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At the University of Colorado: “It Just Means Less”

Editor’s NoteNormally, my weekend Essay during the season discusses the game just played. The 49-7 loss to Minnesota, however, really deserves no further comment. What does merit discussion, however, is the commitment of the University of Colorado to competing in the modern age of college football. With the Buffs not looking to be double-digit underdogs for pretty much every game the rest of the 2022 season, the short-range future for CU appears clear. It’s time to talk about the mid- to long-range future of the program … 

The SEC has a slogan that came with an ad campaign several years ago, “In the SEC, it just means more”.

Now, the idea behind the slogan was to emphasize that the SEC was more than just football, such as when, several years ago, Georgia fans wore pink in honor of then Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson, who had lost his wife to breast cancer.

But most football fans have derisively interpreted the slogan to mean, “In the SEC, winning just means more”, and that spending more money for facilities, coaches … and now players … is part of what it takes to be in the SEC, because football – and winning – just means more.

Well, at dear ‘ol CU, the slogan may as well be, “At the University of Colorado, It Just Means Less”.

How do you calculate the depths to which the Buff program has fallen?

— It doesn’t have to be this way, because it hasn’t always been this way … 

Colorado has had two winning seasons in the past 17 years, and one of those was a 4-2 record in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. The past two decades of ineptitude does not represent the CU program historically. Before the run of losing started in 2006, CU had only one run of as many six losing seasons (1979-84), with no other streaks longer than three years. Colorado teams have earned 26 conference championships, and until recently had earned at least one title in every decade since the 1890s except one (that being the 1950s, when Oklahoma and Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners dominated not just the Big Seven, but all of college football).

And now, it’s been over two decades since CU last won a conference championship.

Colorado used to – quite correctly – brag about being one of the Top 25 programs in the nation. Before the slide began in the mid 2000s, Colorado was 15th on the all-time win list, and 21st in all-time winning percentage (2004 numbers). And now? Colorado was just passed for 27th place on the all-time wins list (718) by Minnesota, with both Army and North Carolina (at 715) threatening to push the Buffs down two more slots by year’s end (the Buffs have also fallen from 21st to 40th on the all-time winning percentage list).

ESPN ran an article this past week, discussing the decline of six formerly prominent programs, with Colorado on that list. Under “What held back the program”, ESPN cited:

“A mix of instability, unsuccessful coaching hires and financial issues. Colorado has struggled to keep pace financially over the years, although facilities upgrades beginning in 2013 have helped ease the challenge. The team also hasn’t found a coach who has generated any consistency … Before Hawkins, five of the previous six Colorado coaches generated some level of success. The resource issues can’t be ignored, but Colorado also hasn’t gotten it done on the field.”

Presently, Colorado is the worst Power Five conference team in the nation, and it isn’t really close.

  • At CBS Sports, the Buffs were ranked 97th nationally. The next lowest Power Five school? Nebraska, at No. 92;
  • At ESPN’s Power Index, the Buffs were ranked 102nd nationally. The next lowest Power Five school? Georgia Tech, at No. 85;
  • At The Athletic, the Buffs were ranked 106th nationally. The next lowest Power Five school? Georgia Tech, at No. 92.

And these rankings, mind you, represented CU’s rankings before Colorado lost to Minnesota, 49-7. 

You would be hard pressed to find any Buff fan who still believes Karl Dorrell is the answer. CU can start over – again – but CU’s problems run deeper than just finding another head coach.

— Where is the commitment to lure recruits and transfers? … 

Colorado has taken a hands-off approach to compensating players for Name, Image and Likeness. CU has worked with INFLCR to create a portal through which businesses can contact players, but has not taken an active role in trying to secure deals for their student-athletes.

Players can say it doesn’t matter, but, in this day and age, it matters. Former CU wide receiver Brenden Rice just inked an NIL deal to be a spokesman for MoneyLion.  Rice is currently playing for an undefeated USC team which came into the third weekend of the season ranked No. 7 in the nation. Rice would have been a focal point of the CU passing game in 2022. At USC, he has two catches for 25 yards. Think he would prefer to be part of CU’s offense?

Another potential star for the Buffs was cornerback Christian Gonzalez. Now a starter for Oregon, Gonzalez has NIL deals with Opendorse and On3.com. Some think he might be an early entry into the NFL. Think he misses Boulder?

