, when similar losses of programs such as baseball and mens’ gymnastics hit the Colorado athletic department.

Big 12 hurting for decent games to televise

Okay, now this one you can laugh at.

Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel ran an interesting story about the Big 12 having trouble this fall, and for the foreseeable future, coming up with enough decent games to showcase.

Every Saturday, the Big 12 has a 1:30 showcase game on ABC, a good Fox Sports game on Saturday night, with a third game of lesser quality with a pre-noon kickoff, also on Fox. With ABC occasionally showing a Big 12 game on Saturday night, Tramel figures the league needs 2-3 quality games each Saturday, or about 35 games per season.

With five good teams in the league next fall – Oklahoma; Texas A&M; Texas (assuming a bounce back); Missouri (if the Tigers can find a replacement for Blaine Gabbert); and Oklahoma State – Tramel sees 18 intra-league marquee games for the networks. There are also a few, with the emphasis on “few”, interesting non-conference games, like Oklahoma/Florida State; Texas/BYU; Texas/UCLA; and Texas A&M/Arkansas.

But, then there are the traditional loser non-conference games for the networks to choose from … Ready to get excited about: Baylor/Stephen F. Austin; Iowa State/Northern Iowa; Kansas/McNeese State; Kansas State/Eastern Kentucky; Missouri/Western Illinois; Oklahoma/Ball State; Oklahoma State/Louisiana-Lafayette; Texas/Rice; Texas A&M/Idaho; or Texas Tech/Texas State? There are more, but you get the idea. How would you like to be the network executive who has to decide, on September 3rd, from amongst a group of games which has, as it’s best offerings, Texas A&M/SMU and Texas Tech/Nevada (not bad games, but not likely to attract a national audience).

The networks are not cutting back on the television revenues – yet. But if the Big 12 wants to add to its coffers in the future, someone might have sit down and tell Bill Snyder at Kansas State to schedule a decent non-conference opponent or two … (insert your own KjSU joke here).

February 18th

Trying to make sense of the new television contract negotiations

For those of us who would rather see the Pac-12 sign on with ABC/ESPN instead of FoxSports, there are some realities to deal with. Jon Wilner of the Mercury News tried to make some sense out of where the negotiations for the new Pac-12 television contract are heading (link), and here are some of the conclusions …

Show me the money … “Fox is the leader in the clubhouse,” said one analyst tracking the televsion contract negotiations, which are, for now at least, one sided. Fox has an exclusive negotiating window with the league right now, which could last until May. Fox gave the Pac-12 a one-year, $25 million contract just for the extra Pac-12 games and the inaugural Pac-12 championship game. With the existing Fox contract for 2011, and the extra money Fox has thrown in for the expanded menu of games to show, it is fair to conclude that the Fox network is definitely interested in maintaining its relationship with the Pac-12.

How much money? The magic number for the Pac-12 is $170 million per year. Short of that, and the league agreement with USC and UCLA is that the two Los Angeles schools will get an extra $2 million per year until the $170 million threshold is met (recall that this was a bone thrown to the LA schools when they agreed not to be in the same division with the northern California schools, and to have the Pac-12 title game be played at a neutral site). While the Pac-12 can certainly live on less than $170 million per year (a significant increase over what the schools have been receiving), it would be a thorn in the side of the remaining ten schools to know that the Los Angeles schools, already ahead on booster and local media money, would be receiving a greater share of the television pie (apparently this is not a thorn in the side of the little sisters of the poor in what’s left of the Big 12, which made similar concessions to Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M in their negotiated deal to stay together as a conference).

Will the new television contract exceed $170 million? Perhaps, but perhaps not. True, ESPN paid $155 million for rights to the ACC, but that includes basketball, and Pac-12 basketball, with perennial powers UCLA and Arizona having down years, is a weak sister when compared to ACC basketball. In addition, ESPN’s contract for $155 million includes about $30 million from Raycom to show games ESPN doesn’t want. In the Pac-12 footprint, there is no network similar to Raycom, which means ESPN would have to come up with most of the $170 million on its own.

And that’s not likely … the biggest hurdles for ESPN and the Pac-12 to overcome in negotiating a deal are time and, well, time. ESPN would not be able to show Pac-12 games right after its GameDay show, as that would mean a 10 a.m. kickoff for the mountain time zone school, or an 9:00 a.m. kickoff for the west coast schools – which isn’t going to happen. Yes, ABC/ESPN would like to have access to USC/Utah or Oregon/Washington for its 1:30 (MT) and 6:00 (MT) games, but ABC/ESPN already has access to pretty much the entire BCS outside of the SEC for those slots (and sometimes will get an SEC game at night). That’s a great deal of inventory to show, and not a great number of slots to fill. Does ESPN need to shell out $170 million just to make sure that it can show USC/Oregon? Probably not.

Which brings us back to Fox. While a second fiddle to ESPN, there are signs that Fox wants to increase its presence in college sports. In addition to buying the rights to the inaugural Pac-12 championship, Fox bought the rights to the first six Big Ten championship games. Fox has also signed a contract with Conference USA to show its games. One source told Jon Wilner that Fox was considering showing a prime time Saturday night Pac-12 game over its over-the-air network (not FSN) to compete with the ABC/ESPN Saturday prime time games.

Then there is the issue of the Pac-12 Network, a concept near and dear to the heart of the Pac-12 commissioner, Larry Scott. A Pac-12 Network could provide supplemental revenue and exposure, and not just for inventory that Fox doesn’t want to show and can’t otherwise sell to a second-tier rights holder. Even more important to the members of the Pac-12, a Pac-12 Network could showcase the conference’s “non-revenue”, or “Olympic” sports. The Pac-12 calls itself the “Conference of Champions”, and with good reason. The number of NCAA titles won by the Pac-10/12 members is almost more than the next two conferences (Big Ten and Big 12) combined. The Pac-12 Network could showcase the conference’s dominance in Olympic sports year-round.

