Is CU Fan Apathy at an All-Time High? (Or Just the Frustration Level?)

There was a thread started on the message board at under the heading: “Has there EVER been this much apathy, RE: CU sports?“. At last check, the thread had 94 comments and over 5.800 views.

Now, at first blush, you can make the argument that a thread with that much activity in the college football doldrums of mid-June belies the premise. If there is that much passion about the Buffs to argue about the lack of passion, the question has answered itself.

But these are the hardcore fans, and many of the comments – and likely many of the views – were by the same people checking in to see what others had to say about what they had to say.

Regardless, the heading hit home with me, as I completely understand why the original poster posited the question. I can tell you personally that my interest in the Colorado football program is at an ebb … and that’s coming off of a spring in which I had the opportunity, for the first time, to meet and get to know over half of the starting lineup.

There have been a few moments (more than a few moments, if I’m being honest) where the current state of the program, and the direction college football is heading in this new age of the Transfer Portal and NIL, has made me think about closing down the website and just being a casual fan. With CU unwilling or unable to compete for players, and/or having its developed players bolt for better financial deals, it’s hard right now to see the Buffs making any inroads into becoming a regular bowl-bound team, much less a title contender.

But, before we dig too deep into the present and the near future, let’s answer the question:

Is CU Fan Apathy at an All-Time High?

For me, I can point to three other occasions when my fanaticism as a Buff fan descended into near indifference:

— In 2006, the first year under Dan Hawkins. The Buffs opened up with their first ever game against an FCS opponent. It just happened to be my hometown Montana State Bobcats. The Buffs made a mess of things against MSU, falling 19-10. The next weekend, Hawkins became the only Colorado coach since the 1950’s to lose to Colorado State in a non-season opener. The Buffs went on to finish with a 2-10 record, scoring a measly 16.3 points per game. After winning four Big 12 North titles in the previous five seasons under Gary Barnett, it wasn’t exactly an auspicious start to the Dan Hawkins’ era, and my interest in the program dropped precipitously.

— In 2009, in the fourth season of the Dan Hawkins march to mediocrity, the Buffs traveled to the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio, to take on the Rockets. As fate would have it, I was among the 20,082 on hand to witness the 54-38 pasting. I can distinctly remember that Friday night, pacing back-and-forth along the top row of the stadium during the second half (it wasn’t hard with the sparse crowd), watching the CU sideline. What made me sick was watching the CU players on the bench, talking and joking, not really even paying attention to what was taking place on the field. It was embarrassing; it was disgusting – it made me want to turn in my CU fandom.

— In 2012, in the second season of the Jon Embree, Colorado traveled to take on Fresno State. Another small crowd against a Group of Five opponent (27,513), the Buffs were fried in the 102-degree heat. The Buffs were down 35-0 after the first quarter, the most points ever allowed in the first quarter to an opponent in the 123-year history of the program. At the end, it was 69-14, with the Buffs scoring a touchdown in the final three minutes to double their pathetic point total. This was a week after I had been in Boulder, with 46,843 disbelieving CU fans, to watch Sacramento State march down the field in the final minutes (72 yards in nine plays), hitting a 30-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Buffs, 30-28. The Buffs went on to a 1-11 record, with Jon Embree leaving town with a two-season total of 4-21. There have been lows over the decades, but this was rock bottom.

All of the above pits of despair made me question my CU fandom, as well as my willingness to continue to commit my time and resources to CU at the Game, but, in reality, it didn’t make me apathetic about the Buffs.

Frustrated? Disappointed? Anguished? Angered?

All of the above.

But, if you want to talk about  my apathy towards the program, the high (low?) point was over four decades ago. You have to go back to the off-season between the 1980 and 1981 seasons, the off-season between my freshman and sophomore years in Boulder.

To take you back …

The 1980 season was the second season in Boulder for head coach Chuck Fairbanks. The Buffs went 1-10 that year, with the following lowlights:

  • A 56-14 road loss to UCLA in the opener, in a game in which the Buffs trailed 56-0 … at halftime;
  • A 49-7 loss in the home opener to Indiana, a team coached by none other than Lee Corso;
  • A 41-22 home loss to Drake, a program which went on to drop football in 1986 (only to be reinstated later);
  • The Sports Illustrated article, “There Ain’t No More Gold in Them Thar Hills”, decrying the loss of minor sports at CU (like wrestling, gymnastics and baseball) while the football program squandered funds; and
  • The never-to-be-forgotten 82-42 loss to Oklahoma, with the Sooners rushing for an NCAA record 758 yards (a record mercifully topped by Oklahoma v. Kansas State, with the Sooners going for 768 yards in a 1988 game)

Not knowing any better, I accepted that this was the way of Colorado football. I still loved college football, and was now a Buff for life. That being said, the off-season between 1980 and 1981 was quiet. There was precious little going on in the world of Buff football at that time to get its fans excited. Chuck Fairbanks was still the coach (yes, for those of you scoring at home, this was the off-season between his second and third years … just as we are between Karl Dorrell’s second and third seasons), and recruiting news was non-existent in those days. All we knew was that the Big Eight was the Big Two (Oklahoma and Nebraska) and the Little Six … and CU was at or near the bottom of the Little Six.