Did the exodus of five starters this past off-season spark a change of heart in the Champions Center about retaining their players through better NIL deals in the future?

Nope.

Just this week, Karl Dorrell said:

We’ll never be in a market like a lot of schools, being in a high-price player like free agency. We don’t believe in NIL from that standpoint. We build it more on in terms of their name, image and likeness, in terms of what they’ve done through our program and their name recognition and being involved in our community and getting involved with certain aspects of projects in and around Boulder and particularly a lot of these businesses around here. We’re probably more locally generated in terms of the things that we do.

Noble?

Perhaps.

Will it help lure and retain quality players?.

Nope.

Point being, without a commitment from the CU athletic department to be more hands-on in retaining – and pursuing – transfer and recruits, it won’t matter who is head coach.

Without players, you can’t compete. Without a commitment to get players … you can’t get good players.

So, will Colorado be upping its game in the new world of recruiting players? Think again.

CU at the Gamer Jim L. sent me this YouTube video, discussing how Texas spent $280,000 in one weekend for nine recruits (including quarterback Arch Manning) …

Colorado last year had a recruiting budget of $775,312.00 for the entire season. That includes staff, travel, hosting, everything … for a year.

You reap what you sow, and CU isn’t willing to play the game as it is now being played nationally.

— The current model is not sustainable … 

What is the most frustrating is that there is no acknowledgement by CU that the present model is not sustainable. You can’t rely on finding diamonds in the rough, and developing that talent, in order to compete.

Colorado is finding fewer and fewer rough diamonds, owing to the fact that other schools are willing to do more to lure recruits – both on official visits and promised NIL deals – than is CU.

Then, when the Buffs do find an overlooked star-in-the-making … they won’t be able to hold on to them. Christian Gonzalez was CU’s best player last year – now he’s one of Oregon’s best players. Mehki Blackmon had star potential for the Buffs last year – now he has star potential for USC. Brenden Rick and La’Vontae Shenault took their name recognition elsewhere.

Karl Dorrell insisted this off-season that CU was a net winner in the Transfer Portal this past off-season, with more additions than subtractions.

Sorry.

And what if Nikko Reed develops as a promising cornerback this fall? Or Deion Smith shows promise as a featured running back? Any reason to believe they will still be Buffs in 2023?

You can’t keep bringing in the 45th-best recruiting Class every season, develop a handful of prospects, and lose the best of the lot to other teams.

The Buff Nation – rightfully – is frustrated as they watch what may go down in history as the worst CU team in school history.

But it’s going to take more than replacing the head coach to give CU a chance at once again being competitive.

A great deal more. It’s going to take a commitment from the athletic department to spend dollars on recruiting high school players and transfers. CU might not like the new world of buying players, but that is the world we live in. Washington State boosters went out and bought a quarterback in Incarnate Word star Cameron Ward, and is 3-0. USC went out and bought an entire lineup, and has gone from 4-8 to a top ten team. There are more examples, but you get the picture. It’s obvious to anyone who understands the current state of the game … the path to success is paved with greenbacks.

Meanwhile, in Boulder … the University of Colorado is sticking to its principles … and has the worst Power Five program in the nation.

A new coach may be inevitable, but, without a commitment from the athletic department to join the real world, it won’t make any difference.

—–

55 Replies to “At the University of Colorado: “It Just Means Less””

  1. I think calls for a coaching change are premature. Have our AD’s been so bad that they can’t find even a mediocre coach in a dozen years? Go back and read the articles saying how great each of the coaches was when first hired. If Dorrell has to go, is Rick George going to stand in front of the BuffNation to apologize and admit that he isn’t up to the job? Midnight Mel appears to have been the only quality coach they got on campus – and being the honorable individual he is, he bolted for more money. At least we have a clue as to why he left. And it only took him 2 years to turn Michigan St. around.

    I haven’t heard of a single “forensic” analysis by a professional when a kid transfers or when the coach isn’t meeting expectations. What are their reasons for why things aren’t working out? Our coaches/recruiters harass these kids daily, but when a much sought-after recruit either switches a commitment, enters the portal or transfers do we apply a significant effort to finding out why? After a dozen years of poor classes we should have a huge “lessons-learned” bible! But yet, we consistently continue to have poor classes.