One very large hurdle for the Pac-12 office to overcome in any new contract which involves a Pac-12 Network … TimeWarner. Time Warner Cable is the dominant distributor in Los Angeles, and has a history of fighting off sports networks. It took the Big Ten a year to get Time Warner to show the Big Ten Network, and, to date, Time Warner still does not carry the  NFL Network.

A Pac-12 Network which would not be carried in Los Angeles? That would be a tough sell to some of the league’s members (guess which two), and the membership as a whole, which would lose its largest television media market.

So, where are we at? If Fox can show to the Pac-12 that it is serious about wanting to showcase the new conference (which, to me, would include an upgrade in announcers and overall quality of coverage, as well as national advertising and promotion), and can find a way to put a package together which would make the Pac-12 Network a viable reality, there may be a contract in place this spring.

Otherwise, a lesser contract with ESPN might come into play, or a third party (Comcast/NBC?) might come to the table with an open checkbook.

While Pac-12 members can almost certainly look forward to an increase in revenue from year’s past, it would be a boon to start off the new conference with a new television contract which properly showcases the new league.

In Larry Scott we trust …!

UPDATE: Neil posted some good questions about the contract debate (see comment No. 5, below). The first goes to the total amount expected under the new television contracts. Many of us were expecting a huge bump in income compared to previous Big 12 contracts. As a member of the Big 12, Colorado would usually receive $8-9 million; with a $170 million contract, the league members would be receiving around $14 million. A nice increase, to be sure, but not the bonanza we were talking about last summer. I would offer two possible answers: First, the $170 million threshold is what the league needs to avoid the extra $2 million payout to USC and UCLA. It may turn out that Larry Scott negotiates a deal of $200 million or more (I wouldn’t put it past him!); Second, there are other revenues to be collected, including advertising revenue from the Pac-12 Network as well as bowl contracts which may contribute additional dollars to the overall deal.

The second question goes to the exclusive negotiation period for Fox – is this a benefit or a hindrance to the negotiation process? I think that if Fox Sports really wants to have the Pac-12 all to itself, that they would want to get the job done before the end of the negotiation period. While the Pac-12 might not be able to negotiate with ESPN or NBC until March, there certainly would be a feel for what was out there in terms of candidates and their dollars. I would think of it in terms of a restricted free agent in baseball. The team holding the player’s contract may have an exclusive period within which to negotiate, but they also know what a player’s free agent value might be. Fox – and the Pac-12 – should have a realistic idea of what Fox is willing to offer, and what the competition might be. Just like with a free agent, if Fox doesn’t want to get into a bidding war, they might offer a sweet deal this spring. Conversely, if the Pac-12 believes that Fox is of the mind that it does not have any serious competition, the league might hold out to see what the “free agent” market might deliver this summer.

We’ll see …

Same coach; different opponent

The Buff players are used to lining up against players coached by Scott Brown. For the past three seasons, Brown was the defensive line coach for the Colorado State Rams; now Brown will be the defensive line coach for Arizona State.

Brown, who was a coach at Duke for 12 seasons before moving to Ft. Collins, replaces Grady Stretz, who left Arizona State for the NFL. “This is a positive for Scott,” said CSU head coach Steve Fairchild, who promised to have another coach in place in time for the start of spring practice in late March.

“He has extensive contacts (in Texas), and not just in a certain area, but in the entire state of Texas,” said ASU head coach Dennis Erickson. “Trying to get into the state of Texas with no connections is difficult. With Scott’s connections, we have instant credibility in that state.”

Despite his apparently impressive credentials as a recruiter, Brown will not be taking over for Stretz as recruiting coordinator for Arizona State. Either receivers coach Steve Broussard or running backs coach Bryce Erickson will be taking over those duties.

Another Defensive line coach hired

UCLA finally has its staff complete.

Rick Neuheisel has hired Inoke Breckterfield as his new defensive line coach. Breckterfield was hired away from the Montana Grizzlies, where Breckterfield coaches last season. Before that, Breckterfield coached the same position for Weber State in 2009. Breckterfield was a first-team All-Pac-10 defensive end for Oregon State in 1998. When he left school, Breckterfield was the school’s all-time leader in tackles for loss and sacks.

“Inoke is an outstanding young talent who I feel will have a great impact on our defensive linemen,” said Neuheisel in a statement. “You can tell by listening to him that he is a real people person who will connect with our linemen, and will be an outstanding recruiter as well.”

Five of the six teams in the Pac-12 South will have new defensive line coaches next fall. I don’t know about you, but of the new defensive line coaches in the Pac-12 south – Mike Tuiasosopo for Colorado (from Arizona); Tuiasosopo’s replacement at Arizona, Joe Salave’a (from San Jose State); Inoke Breckterfield at UCLA (from Montana); Scott Brown at Arizona State (from CSU); and Chad Kauhaa’haa at Utah (from Utah State) – I would think that Colorado got the best end of the deal …

Ed Orgeron, who has been the defensive line coach at USC since January, 2010, is the senior member of the Pac-12 defensive line coaching corps …

February 17th

Nebraska waits until February to shuffle coaching staff

Remember when Buff fans were all concerned about the delay in the naming of the new quarterbacks coach?

That was so January.

Coaching changes in Nebraska are in full swing, and may not be over. Four new coaches were named this week, with the most important being the hiring of Tim Beck as the new offsensive coordinator. Also moving to Lincoln are: Indiana assistant Corey Raymond, hired to coach the secondary; Ohio assistant Ross Els. brought in to coach linebackers; and Massachusetts prep school coach Rich Fisher; named as the new wide receivers coach. Still to be answered is the question as to whether former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and former wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore resigned or were fired. (Watson, of course, was a holdover from the Bill Callahan staff, coming to Nebraska after coaching at Colorado).