In the summer of 1981, there was little to look forward to except the inevitable beatdowns by the Big Two, with perhaps a home win against the lesser teams in the Big Eight. In my 40+ years as a Buff fan, it was about as apathetic as I have ever been as a CU fan.

And now?

Check out any preseason prognostication – Every one of them is negative when it comes to the Buffs (if there are any to the contrary, please post them in the comments section, and I’ll post them). The mantra in these predictions is the same … a 4-8 record for CU in 2021; the loss of its best players to graduation or the Transfer Portal; a wholesale change in coaches on the offensive side of the ball (with little expected of Mike Sanford, who wasn’t retained as offensive coordinator by Minnesota); instability (at best) at the quarterback position; and an impossibly difficult schedule. Projections have CU going somewhere between 2-10 and 4-8, generally picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South (behind even Arizona, a team which has exactly one win in the past two seasons, and that was a 10-3 pillow fight win over a Cal team which was down seven starters for the game due to COVID).

But … We have endured negative preseason press before. What makes it different this year, and what is making the Buff Nation apathetic, is the new age of NIL and the Transfer Portal. There is the concern that the CU administration and fan base is either unwilling or unable to compete in this new world (faint hope: If you follow big time Buff donor Kelli Brooks on Twitter, you would have seen this … “Exciting things are in the works!! @CUBuffsFootball fans stay tuned“). The apparently apathy or indifference from the administration and donor base is leading Buff fans to believe that, even if Karl Dorrell & Co. can coach up some diamonds in the rough this fall, it won’t be a harbinger of good days to come. Rather, the development of talent will just result the creation of a list of players who will leave the team for “greener” pastures next off-season, spiraling the Buffs right back down to the basement of the Pac-12 once again. 

It’s that reality that has me apathetic. Not the naysayers nationally, but the dread that there is little hope of it getting any better this season, or the next, or the next.

This off-season may not be the most apathetic as I have ever been as a Buff fan … but it’s perilously close …


20 Replies to “Is CU Fan Apathy at an All-Time High?”

  1. Not apathetic at all. The Buffs will rise. Been attending games since Bobby Anderson ran up Flagstaff Mountain with ankle weights. We have the right coach, a supportive administration, new TV contracts on the way, and surprisingly good recruits here and on the way. Our football team will compete, and our basketball team will once again be a March Madness participant. The entire athletic department is competitive. We don’t cheat! Get on board the Buff Train. How about the name: BuffLIN for our future NIL endeavors? How about some of the Walmart money to seed it?

  2. I think fan apathy is up, but there are still a bunch of diehards. Agree with Stuart that the 80’s was the low water mark. I sort of think with the Ball Can Zone and the Franklin Tailgate, the game-day experience has improved some. I’ll bring my boys to a few games no matter the outcome. CU is a special campus, thus there will always be appeal to me on nice days.

    I was surprised by the Phil Knight/Nike to Boulder comments. I’d love to see an expose on what exactly happened. On another site, they brought up the prospect of adding Hockey as a sport, and then people chimed in about baseball. Along those lines, I responded it was about MONEY and lack of available school real estate to expand facilities anywhere near campus. Obviously, Nike would need a ton of real estate, even if they just brought a portion of their campus. This is part of what I wrote about the Real Estate stuff:

    Given the CU-South Campus political fight with the City/County, unfortunately CU is sort of landlocked as they have no place to add large sporting infrastructure + parking somewhere close to campus, that I know of. Even the soccer field on East Campus has very limited parking. Playing close to campus is a must, so I don’t think the administration is interested at the 1st Bank possibility (this was mentioned in a PAC12 hockey article). I think within the last 7 years, CU did a cost-benefit & sport conflict analysis in making the CEC a joint basketball and hockey facility; and it was neither cost, infrastructure, or scheduling feasible. You can put ice down at the CEC, however it is used for some other things in addition to basketball. Also, you have volleyball played there too.

    Hockey would be a great sport to add for CU. I think it would be a good draw overall, but could be a great draw to entertain CU VIPs. The question is whether CU could build their own infrastructure to do it?? I think CU would want their own facility and use their own vendors, plus recoup costs for parking. Also, they would use the smaller facility for other sports, camps, and concerts. That endeavor would take a ton of $$, investment and probably a fight with the City/County.