    Something’s rotten…. the campus is one of the most beautiful in the country, there’s a huge number of degrees available with decent professors, and the athletic facilities are new. Do we not have enough professional recruiters among the coaches? Do our coaches get professional training in how to recruit?

    This whole situation doesn’t pass the ho-ho test. We’re not being told what the real problem is.

  2. How does a program get 60 freshman? I get Covid so 2020 freshman, got to add to 2021 freshman,and then we redshirted them all in 2021 co we have 60 guys that are freshman….. but where th3 hell are all the upperclassmen? So all of tuckers guys are gone (or are they out of eligibility?). I get that some of these freshman are actually 3rd year guys but still….

    1. Must have been all that good attrition people talk about?

      My memory for those details isn’t great, but didn’t Tucker have a bevvy of DB’s leave, and people said “good riddance”. So that was 2018, going into 2019. They’d be what seniors or fifth year seniors now (presuming they weren’t NFL leave early talents, which we doubt they were)? A bunch of guys left after 2020 – hey there Sam, and others. We know the 2021 story, and in that group, a bunch (fine, maybe a handful?) of guys like Purcell left with eligibility remaining?

      So, forever young. Must be someone’s favorite song, or something. But again, maybe. Just maybe, that’s reason for hope for 2023? IF they can keep the talented ones here, and get more of them.

      Go Buffs

    2. 60 freshman is pretty crazy sounding. Shoot the Gophers qb looked like he was 40, so what does it mean anymore?

      It seems like we’ve heard the young and inexperienced story for so many years. And also the next qb is gonna be the one story. I don’t think we’ve had a legit multi year qb since Klatt. I can’t buy into the qb hype anymore.

      1. Don’t tell anyone, but it was detmer. A lot further back than Joel. The days of having a “game manager” are long gone. not that that’s what Joel was, but, either way they are long gone.

        Mike moshetti and John’s hessler wouldn’t do much in today’s game, I don’t think.

        Go Buffs

        1. Haven’t seen Owen…but Koy was also physically a boy among men…but he was a GAMER. Did get seriously injured for what it’s worth (knee). But also went on the league.

  3. The article was to the point. I’m tired of listening to KD and RG BS… Either they are gaslighting us, or they are truly naive to be believe they can put out a decent program under these parameters… You get what you pay for…

  4. The downward spiral here is going to be extremely hard to stop. Right now the
    Buffs wouldnt survive in the mountain west after seeing Wyoming beat AF.
    It might be too late but CU is going to have to take another path for the coach problem.
    If Kansas can find a successful coach at lower levels why cant the Buff’s, if they arent truly cursed.
    One difference will have to be a completely unorthodox contract. NO fricking buyouts. Completely performance oriented. As the coach wins so does he earn incentives, hopefully to a point where it matches rival’s offer to poach. If he is winning that much, revenue should be increasing to cover it anyway. We are used to going through coaches and we may have to do it a few more times but at least this way we can afford it.
    Or we can just wait for a billionaire to save us. /s
    I dont see any other option.
    Problem No 2……NIL. I have no idea how to solve that one.

  5. I see no way out of this for the Buffs..(and for other programs at the bottom right now).
    The transfer portal coupled with NIL will make it damn near impossible for teams to claw their
    way out of the basement.
    I’ve been a season ticket holder for 35 years (missed one game)..this is bleak beyond bleak.

  6. Wow! Have you seen yesterday’s college scoreborad? The point differential
    between the “haves and have nots,” the “more and less,” is becoming
    enormous! 30, 40, even 50 point spreads! Sadly, our Buff’s are in a new
    era of college football.

  7. Good article. While the recruiting escapades of the USCs and UTs of the college football world are both impressive and saddening, I would be interested in actual CU peers such as Utah, Arizona, WSU, OSU. Yep those are our peers now. Hope is to be competitive and get to a bowl game most seasons.

    I don’t expect any change from the CU admin. In fact I think HCKD will get another year to show some improvement with his coaches and his players. One really easy change they could make would be to schedule easy non-conf opponents, maybe keep the illusion of quality for a few weeks into the season. I mean sheesh it’s almost free and what planet alternate universe are they living in?