The new offensive coordinator, Tim Beck, has never called plays at the college level.  Beck had been the running backs coach under Bo Pelini, and had previously coached receivers at Kansas.

Don’t ya’ just love the stability represented by the Colorado coaching staff? …

February 15th

It may not be officially confirmed until September 9th …

It is becoming one of the worst kept secrets in college football … the California/Colorado game, originally scheduled for September 10th, will go on as planned, and will be played as a non-conference game between two Pac-12 foes.

The news has come by way of leaks, not from an announcement from either school. Cal has two open dates to fill, September 10th and September 17th. The CU/Cal game confirmation was leaked by Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour, while the September 17th game opponent was leaked by the Bears’ fodder for the day … wait for it … Presbyterian. That’s right. The whole damn church will take on Cal at AT&T Park, which will serve as the home stadium for the Bears while the stadium is being re-done in Berkeley.

Five CU at the Game points if you can name the nickname of Presbyterian? Okay, how about the conference they play in? Give up? Okay, the Blue Hose of Presbyterian College, from Clinton, South Carolina, play in the Big South Conference. Last year, the Blue Hose went 2-9, including a tough 37-7 loss to Stony Brook. Before heading across the continent to face Cal in San Francisco this fall, Presbyterian will warmup with game against Wofford and North Greenville (still checking as to whether that is North Greenville University or North Greenville high).

Okay, enough Blue Hose bashing.

The problem for Colorado is that Cal now has what Colorado wanted – a cushy game before a tough one. Think Cal’s coaches are going to spend much time during fall practice working on Presbyterian’s playbook? Or will they spend that much more time on Colorado? Meanwhile, the Buffs will still have a rivalry game against CSU to look forward to the week following the Cal game.

On a more positive note, there are apparently negotiations with Hawai’i and the networks to move the Colorado/Hawai’i game back from Saturday, September 3rd to Thursday, September 1st. This would allow the Buffs to get some additional national exposure by starting early (a plus), and also give the players a chance to get back across a few thousand miles of ocean and readjust to mountain time before preparation begins in earnest for the game against California.

UPDATE: More on the Blue Hose of Presbyterian College – because you know I can’t leave stuff like this alone. Why “Blue Hose”? According to the PC website (they like to refer to themselves as “PC”), there are several stories behind the orgins of the “Blue Hose”. The more romantic is that the Blue Hose were fierce Scottish warriors (“If you have seen the movie Braveheart, you have seen a true Blue Hose”). More likely, though, it was just the choice of colors made back in 1915 by the athletic director. PC wore blue stockings, which is a label picked up on by a sportswriter. Later, the Blue Stockings morphed into the Blue Hose, a nickname adopted by the student body in 1954.

Also, I was bit too quick to pick on North Greenville, above. Not only is North Greenville a tough out, but the Crusaders took it to the Blue Hose last season, in Clinton!, by the score of 34-17. The other game for the Blue Hose before squaring off against the Cal Bears is against Wofford, a team which Presbyterian hasn’t defeated at home since … 1989.

Oh, well. So much for Presbyterian College going into their game against Cal with an undefeated record …

“It is done”

After almost two months, UCLA head coach has a new defensive coordinator. And the winner is … Joe Tresey.

Joe Tresey?

No, it’s not Steve Brown from Kentucky, and it’s not Randy Shannon from Miami. It’s Joe Tresey. You know Joe … he was the defensive backs coach for the Omaha Nighthawks from the United Football League last season.

Yeah, that Joe Tresey.

Okay, to be fair, before taking a job with the Omaha Nighthawks, Tresey was the defensive coordinator at South Florida (2009) and at Cincinnati (2007-08). “He has an aggressive style that forces turnovers and negative yardage plays, and I feel our players, especially our youngsters, will benefit greatly from his style of play,” said Neuheisel. “He is a fine teacher, and I can’t wait for him to get started.”

One problem … Neuheisel fired former defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough on December 18th because Neuheisel wanted the Bruins to move from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense.

But Tresey is a 4-3 guy as well.

I’m sure the UCLA Bruin fans are very excited about this hire …

February 14th

News and notes from around the Pac-12 …

Ticket prices going up at Washington and Utah

What price success? Utah is used to receiving about $2 million in television revenue from being a member of the Mountain West Conference. The Utes will receive that much in 2011, just from the extra regular season games included in the Fox television package with the inclusion of two more teams, along with a portion of the big check Fox is writing for the 2011 Pac-12 championship game.

So, with the coffers flush, what does Utah do? Raise prices, of course.

$370 season tickets will now cost $450 … an increase of over 20% from last season. $270 tickets will go up to $325, while $210 tickets will go up to $260, both almost 20% higher than last year.

Washington is hitting its fans in a different way. The Apple Cup, the regular season finale against Washington State, will not be included as part of the regular season ticket package this year. Instead, the game will be played at Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, with the most expensive seat going for $97.00.

The rationale behind the move is not purely to charge more to season ticket holders. Washington is going to do a major renovation to Husky Field, and by starting in on the construction after the Oregon game on November 5th, construction crews can get a three-week head start on the job. Washington will play all of its home games in 2012 at Qwest Field, returning to the new Husky Stadium for the 2013 season. Washington’s situation is not unlike that of Cal, which is playing in the San Francisco 49er home stadium while work is being done to the home field in Berkeley.

Anyone up for some remodeling of Folsom Field?

Sounds like CU will have some “keeping up with the Joneses” to do in the very near future …

Arizona loses coach to Texas

The merry-go-round continues …

When Arizona lost defensive coordinator Greg Brown to Colorado, the Wildcats lured back one of their own, Duane Akina.

Before leaving for Texas in 2000, Akina spent 14 years coaching at Arizona under Dick Tomey. While at Arizona, Akina wore many hats, including secondary coach, assistant head coach, and, in something of a rarity, offensive and defensive coordinator. When Akina re-joined the Wildcats on January 18th, Akina said, “When this opportunity came up, I felt like the window was there, and it’s the right fit.”

