In the Age of NIL and the Transfer Portal, CU needs to Sell Hope

The CU at the Game NIL Podcast series is hurtling towards its conclusion. With the posting of the Jalen Sami interview Sunday morning, 15 of the 20 interviews paid for by a GoFundMe campaign three months ago are in the books. Interview No. 16, with outside linebacker Devin Grant, will be posted on Sunday, May 22nd, with Interview No. 17, with cornerback Nikko Reed, scheduled to be conducted this week.

The lineup …

CU at the Game 2022 NIL Interviews … Football 

CU at the Game 2022 NIL Interviews … Other Sports 

When all is said and done, there will be 16 interviews with CU football players, or just shy of 20% of the team. From that perspective, I haven’t really scratched the surface of the roster. On the other hand, 13 or 14 of the interviews will be with players who are penciled in as starters for the 2022 season … over half of the starting lineup. Looking at it that way, I’ve actually had a pretty good opportunity to get to know the players who will take the field for CU this fall.

While “What I Learned from the NIL Interviews” is an essay I’ll be working on to post at the conclusion of the series, it’s worth saying this now … The upper floors of the Champions Center need to be focusing on the following between now and the September 2nd opener against TCU:

In this new age of NIL and the Transfer Portal, the University of Colorado needs to do a better job of selling hope.

Selling hope to CU’s fan base

Colorado fans have witnessed a national championship. They’ve seen their team compete regularly for conference titles, and play in major bowl games. Between 1989 and early 1997, the Buffs were in every single Associated Press poll, a run of 143 weeks, still the 9th-longest streak in NCAA history.

Colorado had at least one conference championship in every decade the Buffs had fielded a team, dating back to the 1890’s (with the lone exception being the 1950’s, when Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners dominated the college football landscape, including the Big Seven).

Now, the team has gone a generation – 21 years – without a title.

Suffice it to say, Buff fans carry no longer carry delusions of grandeur.

While thoughts of a College Football Playoff berth and competing at the national level are distant memories, the Buff Nation deserves better than what it’s getting. Winning seasons should be an expectation, not be a goal. Bowl bids should come with regularity, and runs at division titles, if not Pac-12 championships, should be more than a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Sad to say, but in the past year, a year in which the Transfer Portal and NIL have altered the college football landscape, the Buffs – as hard as it is to believe – have moved even further away from being competitive.

College football fans live on hope.

There has to be the hope that the team will be competitive, that the team has a chance. That’s the reason we follow the teams; that’s the reason we go to games.

You take away the hope … you take away the reason to remain a fan.

Colorado went 4-8 last season, and then promptly lost two dozen players to the Transfer Portal. Now, some of the players were not going to be starters (and have struggled to find new Power Five homes), but others were not only starters, but stars.

The hope that Buff fans have been sold in the past decade plus is that CU can recruit and develop players. The Champions Center opened in 2016 on that premise; Karl Dorrell is preaching that this spring.

The problem is, with the Transfer Portal and NIL, is it even realistic to hope that CU can keep players around long enough to develop into a championship quality roster? The 10-win 2016 team was made up of seniors, who, for a lack of better phrasing, were fed up with losing. They refused to listen to the pundits, and went out and won the Pac-12 South, going worst-to-first.

If, however, CU identifies and develops young talent, only to lose it through the Transfer Portal, what’s the game plan?

CU would have – should have – had one of the best defensive backfields in the Pac-12 this season. Cornerback Christian Gonzalez was one of the best in the conference, and perhaps the best overall player on the team. Instead, Gonzalez is gone, playing now for rival Oregon, while his backfield mates, Mark Perry (TCU) and Mehki Blackmon (USC) will also play for opponents this fall. Instead of relying on the secondary to be the backstop for an improving defense, Buff fans are left wondering if the unit will be an exploited liability this fall.

If you take away our hope … what’s our incentive for sticking around?

Which leads us to …

Selling hope to the players

Young men are resilient … but they’re not unbreakable.

Many of the players I have interviewed on on their third head coach at the University of Colorado. Jalen Sami, this week’s interviewee, is on his sixth position coach.

The players all say the right things … they love their new coaches; their learning from their new coaches; this has been a great spring.

Just what you would expect – and certainly hope – they would say.