  8. One last thought. Keep Karl, I know it’s not popular but part of the problem with our program is our burn rate of going through coaches. Stability is a necessary part of any relationship. A schedule of you got 3-4 years to turn around a program isn’t going to work. We don’t have the budget to hire a high profile coach. Karl, is a quality man and although he’s not a revolutionary game planning coach,,, he’s done the one thing that this program has sorely needed to change its direction. He is directly responsible for the most promising QB recruit we’ve had in decades. McCown has real talent, his being at CU is directly correlated to Karl. Don’t F this up. Give Karl to the end of his contract.

    1. That is basically my thought. He has a lot of belief and hope resting in Owen. I do too, actually. If he can take the beatings, physically. Staub may be another nice upgrade. So for Karl? Maybe not the end of his contract, but next year. Having said that, he has to keep the team and staff together. And right now, with the complete lack of competitiveness on game days, continuing to sell his vision is going to be tough.

      He could see massive roster turnover, again.

      There aren’t any easy answers. And, in either case I am not convinced Rick and Lance have them. And I am pretty sure the buyout Karl has is the kicker to him getting at least another year. Maybe two. Caveat being going 0-12 with 40pt average margin of defeat. At half time.

      Go Buffs

      1. Yur a real Buff fan.

        This is your element now.

        Negativity boy.

        go buffs………………….ignore the mob……………..and the mob leader

  9. Stu, good article but it is not really hitting the mark. For CU to win, it goes higher than the AD. The President and chancellor have to make a fundamental commitment to excellence in athletics and academics and research. Under Phil’s watch, CU has slide under at least two of the three. Until those clowns start doing their job, the AD will stick to principles because that is all they are allowed to do.

    1. Spot on. The academics have been targeting football since the 70’s and are now having their way. Alumni need to stop contributing to the general university fund and target donations to football. No other way will work until the pussies in the building are eliminated.

    1. It might just be me, but I prefer losing hard fought, one score games, than the opponent having more points at the half than we have yards.

      Gonna be a rough year. And, I guess interesting kinda like watching a slow motion train wreck. Man, I hope they find some answers. I bet Owen gets a start sooner rather than later. I hope his body can handle the beatings. I believe in his talent, arm And football iq.

      Go Buffs

  10. OK, at least provide some real entertainment….Schedule a CU/CSU game at milehigh/invesco/whatever stadium on New year day!! Run a contest to name the toilet bowl game…maybe winner gets to be embarrassed by AFA again?

  11. Coaching or players?? WSU defense comprised of a bunch of 2-3 star recruits go into Madison and hold the Badgers to 14 points. Yesterday our D comprised of a bunch….(we all can complete this sentence).

  12. Again, the problem is CU turned away Nike moving their corporate campus to Boulder when the Buffs were consistently a Top 20 team. Nike, came to Boulder, not the other way around. Someone, please do a story on this so we have clarity on which CU administration and Boulder government officials turned down this deal so we can weed them out of the University and the city/state policy making. Then, RG please go back and at least try to make an offer to Nike. Again, they came to us, there was a reason for it and that reason hasn’t changed other than Buffs Football is now in a sorry state and let’s be clear it wasn’t the football team that was the driving motivation for Nike setting up campus in Boulder, it wasn’t even near the top of their rationale for the move. Possibly, Phil tells CU to pound sand, but the same principles of why he wanted to move to Boulder are still in place. Boulder is the hot girl at the bar that turned down your initial smile and hello, if the same hot girl came back to you at the bar at a later date, pretty sure you’d be willing to at least meet with her.

    Secondly, We have a sports management program (degree) at the University, why not, create an internal sports agency and get students creatively working with student athletes and pitching branding partnerships with businesses? real world experience with the degree, actually a valuable education both for the students, players and the University. It’s time to get creative and reach out to brands and get them involved, it’s not their job, it’s our job to create value added brand sponsorship with student athletes and easily marketable ideas that go with it.

    Colorado, Denver, Boulder is a growing market and it is an incredible value added for TV Rights owners but need to show there is an effort to improve our program.

    Eggheads within the CU administration, having a quality football program doesn’t not damage your academic standing, it only behooves it.