“It’s been a great ten years at Texas, said Akina. “But going back to Arizona was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

At least for four weeks.

Now, with Texas losing secondary coach Jerry Gray to the Tennessee Titans, Akina has done an about face, and is heading back to Texas. “Although we are disappointed because of the commitment we had made,” said Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne. “We respect Coach Akina’s decision.”

So, Arizona joins UCLA on the market for a defensive coordinator. “We have always hired good people,” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “We will make sure we hire another quality person.”

The Colorado coaching staff keeps looking better and better, doesn’t it …?

Officials getting a makeover in the Pac-12

Remember some of the complaints about officiating in the Pac-10? Remember how Oklahoma got jobbed at Oregon a few years back?

Apparently Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott does, and he is taking steps to remedy the situation.

After what the conference termed “a comprehensive review of the officiating program”, longtime director of officiating Dave Cutaia was asked to step down as Coordinator of Football officiating. According to the release:

“The adjustments to the officiating program came after a season-long review of the entire program by Mike Pereira, the former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL, who served as a consultant for the Pac-10 during the 2010 season. Pereira will lead the process of creating the new structure and implementing the changes, and will serve as the interim Coordinator of Football Officiating. The Pac-12 will begin an immediate search for a permanent Coordinator of Officiating.”

One obvious change … the league is likely to discontinue the practice of allowing alumni of the home team from serving as the replay official.

Small steps, but necessary ones. Just another feather in the cap of Pac-10 commissioner: Addressing issues up front, rather than waiting for another problem to arise.

February 13th

Neuheisel settling for Kentucky coordinator?

Close to two full months after he fired Chuck Bullough as defensive coordinator, UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel may be close to finding a replacement in Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown.

Brown would be at least the fourth choice for the job, and perhaps the fifth. Neuheisel started with San Diego State defensive coordinator Rocky Long, but lost out on Long when Aztec head coach Brady Hoke took the Michigan job and Long was promoted to head coach. UCLA then turned to Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who also got a better offer – moving up to the San Francisco 49ers with former head coach Jim Harbaugh. Next in line was Seattle Seahawk assistant coach Rocky Seto, who apparently had the job offer withdrawn when Seto let others know he had been selected for the task.

Another potential candidate, former Miami head coach Randy Shannon, has been interviewed but not offered the job. Shannon this week also interviewed for the defensive coordinator position at Maryland.

Which leaves Rick Neuheisel with Kentucky’s Steve Brown. Under Brown, Kentucky’s defense did improve in five seasons from 118th the year before Brown arrived to 45th this past season. Brown has coached twelve players at Kentucky who have gone on to the NFL, but he lost some of his duties after the 2010 season. Brown was demoted by head coach Rich Brooks to the status of co-defensive coordinator, and has lost his play-calling and practice-planning duties.

“I’m still working through it,” Neuheisel said this past Thursday. “I’m going to have a decision by this weekend”.

Cue Judge Smails (Ted Knight) … “Well? We’re waiting …. “.

Alex Kelley looking to impress on the mat as well

Colorado recruit Alex Kelley may be the Buffs’ starting center from 2012-15, but for now, the Vista (Calif.) prospect has turned his attention away from football.

Kelley, at 6’3, 290-pounds, is looking to become a state champion wrestler this winter. Why risk injury after receiving a football scholarship? “I don’t have it in me to quit something I’ve worked so hard on for three years,” said Kelley, who is ranked second in his section, and ninth in the state, in his weight class. Kelley reached the final 12 at state last season, and hopes to improve as a senior. “I still hope to get a state title,” Kelley told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I want to try to be No. 1.”

Kelley is also ready to turn his attention back to football this summer. “I’ve rooted for Colorado all of my life,” said Kelley, whose father, Karry, played for the Buffs (1976-79).

There was also this, from Kelley’s high school coach, Dan Williams. “He’s definitely two different personalities,” said Williams of Kelley. “When he puts the helmet on, sometimes you feel sorry for the kid going against him. I’ve never had a center be flagged for excessive blocking like he was. I’d ask the ref, ‘Was he blocking to the whistle?’ ‘No, coach. He was blocking past the whistle?’. Then I’d say, ‘No, he was blocking to the whistle, because he wouldn’t (block past the whistle)’. He’d knock the snot out of someone, and pick him up and say, ‘God Bless you’, because he is that kind of kid.”

Here’s the full article from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

February 12th

Why Malcolm Creer is a name Buff fans need to remember

Running back Malcolm Creer, from Pacific Palisades, California, was not high on the recruiting charts for much of the past season. After all, in 2009, he had rushed for a modest 660 yards for the Dolphins of Pacific Palisades, a decent back for a decent high school team.

Before his junior year, Creer had failed to produce even that much. Coming in as a freshman at Pacific Palisades, Creer had yet to play a down of organized football in his life. “He was a basketball kid all the way,” Creer’s mother, Donna Jones, told the Pacific Palisadian-Post. “All the way.” Despite his love of basketball, Creer, at 5’11”, 200-pounds, had a body for football. “He was just a stallion,” said Creer’s high school football coach, Kelly Loftus. “He’s always been the same (size). If he had played football as a sophomore with the JV team, he would’ve had 100 touchdowns.” Instead, Creer was thrust onto the varsity team, though he was still learning the game. “I may have done him a disservice by not letting him play as a sophomore with his peers,” Loftus said. “But on the other hand, I might have done him a favor.”

After his “under the radar” junior year, Creer had a breakout season this past fall, rushing for 1,270 yards and 19 touchdowns. Creer had a highlight reel touchdown which featured a cartwheel to keep his balance (You Tube video – watch the first highlight) as well as a 108-yard interception return for a touchdown. Nebraska and Washington were in competition for Creer’s services, but in the end, the Buffs won out.