But there is an underlying current with the players I’ve interviewed. Not necessarily dissatisfaction or anger.

Perhaps frustration is the right word. Frustrated with the current state of the program. Frustrated with the loss of teammates. Frustrated with the lack of NIL opportunities.

The University of Colorado has “Buffs with a Brand”, which is designed to assist players in interacting with the commercial world. Before NIL, it was set up to assist players in finding internships and make other contacts with the business world. Now it’s supposed to, through the INFLCR site, help players interact with businesses and boosters who want to offer them NIL opportunities.

The thing is, the opportunities are not really there.

Sure, there are the occasional contacts with businesses, and the occasional chance to make a few bucks, but the party line has been that players need to create their own NIL opportunities, that it’s up to them to seek out businesses and make themselves available for promotions.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the college football world, the players aren’t being asked to do the legwork … the opportunities are coming to them.

Collectives are the means by which boosters are retaining – and recruiting – talented players. The University of Colorado is choosing to stay above the fray, playing by NCAA rules which aren’t being enforced. Boosters across the nation are openly – brazenly – courting players and paying them to play for their schools. They are all but daring the NCAA to try and stop them.

True enough, collectives aren’t formed by the schools. They are made up of boosters and businesses who want their team to become – or remain – competitive in the new world of college football. That being said, the same boosters who funded the Champions Center are the ones who would be counted on to form a collective. Suffice it to say that the CU administration is fully aware of who could (and should) form the Colorado Collective.

And yet … crickets in Boulder.

A Colorado Collective might not be the answer. It might not be able to lure transfers – or recruits, if they wanted to go that route – to play for a team which doesn’t seem to be interested in being a leader in the brave new world of NIL and the Transfer Portal.

But a Colorado Collective would give renewed hope to the CU fan base … and to the CU players.


27 Replies to “CU Needs to Sell Hope”

  1. And just a reminder, ‘NIL’ was alive and well prior to the policy shift, it’s just now out in the open. Hence all the ‘stereotypical’ schools were well ahead in the collectives, it’s b/c they were in operation on an ‘informal’ basis for years.

    1. For years? You mean at least 40+? Yeah. Me too. And Nick Saban worries about parity. And, had nothing to do w/ going after Louisville’s star WR. Nothing to see here. Move along.

      Go Buffs

  2. I read this writing about hope a couple more times. It’s a “fine wine” and very well written as usual.
    Couple things stuck out to me.

    Between 1989 and early 1997, the Buffs were in every single Associated Press poll,

    And then what happened. We all know what and why and the negative impact it had on the university. I get sick just thinking about it. Lying frauds.

    But then the “Flimflam man” showed up and the University sold us hope
    No happen. Gone!

    But hen an ol CU hero showed up and the university sold us hope
    No Happen. Gone!

    But then “WacMac” showed up and the University sold us hope
    One good year but not because of him. It was a fraud!
    No Happen. Gone!

    Then the “Secret Midnight Rider” showed up and the University sold us hope.
    No Happen. Gone

    So here we sit with HCKD, you want more hope sold to you by the University??


    As Tina Turner sang so eloquently:

    Oh-oh, what’s Hope got to do, got to do with it?
    What’s Hope but a second-hand emotion?
    What’s Hope got to do, got to do with it?
    Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

    Ok NIL is a problem. No big donors ready to step. That’s probably good until all rule and legal things get sorted out. After that they may/will show up. (not hoping but faithing)

    Actions not hope.
    Cleaned out the FB coaching staff.
    Cleaned out the FB Roster
    Those are actions that will improve the FB Buffs.

    So I don’t want no more hope crapola, I want actions

    It’s started. I want more.

    Go Buffs

  3. Still also believe we are mixing two different topics here, as I do not believe we can establish if there was no NIL, these players wouldn’t have left anyway.
    The most impactful departures are clearly 3/4ths of what should have been the strongest unit on our team (as pointed out). All 3 for right/wrong believe they have a shot at playing on Sunday. Players get better in practice, game is ‘showtime’.
    Disconnect b/t BLew in practice and in game…could it be b/c those 3 were coasting for the ‘good of the team’? Everyone knew/still knows BLew needs to build confidence before anything else…

    Just saying, until we are winning and going to bowls vs. losing terribly and changing coaches, don’t think we can blame it on the $$. That impact I believe would be playing out in recruiting right now.