      1. Prove what? Nike pitched CU that’s a fact. CU turned it down that’s a fact. I worked for W+K , I guarantee you I have plenty of insight on what the Nike brand wanted… they wanted Boulder.

  13. I think there are (2) conversations going on here….
    Given the situation there the Buffs have as a good a chance to win the SuperBowl as they do to compete for National Championship. Unfortunately *again reality* this ship has sailed for us. As pointed out SEC schools are all in from the very top to bottom…

    I believe a number of us have already come to this realization, and have reset goals to be competitive for a bowl game more often than not (think WSU…good comp). Now we comparing ‘apples to apples’ vs. comps w/SEC. I live in WA…WSU football has a small but faithful following, and are somehow competitive more often than not. I have no idea who their coach is, but obviously they get a lot more bang for their buck.

  14. Outstanding article and assessment of CU’s woes. Barring a miracle, I don’t see the coffers from the administration opening up. So that brings us to coaching. Remember that preseason “tier” article that rated CU in the category of “At least it’s not Kansas”? Now look at Kansas and their coach Lance Leipold who is off to a 3-0 start. The guy began at Div 3 Wisc. Whitewater where he went 109-6 in 8 seasons including his teams playing for the national championship 7 times and winning 6. University of Buffalo hires him away and he turns them around leading them to bowl games in his final 3 years, winning 2 of them before replacing Les Miles east of our border. My point is this. Barring that administration money commitment miracle, CU, after dismissing KD, should probably scour (like Buffalo and Kansas did) the lower divisions for a proven track record guy like Leipold. Find a guy who would genuinely give his right arm and be excited to be here and build.

  15. Clearly the inability of the coaching staff to define, find and pick a quarterback, in addition to the no-oline has mutilated the start of the season. The constant harping on rotation and that’s how we do it in practice, blah blah is a mistake.

    Go Buffs. Pick your poison and Buffalo Up

  16. It particularly irked me to hear KD saying the program was burned to the ground and they have only improved it. His first year they were 4-2, second year, 4-8. Third year not one win. How is this improvement?? kD is the one burning the program down.
    The game was an utter and complete embarrassment. Embree’s teams would smoke this one. Pathetic. Laughable. I literally laughed a lot during the first half. At the half I decided to take an old computer to the recycling center. A far better use of my time. Though I would have liked to see McCown’s debut. Seemed promising on the stats sheet.
    What a hopeless program. Utterly hopeless.

  17. I wish I could do more than nod my head in agreement. I probably wouldn’t be a very good coach or player developer but I know for a fact I could do better allocating resources to areas within a school that build visibility and donations. Heck, even a casual fan of Colorado could think of half a dozen ways to make the football team and athletics in genera better at CU. Which leads me to surmise that our current administration and lawmakers are either at best, completely inept; or at worst, not even casual fans of the school they represent, work for and the flagship university of the state. How truly embarrassing.

  18. Dead on Stuart!
    McCowan is going to be a stud, if he doesn’t transfer. We have 60 freshman. Let them play. What does it matter if we are getting smoked by 42 every weekend? Let them gain experience.
    These regents and our administration are a joke.
    Fire Todd Saliman!! Fire Phil DiStefano (I bet he supports the U of O Buckeyes more than he supports CU). Let’s clean house. Go Buffs!! Defense had some good moments today. It’s hard to sustain when your total offensive time of possession is 15 minutes (exaggerating, but not really) for the whole game. How bout them Huskies? They are going to smoke us too. F Mel Tucker. Who can really blame him with the lame CU Administration? He was smart to run (fly private lol)not walk to Michigan State.
    How are schools like the University of Texas at San Antonio competitive in D1, but CU is unable to figure it out? What a joke. Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. Kansas. Washington. Could go on. Dorrell is awful. Nobody wanted him. At least as a head coach. Or a coordinator. This isn’t hard. You could give Dorrell a 10 year commitment and you’ll go 2-118. He’s inept. Stop. AD screwed up. He got Tucker right. He left. Stop the bleeding.

  19. I don’t buy this premise. Sure, if you want to be a consistent top 25 program you’ve got to pay money in every direction to get the cream off the crop in talent, but how much money did App State spend on NIL before beating A&M? How much did Georgia Southern spend before beating the nubs? You can absolutely be a decent, middle of the road program who consistently competes for bowl eligibility without spending gobs of money on NIL, provided that you have a good coach.