“I have a warm feeling about fitting into the program,”Creer said. “Meeting with the coaches, they gave me a feeling that I could fit in, and they would push me to my full potential … Washington was just using me as a backup. But I wasn’t a fall-back plan for Colorado. I was just their main guy, and that’s why I chose Colorado.”

The Buffs also impressed Malcolm’s mother, but for other reasons. “The thing (coach Bieniemy) and coach Embree push is academics,” Creer’s mother said. “They say, ‘You better believe as a football program, we’re going to use you. So you’d better use us. Get your education. Do well in the classroom, and the rest will take care of itself’ “.

On Signing Day, many high schools across the nation have functions in which all of their scholarship players get together to announce their decisions for college. At Pacific Palisades high, there was just one player, Malcolm Creer. Still, over 200 “Pali” students gathered for the announcement. Banners from Colorado and Washington were draped on the table (glad we didn’t have to see that!). “It all started with Pali pride,” Creer announced, referring to his dark blue Palisades hoodie. Creer then took off the hoodie to reveal … a Michigan shirt. Three articles of clothing later, though, Creer was left with a black-and-gold shirt from Colorado.

“The last two months have been a dream,” said Creer’s mother. “The whole thing was miraculous. He was so under the radar. But every time he put his hands on the ball, it was like, ‘Wow!’ “.

Buff fans will be hoping that Creer will continue to “Wow!” football fans for years to come …

(Full article from Pacific Palisades Post)

February 10th

UCLA coaching carousel continues …

The coaching merry-go-round in Westwood continues.

UCLA picked up a new coach and fired another Thursday, but the Bruins remain sans defensive coordinator.

Head coach Rick Neuheisel hired a new coach for tight ends and fullbacks, luring Nevada running backs coach Jim Mastro away from Nevada. At the same time, Neuheisel announced that defensive line coach Todd Howard had been fired.

Howard, the defensive line coach for the past five seasons for UCLA, had been told in December that he might consider other opportunities. “I just wanted him to know that, as I was looking for a new coordinator, he needed to be ready to make the next move,” said Neuheisel. Howard was ready … he’s already been hired as the new defensive line coach at Washington State.

Jim Mastro, meanwhile, has spent the past 11 seasons on the staff at Nevada, and will bring his knowledge of the Pistol offense with him to UCLA. “The Pistol is a process, and the thing that was appealing to me about this is that they already had the foundation laid,” said Mastro about UCLA’s offense, which utilized the Pistol at times last season. “I look forward to making this better.”

Back on the other side of the ball, though, the search continues for a new defensive coordinator to replace former defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough, who was fired almost two months ago. Neuheisel has picked three different new coordinators to replace Bullough, only to have none of the three work out. First came Rocky Long, who decided to take over the head coaching job at San Diego State rather than make a lateral move up the coast to UCLA. Then there was Vic Fangio, who followed Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers.

The latest option for Neuheisel was Seattle Seahawk coach Rocy Seto. It was leaked that Seto had been hired early this week, only to have the offer withdrawn at the last minute. “Before it reached the regents approval, which was necessary, other factors came to light that made it probably not the right time,” said Neuheisel about the withdrawn offer. “I just have to be wary of everything. It just became not the right time.”

Neuheisel is fully aware of the speculation that coaches are not interested in working for UCLA, with Neuheisel on the hotseat after posting a second 4-8 record in the past three seasons this past fall. “I understand the scrutiny. I understand the perception and that kind of stuff, but at the end of the day, none of that matters,” said Neuheisel. “What matters is that we play well next year, and to play well, I’ve got to make the best possible decision.”

One option might still be former Miami head coach Randy Shannon, who has been interviewed, but has not been offered the job. (Perhaps Neuheisel is wary of having another coach with BCS head coaching experience waiting in the wings should the Bruins decide to make a change next fall).

Neuheisel said he hopes to have a decision “by this weekend”. Bruin fans would be grateful to move on … next Wednesday will mark two months since Bullough was fired.

Anyone feeling any sympathy for the Bruin fans?

Nah, me neither.

February 8th

Arizona State needs a new coach

First, Arizona defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo left Tucson for Boulder. Now, Arizona State also has to replace its defensive line coach.

Grady Stretz, a Tempe, Arizona, native, the defensive line coach for the Sun Devils for the past five seasons, has been hired away by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “It was going to take something special for me to leave,” said Stretz. “I’ve enjoyed my experience. I’ve created a lot of relationships. This has been my home.”

For a team with 19 starters returning, the defensive line is one area which is a question mark for the Sun Devils, as two starters from 2010 will need to be replaced. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State’s head coach, said that he hoped to have a replacement for Stretz named in the next few weeks.

UCLA soap opera continues

For about 12 hours last week, Rocky Seto was planning on becoming the Bruins’ next defensive coordinator.

Seto was formerly the defensive coordinator at USC, and was a current assistant coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Last week, Seto was offered the defensive coordinator job at Westwood, and a press conference was scheduled …

Then nothing.

“It was a unique situation,” said Seto. “I was a bit disappointed because I accepted the offer. Emotionally and mentally, I was there.”

What happened? UCLA head coach called Seto and told him that “it just wasn’t the right time.”

“He called, and he was really gracious about it, and very flattering,” Seto said. “I really believed he wanted to do it, but the circumstances just wouldn’t allow for it.”

No reasons were given, but it has been reported that some of Seto’s friends posted congratulatory messages on Seto’s Facebook page, and that the “leak” incensed UCLA. There is also speculation that UCLA fans were not excited about a former USC coach was crossing over to the Bruins.

Who knows?