    For hockey they would have to look at doing something with Kronke, but that could be difficult if the AVs have some sort of relationship with DU… If Phil Knight were involved, then Kronke would not be needed. Per that article, Oregon’s lower tier hockey team has the best jerseys etc… I think CU-South would be the ultimate deal, if one were ever to occur with anyone.

    About 10-12 years ago, I heard the Rockies were working on some sort of a sponsorship deal to help the Buffs add Baseball/Softball and CU was sniffing around the idea. It would increase their PAC exposure in joining the PAC. It went nowhere with the administration. Part logistics, part real estate, and then ultimately money. I know they were looking at CU South, which is still locked in a battle with the City/County. The 2013 flood did not help things–the City and County cried floodplain for any South campus expansion, and sure enough a 2000 year flood occurred.

    I’m unsure whether the recent fire(s) will help or hurt CU in the CU-South use fight. I think the City/County’s wish was always for more open space acquisition plus flood mitigation, however without some development, they cannot really maximize flood nor wildfire mitigation. The December 30 fire, and recent fires past and subsequent on or near Open Space is forcing the City/County to rethink some of their aspirations. There were even two recent fires that forced evacuations on the back/south side of Martin Acres, which abuts the CU South property. I think that the City is slowly coming to the conclusion that they have to actively manage the Open Space for fire suppression, or they may face repercussions from neighboring communities. I think the County has reached that conclusion, but still wants more Open Space in general. I’m not sure where CU stands on the issue?? Do they have an interest in actively pursuing CU-South expansion? What does CU do about Fire Mitigation on their property the City/County won’t let them do very much with?

    Here is the link to that Hockey article for anyone interested:

    1. thanks for that link
      I had no idea about ASU even though I go down to Scottsdale every memorial day for a civilian tournament day put on by California Hockey Productions. Lots of skill level brackets, 4 neighborhood rinks and plenty of fun at the resort pools and Scottsdale restaurants.
      It can be done at CU with a minimum of investment. Students and others who have never seen a game live will be hooked.
      Even in Lincoln NE who has a really crappy junior team in a hideous barn they do real well. Not so sure about baseball. It might work if there is no other college baseball in the state. Sorry but baseball puts me to sleep.

  3. Well at 1:08 pm on
    Saturday 6-18-2022
    According to your poll
    only 37% are “highly” apathetic.

    Go Buffs:

    Major Note: If you are highly apathetic please call yourself what you are
    A fair weather fan.

    Follow up Major Note: And don’t tell how you put all your guts into being a Buff fan for so many years blah blah blah but now it has just gotten too tough. Too damn tough. If you do that? You are a quitter.

    1. Update:

      6-18 at 9:55 am

      now at only 35% highly apathetic.


      Note: I stick by my comments.

      Note 1: Even though earache says he is a Buff fan but not sure of that. But he is not an apathetic fake Buff fan Nor a fair weather fake buff either. But still leaning to to fake Buff fan.. ( his I hate Coach Mac article settled it for me)
      Note 2: But at least rob and I are going to get some cash from that guy. EP has earache pegged. EP is very smart and intuitive.

  4. Uhhh yeah, Knight is going to invest in the town and University if Nike’s corporate campus is in Boulder. It was highlighting their proposal to move to Boulder. I just don’t think the town and University realized how much $ ultimately Nike would invest

  5. Maybe its my life long Philly sports fandom which makes me used to not having much to get excited about, but my apathy is not that low. I know the changes to the transfer portal and now NIL are game changers but I think this team can at least get to the point of being a consistent bowl team under this staff. I have been a buffs fan since the late 80’s and I still plan to make every effort to watch every game this season even though I live on the east coast and according to a friend am the only person in the Philly area that gets the Pac 12 network. I have passed my fandom on to my three daughters (who are planning to apply to CU) and when able catch a game in person. So even though I expect no more than 4 wins this season I will continue to wear my buffs gear and still continue to look for my holy grail of buff apparel (a team issued nike 2002 tostitos fiesta bowl hat).

  6. I don’t have any dang apathy.
    CU Sports doesn’t run my life.
    CU Sports is a sweet addition to my life.
    I appreciate that sweetness

    Bowl game = $2,500 (minus $625 to Rob)

    Go Buffs eh?