    CU, unfortunately, has the worst coach in their program’s history. And they’re about to go 0-12 because of it.

    1. Fully agree, Erick. Other programs have been able to find success, or at least be competitive, with fewer resources. And now we’re stuck with an $11M buyout to fix the mistake.

    2. interesting,

      Just wondering what happened to your
      “players make plays, players win games mantra’

      as
      it appears
      in this case
      unlike
      your support of
      wacky macky
      it’s all the coaches
      fault.

      Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm
      Funny how that works Swivel …

      I will remind you in his first 3 years the wac of the mac was
      10-27 and in the pac 2 and 25

      2013 4 wins: CSU, Central Arkansas, charleston southern, california
      2014 2 wins Massachusetts, Hawai
      2015 4 wins Umass, CSU ,Nichols State , OSU
      Cupcake city………..

      And I will also remind you, your Mantra was the same as wacky.
      “players make plays, players win games.”

      You have been awful vile toward HCKD since the beginning.

      Interesting
      But to call him the worst coach ever?

      Nah.

      But the start of the season, I put on him. Does he have the players? not sure. But for sure he doesn’t have a qb. So must be the players which was used by you to defend wackster

      Go Buffs Get past this

      Note: Don’t forget how the real mac started. If Crowder listened to you there would have been no 10 year run. All your relatives were shouting and demanding and calling him the worst coach in CU history.
      Note 1: Rick, don’t listen to the rabid who don’t know. Crowder didn’t. Neither should you.

      1. I 100% agree with your assessment of WacMac. Self centered creepy coach who abandoned the team when they needed him most, preferring the COY crying victory tour over his team’s victory. But I am unclear how you feel about HCKD. As bad a coach as WacMac was, HCKD is much worse. He seems to have no clue and inspires no confidence. He very well could be the worst coach ever for the Buffs. Dan the flimflam man is still probably the worst in my opinion.

      2. Wrong eric, man. What happened to being all in on Karl and the best staff in recent history two weeks ago?

        You know, when you crowed they were better than macintyre et al?

        Your tide turns quickly, my friend.

        Go Buffs

      3. While we are on the dorrell macintyre comparison, who started with a better roster? I wonder if that plays into win loss records in early years?

        2013 was a while back, but there was at least some hope in games. These three have been ugly. Ucla gonna be more of the same.

        Go Buffs

        1. Ya 1st year love.

          Not much hope

          Hard to say who had the better roster 1st year.
          But we almost know what the first 47 games of Wacmac were
          10 and 37 and no bowl game

          Now HCKD hasn’t gotten to coach 47 games
          only21 games
          8 and 13

          Hmmm but you loved wac mac and gave him 3 years and 37 games of losing

          Buckle up Buttercup For and equal comparison he has 26 games to go

          Buffs

          Note: And don’t make me school you on the real mac eh?

          1. I don’t think so
            But if you did
            it was
            leaning to yur boy
            having less talent

            go buffs

            Note: any thing for you boy sheesh just stop. give him the games

    3. Here’s how: Year in and year out schedule one of the 10 hardest schedules in the nation based on some idealism from the 90’s. Raise ticket prices. Raise academic standards for athletes. Support a huge administrative operation with no accountability. Make sure all regents/leadership are anti football.

  20. The CU administration will never understand (or at least admit) that there is a direct correlation between winning football programs and donations which you adroitly alluded to.

  21. My other thought is, as Clark joked about fans transferring, what if an entire roster transfers?

    I wanted Karl to have the team compete and get better each week. I didn’t expect many wins, but thought he could make a good case to get another year. The jury is turning on him. Rick and Lance may be accomplices, and on trial very, very soon.

    I am really curious what Todd thinks?

    Go Buffs

    Go Buffs

    1. Yur so funny.

      I mean really
      Yur a joke

      Saying things like that. Rumor monger

      You do it all the time.

      anyway go buffs

      yur harmless

  22. When I heard the new sound system cost $2.5mill, I thought, would have been better spent recruiting. Does great sound matter if no one is there to hear it?

    Go Buffs

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