The only thing that is certain is that Rick Neuheisal is still in search of a defensive coordinator …

February 7th

Kudos to Buffs in various sports

First, congratulations to two former Buffs who are members of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Linebacker Brad Jones is on injured reserve, but kicker Mason Crosby made the most of his opportunities, going four-for-four on extra points, and connecting on his only field goal attempt of the night. Jones and Crosby become the 30th and 31st Buffs to earn a Super Bowl ring and the first since Mitch Berger won his ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008.

Ski Team performs well at worlds

The 25th World University Games were conducted this past week at Erzurum, Turkey, and Colorado skiers did the team proud.

CU ski team coach Richard Rokos was the captain of the team, and the United States had its best results in skiing ever. The United States won the most gold medals (four), the most medals (five), had the most top five finishes (nine) and the most top ten finishes (18) in the eight races.

The University of Colorado sent a total seven skiers to the Games, four of whom competed for the United States. In fact, half of the women’s alpine team was made up of Colorado skiers, with freshman Kirsten Cooper, sophomore Erika Ghent, and senior Katie Hartman competing, with junior Taggart Spenst competing on the men’s side. The Buffs also had senior Gabriel Rivas skiing at the Games on behalf of France, with sophomore Sara Hjertman and senior Carolina Nordh competing under the flag of Sweden.

Katie Hartman had a gold in the Super G, while Ghent had a silver in the Super Combined (one of her four top nine finishes on the weekend).

These results certainly bode well for the Colorado ski team as they return to the United States. The Buffs will be competing for the ski teams 18th national championship in Stowe, Vermont, the second weekend of March.

Brent Vaughn wins USA Cross Country Championship

Former CU runner Brent Vaughn won the USA Cross Country Championship this past Saturday at Mission Bay Park near San Diego. Vaughn won the 12-kilometer race with a time of 35:46.

Another former CU champion, Kara Goucher, competed in the women’s event, finishing seventh.

February 6th

Embree: “We’re probably going to be a little more aggressive earlier”

Dan Hawkins’ philosophy of recruiting: “If you build it, they will come”.

Hawkins preferred for his recruits to come to him; let them enjoy their senior seasons, let them take their official visits; then let the Colorado program speak for itself. The recruits would feel they had the chance to make an unpressured choice. Those who chose Colorado would be loyal, and play hard for the Buffs.

Problem is, Hawkins never posted a winning season. Recruits have been giving out their verbal commitments earlier and earlier. Colorado was always left in January with a handful of commitments, trying to play catch up.

No longer.

The new coaching staff already has over 30 offers of commitment made to prospects still juniors in high school. Still, Colorado will be at a disadvantage compared to other schools. “We’re probably going to be a little more aggressive earlier,” said Embree. “But we have to be better about the evals and transcripts we get academically. We’ve got to make sure we get kids who can stay in school … We had to pass on some kids, to be truthful, who we probably would have had a good chance of getting, but they couldn’t do it academically, in our estimation.”

Colorado does not have a special admissions policy for borderline students, and does not have a fall-back “general studies” degree (Check out the Archived 1988 CU v. Nebraska game for a story about how a “discussion” with Nebraska fans about “general studies” degrees almost got Brad and I killed). As a result, if Colorado makes an offer to a prospect who is only mid-way through his junior year in high school, there may be some players who commit to the Buffs who turn out not to be eligible.

Still, it’s full speed ahead on recruiting the Class of 2012

Cyler Miles.

A name which Buff fans will be hearing a great deal over the next twelve months.

You may know that Mullen high has won the Colorado 5A titles three years running. The quarterback for the team coached by former Buff All-American Dave Logan is Cyler Miles. Last season, as a junior, Miles completed 70% of his passes. He threw for 20 touchdowns, and two interceptions. At 6’4″, 215-pounds, he is already a perfect size for a college quarterback. He can already run a 11.0 in the 100-meter dash.

Oh, and by the way, the Buffs are in the market for a quarterback.

Miles already has offers from Colorado and Cal, with interest from Notre Dame, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Texas A&M and LSU. “I wouldn’t want to rush into any decisions on a college,” Miles told BuffStampede.com. “I’m just going into it. I’m trying to have a really good senior season and really improve … Then  I can get more offers and improve myself the most I can. Then kind of after the senior season look over everything, discuss it with my parents, and look at the colleges that fit me the best.”

For better or worse, the judgment of Jon Embree’s recruiting Class of 2012 may well begin and end with the decision made by Cyler Miles.

Shane Callahan.

Callahan is a 6’7″, 277-pound offensive lineman from Chaparral high in Parker, Colorado. Callahan was an honorable mention all-state player as a junior, and will likely move up in status his senior year.

Colorado offered Callahan last summer, an offer reaffirmed in December by Jon Embree. Callahan met with new offensive line coach Steve Marshall on December 18th, and took an unofficial visit to Boulder on January 15th. “CU is definitely a possibility in my future, so it felt really good to talk with the new coaches,” Callahan told BuffStampede.com. I really like coach Marshall … and Coach Embree kind of overwhelmed me. He was a Colorado kid, and I really like it because he wants us other Colorado kids to play for him.”

While Colorado seems to be a favorite for Callahan’s services, the junior has also taken an unofficial visit to Notre Dame, and is attracting interest from USC, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Alabama.

Paul Thurston

Another offensive tackle which Colorado has already offered. Thurston is 6’5″, 266-pounds, and plays for Arvada West, the same school which gave the Buffs Marc Mustoe as part of the Class of 2011. Thurston, who has already started 35 games for Arvada West, is coached by his uncle, Paul Thurston, who played two years for Colorado in the early 1980’s.

Like Callahan, Thurston has already met with the new coaching staff. “Coach Embree basically said that he is a guy that they want to get up there to play and be a Buff,” said Paul Thurston. “So that was pretty exciting for Paul.”

Thurston has interest from schools like Cal, Arizona, UCLA, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Wisconsin, and is also interested in taking some official visits before committing. “I am going to try and wait through the whole process,” Thurston told BuffStampede.com. “But I don’t know how it is going to turn out, if I will be able to wait to do that.”

