Summer Reading List for CU fans

Memorial Day weekend is considered to be the unofficial kickoff to the summer.

Memorial Day weekend also means that Labor Day weekend, the unofficial kickoff to the college football season, is less than three months away.

To get you through the summer, here are a list of some of my favorite college football related books …

CU Related

— Decade of Excellence: An Illustrative look at Colorado’s finest football era, 1985-1995, by J. David Kennebeck … Who knew back in the mid-90’s, when CU had become a fixture in the national polls, and was posting ten-win seasons with regularity, that those days would become known as CU’s “Golden Era”? This is a good look back at the decade which witnessed CU posting ten-win seasons in 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1995 (after having only one ten-win season – in 1971 – in the first 99 years of the program). The book covers “The Rise” from the (then) school-record six straight losing seasons (1979-84), through CU’s first national championship to CU’s first Heisman trophy winner. This is a must-have for anyone who considers themselves to be well read in the history of Colorado football. 

— The Rise: The University of Colorado Buffaloes’ Historic Turnaround Season, by the Boulder Daily Camera … The 2016 season was unexpected by pretty much everyone outside of the Champions Center, so there was little reason to prepare a book about the season. The Boulder Daily Camera, though, struck while the iron was hot, getting out a quick book about the season. There are quality photos in the book, and it is interesting to read some of the game stories published by the Camera as the season went on, with each new victory adding to the impressive season. The book, though, has a feel that it was pasted together with more regard to capturing the moment than to preserving the record. If you really want to be inspired about “The Rise”, or just want to relive the season, the better bet is to watch “The Rise” videos from the Emmy-Award winning CU Video crew.

— Golden Buffaloes Colorado Football and CU Century – 100 Years of Colorado University Football, by Fred Casotti … When I first met Fred Casotti, in 1996, his title in the CU media guide was that of “Historian”. Before that, Fred held many titles at the University of Colorado, starting with journalism degree recipient, in 1949. Casotti returned to Boulder from his native Iowa in 1952 as CU’s sports publicity director.  He would work as CU’s publicity man through 1968, when football coach and athletic director Eddie Crowder named him associate athletic director.  He remained in that capacity until 1985, when nearing the end of his professional career, he took the title of special assistant to athletic director Bill Marolt.  He helped Marolt, only the third athletic director in CU history, set up his administration until retiring from CU in 1987.  He served as historian from that point until his death at the age of 77 in 2001. His two books may not be “must reads” this summer, but they should be a part of the library of every Buff fan.


— Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football, by John U. Bacon … I chose this book last month because I wanted to see if I could gain any insights as to current Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez. The former West Virginia coach lasted only three years in Ann Arbor (2008-10). What I found was a remarkable book by an author who was a true insider. A Michigan alumnus, Bacon was granted extraordinary access to the Michigan program … for three full years. Rodriguez may be coaching his last season at Arizona this fall (36-29 in five years, but only 3-9 last season), and this book gives you an unvarnished look at Rodriguez, as well as the lives of college football players and the politics of Big Ten football. 

— A Civil War: Army vs. Navy – A Year Inside College Football’s Purest Rivalry, by John Feinstein … I have read almost everything John Feinstein has written. In my opinion, Feinstein is one of the best – if not the best – sports writer of our era. From golf (A Good Walk Spoiled, The Majors, Tales from the Q School) to basketball (A Season on the Brink, The Last Amateurs, A March to Madness) to interviews (The Legends Club, One on One), you could spend the entire summer just with this author and be the better for it. 

The Army/Navy book covers the 1994 season, but don’t let that be a reason to stay away from this book. Feinstein gives you insights and interviews which will have you cheering for both teams, leading up to the classic season finale between two teams with players who have a military career to look forward to, instead of an NFL career … making the outcome of the game all the more important.

Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, by John U. Bacon … The author embedded himself with four Big Ten teams – Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Northwestern – for the 2012 season. Not only is there great behind-the-scenes information, Bacon (who also wrote the Rich Rodriguez book, above) picked a great year to gain access inside these four teams. It was the first year of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State, Northwestern won its first bowl game since 1949, and it was the first season at Penn State after Joe Paterno retired and Jerry Sandusky was arrested (you will find yourself having great empathy for Penn State. Not the program, mind you, but the innocent, but gravely affected, Penn State players).

Reference / Business of College Football

— ESPN College Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Game, by Michael MacCambridge … This book is from 2005, so there is plenty of college football history which is not included in this book. However, if you are looking for a reference book which has the history of every school, down to the origins of their mascots and their most infamous games, this should be your bible. Whenever I need reference material or anecdotes for CU’s opponents, this is the book I use. 

A Season of Saturdays, by Michael Weinreb … This is a great book, which tells the history of college football through the re-telling of the story of 14 football games. The author picks some of the most historical games – Rutgers v. Princeton, 1869; Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 10, 1966, for example – but also weaves in stories on the evolution of the game. If you love the history of college football, or just want to be a little better versed on some of its characters and bell-weather moments, this is the book for you.

 — Billion-Dollar Ball: A Journey Through the Big-Money Culture of College Football, by Gilbert M. Gaul … This book is a must-have for those who believe that college football has lost its way. From multi-million dollar coaching salaries to multi-million dollar facilities, Gaul goes to great lengths to point out the absurdities of the college football world (one chapter heading: “How Women’s Rowing Saved College Football”). The book is a little too preachy for my tastes, and ignores the realities of college football being the “front porch” of modern universities, but it does contain research and interviews which are worth your time. 

— The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian … Another book critical of college football and its short-comings. It does, though, have an interesting look at former Texas Tech (and current Washington Sate coach) Mike Leach. 

Rivalries / Just for Fun

Saturday Afternoon Madness, by Bob Waldstein, Phil Silverman, and Wayne Ellis … This is the book which inspired CU at the Game. Two friends took off on a road trip for the ages, spending a fall criss-crossing American to discover the wonderful quirks of college football first hand. A road trip to many of the Meccas of college football (including Boulder for the CU/Nebraska game), the authors checked out tailgates, interviewed coaches, players and fans, and generally had a great time watching some great football. Not able myself to match the exploits of these authors, I decided instead to write about what I knew … CU football. The book is now dated (published in 1996), but if you have ever dreamed of checking out Army/Navy, the Iron Bowl, etc., this book is for you.

— Third Saturday in October: The Game-By-Game Story of the South’s Most Intense Football Rivalry, by Al Browning … In recent years, the Alabama v. Tennessee rivalry hasn’t had the luster as it once did, but the intensity of the hatred between these two fan bases is very real. 

— Natural Enemies: The Notre Dame-Michigan Football Feud, by John Kryk … One of the most heated rivalries in college football. Fans know names like Fielding Yost and Knute Rockne. Most fans don’t realize, though, that it was Fielding Yost’s hatred for Notre Dame which kept the Fighting Irish from joining the Big Ten, which had the unintended consequence of turning independent Notre Dame into a national power.

— A War in Dixie: Alabama Vs. Auburn, by Ivan Maisel and Kelly Whiteside … The title says it all. The Iron Bowl is one of the most intense battles in all of college football.

— Every Week a Season: A Journey Inside Big-Time College Football, by Brian Curtis … Like the Saturday Afternoon Madness book, above, this book takes a look at a number of programs, and stays with them a week. If you can overlook that one of the teams reviewed is Colorado State … this is a good book. 

… If you have any summer reading suggestions for your fellow Buff fans, please post them in the comments section …



2 Replies to “CU Summer Reading List”

  1. Buffaloed: How Race, Gender and Media Bias Fueled a Season of Scandal Is a book all CU football fans should read. Getting harder to find these days.

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