  4. I have hope. Just not much for the 2022 season. Nevertheless, as I have since 1988, I will spend most, if not all, saturdays this fall watching my Buffs hoping they surprise me and their opponents.

    For 2023? I know Karl will be back. I hope he can retain his entire coaching staff. I hope he can expand his recruiting staff. I hope he can keep his team together, because I believe they have found some talented kids, many of them jus don’t have much experience this year, but they will next year.

    I hope they find a qb.

    And I hope they get to a bowl in 2023, or I will likely be hoping they can find an entirely new athletic department leadership team, head football coach, and new coaching staff. Again. I hope that is not the case.

    Go Buffs

  5. MBB has taken the mantle from FB…time for all of us to make the transition as well. Everything outlined that FB is lacking MBB has (except the same $$).

  6. Okay then
    National pundits

    Their algorithms have to be correct.

    I mean they are national pundits


  7. Please go back to Phil Knight and revisit the agreement for Nike to move their corporate campus to Boulder. Phil wants to be in Boulder. Fire CI staff that is stonewalling it, and vote out Boulder county officials that are blocking it. Buff will be a top 10 team every year… problem solved

  8. Thanks for this article. It expresses my feelings to a “T”. Hope, is a requirement, and the past decade especially, has taught us that the hope we are sold is b.s. I want so badly to have hope, but then I remember what it was like attending the Minnesota game last year. We lost all of our top talent and presumably will be starting one of the most indecisive qb’s I have ever seen a power 5 team put on a field. It’s genuinely feels helpless. The ultimate irony is that the program desperately needs money to compete, and I get requests for such as a former season ticket holder, yet to donate I require hope and alas I believe CU has none left to sell.

  9. College football is like everything else, honesty is a joke and money rules the roost. “It would be easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.” It’s not the fact the the person is rich, it is that typically, morals are inversely proportional to wealth.

  10. One could also say they underlying current, if there is one is belief.

    Gotta start there. Right There


    Note: There was no belief in the offense last year. Not by the fans. Not by the players.

    Note 2: Yup some DB’s decided to leave. So? Those dudes were pretty good. The replacements may be even better.

    Note: Frustrated. Be strong eh?

    Note 2: I forget what you predicted the Buffs record would be this year?? Is it like the
    ache-of-the- ear which is 2 and 10 (course he hopes they will do better, but he has no faith)

      1. And Brian Howell, suggests

        As for the odds … I don’t think Vegas will have CU favored in many games. Maybe TCU, Arizona and Cal. Games I believe they have a greater than 50% chance of winning … I don’t know a percentage but there are several I think they can win. I’d list TCU, Air Force, Minnesota, UCLA, Arizona, Cal, Oregon State, ASU and Washington as the winnable games right now. Not that they’re going to win them all, but I think they’re winnable.

        You on the other hand gave them no chance on ten of the games


        1. Nah, I gave them a chance on four. This may surprise you, but I hope I am wrong.

          If they have solid qb play from Brendon or anyone else, that will help a lot.

          2023? If Karl can keep the staff and team together could shape up to be a turnaround year.

          Go Buffs

  11. Lost 2 dozen starters to the transfer portal
    Some were not going to be starters and have trouble finding a home
    others were stars</i?

    I am curious as to how big the group of others is.
    I am curious if you consider a couple of the transfers in equal or better or more needed that the "stars" that left.


    1. I have found several national articles which list CU as a net “loser” in the Transfer Portal, but have yet to find a national article which lists CU as a net “winner” (if anyone has seen one, please post the link). CU lost two dozen players and gained seven (with one of the most anticipated of the group, running back Ramon Jefferson, reportedly now heading to Tenne$$ee instead of Colorado).

      1. count me out of the “most anticipated” group. We are still fine at RB and Ramon hasnt proven himself at D1 competition.
        If we can hang on to Hankerson we should be fine in the future as well. Is it time to offer him a schollie?

      2. If he goes for dollars
        Good riddance

        No need for “me and only me” players on the Buffs.


        But as Dusty says, ya got to cover all the bases not jus one…………..

        Faithing and Wishing and Hoping and Thinking and Praying and Planning and Dreaming………….The Buffs get a bowl

        Go Buffs

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