Conner Crane

Buff fans were excited about the hire of Bobby Kennedy.

Not only because they wanted Kennedy as the new wide receivers coach, but because of his seven year stint as recruiting coordinator at Texas.

An early dividend might come by way of Conner Crane, a 6’4″ 180-pound wide receiver from Denton, Texas. Crane averaged a gaudy 24.4 yards per catch as a junior, and is attracting interest from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Arizona, and Boise State … but Colorado’s Bobby Kennedy was the first to offer Crane a scholarship.

“Coach Kennedy thinks I can be an intermediate threat, and help move the chains,” Crane told BuffStampede.com. “They don’t have a lot of receivers on scholarship at Colorado right now, so I would have a chance to go in and play early. So I like that.”

Crane hopes to take an unofficial visit to Boulder this summer. “I have talked to some people about it, and everyone has said that the campus is beautiful, and they have good academics at Colorado,” said Crane. “I want to visit the school and see what it is like, and keep in contact with the coaches, and build a relationship with them.”

That’s what coach Embree says it’s all about … relationships.

Time to start putting together the Class of 2012!

February 4th

Embree challenges team to bring home a road victory in season opener

Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t a “win one for the Gipper” speech, but Colorado head coach Jon Embree has challenged his new team to start a new tradition – winning on the road – by restoring an old tradition.

“There have been a lot of great traditions around here that got swept under the rug, and they’re coming back,” Embree told 1,200 fans and boosters at the Colorado annual recruiting luncheon. “We’re going to start with one of the things that means a lot to me and a lot of the former players in here.” Embree went on to explain that when the Buffs, under Bill McCartney, won a big game, that a brick would be painted gold, with the date and the score painted in black, with that brick placed against a wall in the Dal Ward center.

“As a former player, you like to go back in that building and see how many bricks you put in that wall. You had pride in that,” said Embree. “So what I told the team, former players, ‘You want those bricks back up? We have to earn one.’ ” Embree’s challenge to the team was to win the season opener on the road against Hawai’i. “When we win a brick, all your bricks come back,” said Embree, speaking to the former players at the luncheon. “So when you see the players, you remind them to get that brick on the wall.”

A little hokey? Sure. But college football is all about emotion, and getting the current group of players motiviated to play hard for their new coaches starts now. A season-opening victory over Hawai’i would not only end a 17-game road losing streak, it would signal that the Dan Hawkins’ era has officially come to an end, and the Jon Embree era has officially begun.

Can’t happen soon enough …

Larry Scott in town

It was a small gift – a Pac-10 baseball cap – but it carried with it a great deal of meaning.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was in Boulder for the Colorado recruiting luncheon, back in town for the first time since Colorado joined the Pac-12 last June. Scott only brought with him a token gift for the new Colorado head coach, but it was a nice gesture for the commissioner to come to a CU function nonetheless.

Scott did hold a press conference, though there was little new news to report. The heading of the Daily Camera article, “Buffs, Pac-12 reach deal”, sounded enticing. In reality, Scott was only commenting on the agreement which has been public for weeks, namely that Colorado and Utah will share in the revenue from the Pac-12 championship game, as well as a pro-rated share of the additional revenue from Fox Sports which the league will earn as a result of having additional games to telecast this fall.

Scott did comment that the agreement between ESPN and Texas to form a Texas network bodes well for the Pac-12 as the new league negotiates its television rights this spring. “My view is if they can get that kind of money ($300 million) for a one-school network, with the kind of programming they’re going to have on it, it bodes extremely well for what we’re going to do with the premium product we’re going to have as a 12-team conference,” said Scott. The new television contract may be in place for the league spring meetings (June 3-5 in Seattle), but Scott indicated that negotiations could last through the summer.

Say it isn’t so …

The 2011 Colorado football schedule remains incomplete. On September 10th, that tough opponent, TBA, remains on the calendar.

The date was to be the return game of a home-and-home with the California Bears, but that schedule was made before the two teams became league opponents. When Colorado joined the Pac-12, it was widely assumed that the contest would become Colorado’s first-ever Pac-12 game, but then the schedules were devised, and the Buffs and the Bears were not scheduled to meet in league play.

Colorado already has seven road games, one neutral site game, and four home games on the calendar. With local merchants already upset that the Buffs will not have six home games, simply cancelling the game and going with a 12-game schedule with only four home games is not an option. Colorado reportedly wants to find a new opponent (Portland State?), but Cal reportedly wants the game to be played as scheduled.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, for his part, is not excited about league foes playing before conference play officially begins, but the league won’t stand in the way of the game taking place. “I would just chalk it up, if it happens, to one of those transition issues that you have to deal with when a conference expands,” said Scott. “Kind of like the reason we had to do a one-year (television) deal for a Pac-12 championship game.”

Colorado is expected to announce a resolution to the September 10th game issue in the next week to ten days.

Let’s hope it’s an announcement that the Vikings are coming to town.

Jon Embree’s first year schedule is hard enough as it is. Yes, a “revenge” game against Cal would be nice; but there is plenty of time for that down the road. For Colorado to break a streak of five losing seasons, and to become bowl eligible, there must be seven “W’s” posted this fall. To get there, Colorado would have to win all of its home games – including games against USC and Oregon – and win at least two more games outside of Folsom Field. For a team which hasn’t tasted a road victory since October, 2007, that is a great deal to ask – without bringing another BCS opponent.

No need to pile on. CU can “Bring on the Nation” (See, Archives, 1993 Season) later.

Let’s give the Jon Embree era a chance to get started on the right foot.

Show me the Money

It’s always going to be about dollars.

Texas and Nebraska always had more than Colorado. Oregon and USC will always have more than Colorado.

Colorado, by the same token, will always have more than Colorado State.

It’s just the nature of the beast.

While the revenue from the new Pac-12 television contract will help ease the pain in 2012, this next year is going to be one of deficit spending. Colorado will need all the revenue it can generate as it foregoes its $6.86 million penalty for leaving the Big 12, and lives without Pac-12 television revenue (for the most part) this fall.

So it was no surprise that former head coach Bill McCartney tried to rally the troops at the luncheon, urging the fans to “fill the seats” at Folsom, to “buy the tickets”, not only to show the Pac-12 opposition that Colorado was a tough place to play, but in order to keep the coffers full.

The 1,200 in attendance donated $75,000 to the athletic department.

This weekend, several members of the coaching staff are heading west to meet with donors. Athletic director Mike Bohn will take along head coach Jon Embree, along with assistant coaches Eric Bieniemy, Brian Cabral, and Kanavis McGhee. The quartet of coaches, all former CU players, will meet with donors in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Palm Desert.

On March 15th, the Colorado Excellence Fund will kick off, with fans and boosters allowed to donate directly to the Colorado football team.

Jon Embree and his staff are hot right now. Colorado fans are as excited as they have been in five years. Optimism about the future of the program in the Pac-12 is bursting out all over.

Time for us to get out our checkbooks and show the new coaching staff that we are behind them all the way.

February 3rd

Dave Plati-isms

If you are a Buff die-hard, you have to love some of the details Dave Plati comes up with in his releases. There is always something good there to make a Buff fan smile …

Academics … Of the 17 high school signees in the Class of 2011, 15 have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, with seven at 3.5 or higher. Translation: we might not have to – for a  change – have to spend the summer worrying about qualifiers …

Speed and athleticism … A priority for the Colorado coaches this cycle, and it appears as if they were successful. Seven of the seniors participate in track and field, six play basketball, four are in baseball, while others play golf, lacrosse and soccer.

Championship mentality … I have always liked this part. Most of the signees – 16 of 18 – won a championship of some kind during their playing days, either conference, district, regional or state. Four won state championships, while two from California won CIF titles. Both of the junior college signees played for bowl teams last season. In all, the 18 players accounted for 10 undefeated seasons.

Partners … Since 1983, Colorado has picked up a pair (or three) players from the same high school in the same year. This recruiting class witnessed three such partners … Jermaine Clark and Rashad Hall from Oak Ridge Military Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina; Paulay Asiata and Juda Parker from St. Louis high in Honolulu; and Stevie Dorman and Will Harlos from Somerset, Texas.

Wait and see … The NCAA All-American teams in both 2009 and 2010 had members whose average on the five point scale was 3.3 stars. There is a great deal to be mined from the talent from year one to year five. Yes, it helps if you start with good material, but it will still come down to good coaching.

Buffs still looking for respect

While not entirely unexpected, it certainly is a wake up call to the Buff Nation that the Colorado recruiting Class was ranked by Scout as no better than 60th in the nation. With 120 teams in Division 1-A, that would make Colorado’s Class, by definition, mediocre.

Two Pac-12 opponents, Arizona State (67th) and Arizona (68th) were ranked below Colorado, with the Buffs not far behind UCLA (54th), Washington State (53rd), Utah (46th) and Oregon State (44th). Five Pac-12 opponents, USC (5th), Oregon (10th), Cal (14th), Washington (19th), and Stanford (22nd) were ranked in the top 25 nationally. (Rivals does not rank schools past 50 any longer, and Colorado did not make the cut.)

Buff fans can take solace in the fact that eight of the players signed were once committed to other schools. For example, all three of the Hawai’i players CU signed – Paulay Asiata (Washington), K.T. Tuumalo (Boise State), and Juda Parker (Tennessee) – were once “solid verbals” at other schools. “We were able to convince them and show them what we had and what Colorado’s all about,” said Embree. This is another good sign that the Colorado coaching staff will, in time, be able to compete for the best talent”.

Embree, for his part, was pleased with the results. “I wanted to balance the roster,” said Embree. “The roster wasn’t balanced at certain positions. Then I wanted to find players that could come in and help us, be it at the position we recruited them or in special teams. I wanted guys that could come in and have some versatility and upgrade our speed a little bit.”

While content with the players he signed, Embree understands that four and five star players will expected in the future, but he is not concerned about the rankings assigned by others. “I’m sure if you’ve got all five-stars you’re going to end up with some good players, but you’re going to end up some that don’t play,” said Embree. “To me, it’s more about what you do as far as developing them. You’ve got to develop the kids and you’ve got to have kids that fit your system.”

Buff fans can also be heartened by Jon Embree’s comments about the Class of 2012. Embree indicated that Colorado had already made offers to about 30 prospects. That, in and of itself, is refreshing. Colorado under Dan Hawkins had the philosophy of wanting potential recruits to take their time, take all their visits, and then decide where they wanted to play. While good in theory, it was an antiquated concept in an era when Texas has most of its five-star class sewn up before the end of spring practice. Top prospects don’t want to be left behind, so commitments are coming earlier and earlier.

It’s time for Colorado to take a seat at that table.

February 2nd

Making way for the Class of 2011

In order for the new coaching staff to make way for the larger than expected recruiting class, several current scholarships will not be renewed. For various reasons, it is being reported that wide receiver Kendrick Celestine, wide receiver Terdema Ussery, wide receiver Andre Simmons, and defensive lineman Dakota Poole will not be returning in 2011.

None of the four were significant contributors in 2010, and both Celestine and Simmons would have been seniors this  fall. Poole is medically retiring from football, but will remain on scholarship if he decides to stay at Colorado and finish his studies. Ussery, meanwhile, is simply giving up the game. He is not leaving school; nor is he ineligible.

Six walk-ons are also leaving the team, including kicker Marcus Kirkwood.

Position Changes

Two players are switching positions this spring … as outside linebacker Tyler Ahles and inside linebacker Evan Harrington, both seniors, will move to fullback.

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