    1. I will say YES, my apathy is at an all-time high for this fan. One major event occurred at just the same time CU football decided to drown itself in mediocrity. Had this “thing” not happened I think that no matter what was going on with the Buffs, I would still be fully vested.
      However, last year, throughout the football season my daughter was in the midst of applying for college. She was accepted to some pretty good schools with pretty good sports programs. One day she came home from school, opened the computer, and clicked “ACCEPT” to the University of Arkansas. The next day, as a newly minted Razorback fan, I tuned in to watch Arkansas basketball take out #1 Auburn and then go in a tear through the rest if the season – taking out Tennessee and Kentucky. Then running through the NCAA tournament, including a trip to the elite 8 after beating Gonzaga. Then came baseball season. (Not sure how many people are watching, but Razorback baseball is on a tear as well…just taking out #2 Stanford yesterday 17-2). All the while joining in on their message boards and watching the sickness if riches in recruiting in basketball (#1 class), baseball, and football. Watching every new signee and transfer – I am just blown away and blessed to be a part of that now. And the difference in their boards is nuts, total confidence.
      So becoming interested in the UofA just as the Buffs are doing whatever they are doing, has definitely driven my apathy to all time high.

      *Side note, just got back from Fayetteville for orientation and holy cow that place is gorgeous- the town is like a mini Austin+Boulder but newer and cleaner, and the campus (class rooms, dorms, athletic facilities) are also absolutely amazing, beautiful, and well kept. The greenery is lush and manicured.

      1. I have a deep appreciation for e-muss, even though he wasn’t a fit for the kings. Additionally, my dad taught at Arkansas, and my brother was born there. My dad taught one of the first black football players in the sec. and, was pressured to pass kids who didn’t go to class and couldn’t read nor write coherently. none of that matters now, but enjoy the ride! It’s all relative.

        Go Buffs

  7. BuffnAustin. What don’t you get. Phil Knight still wants to be in Boulder. We could have the biggest sponsor in sportswear based in Boulder dumping $ into the program. The rise of Oregon athletics is directly correlated to Nike. As I understand, Nike wanted part if it’s campus where the universities tennis courts are… I mean can we not find out why the University and town shot Nike down. This is the most devastating loss in CU history. All the other lowlights in CU history fail to compare. Who were the people that made the decision and what is their rationale. Nike, will still move to Boulder… just get rid of the decision makers who kept the deal from going through unless the my have a valid philosophy on why it doesn’t make sense. This isn’t hard. It just requires bringing to light the worst decision making in CU history

    1. I do get it. It would be great if we could match up with the schools that have the money. But I’m not going to hold my breath that an 11th miracle will happen.

  8. I don’t feel apathetic. I still spend way too much time reading CU football stuff, and will waste most of my Saturdays this fall watching our team, however well or poorly they may play, and cheering them on, hoping for the best. I also continue sporting my CU garb proudly, even if many people may wonder if we still have a football team. Fortunately, my happiness isn’t measured by our Buffs’ win/loss record. But, it sure is more fun when they’re winning – dang, that’s been a while.

    And, although I don’t hold out much hope for the on-field results this year, I do think 2023 can be a turning point (for the better vs. another down-leg, just to clarify). IF this staff can hold themselves, and their players together (while of course adding new contributors, as well).

    Go Buffs

  9. I’m standing on the edge of the apathy cliff, Stuart. It doesnt bother me much that the Buff’s are unable to compete with NIL dollars because I hate the program anyway…..but…if we go 0-3 to begin the season I will probably step off. Maybe sooner if we get shellacked by TCU which is a game we should win if the new coaching staff does what it should. Every time I got a new job I worked my desperate ass off trying to prove myself. I’m hoping its the same with the players and their new coaches as well as the coaches.
    When there is a coaching change the players wont directly indict the old coaches but what seems their extra new found appreciation for the new ones seems to go a long ways in that direction. From where I sit Chev was flat out incompetent.
    I’m always apathetic this time of year anyway. Why should I be hanging on every lazy word these over paid lazy pundolts say? Avs are on the cusp of the cup and after that is over its over a month of baseball darkness before Fall camp. I might spend that time helping my son build his cabin at 11,500 feet in the San Juans. Its like Valhalla up there.

  10. What is apathetic is no journalist has taken to task of why the University of Colorado and the town of Boulder shot down Nike moving their headquarters to Boulder. Nike would have poured 100s of millions into the community and the University. Boulder would have been known as training capital of the world for track, cross country, triathlon, Olympic Athletes. 1,000s of jobs would have been created. The Buffs would have remained a constant Top Ten presence in College football. It is apathetic that alumni and community didn’t take to task the decision making. Here’s the thing Phil Knight would still move the Nike campus to Boulder (as it’s where he prefers to be). Can one journalist do a series on the Nike story; who, what, where, when, why how and generate awareness an interest within the community. Shouldn’t we weigh the options and if it makes sense go back to Nike with the terms they had on the table to move to Boulder? Because Phil Knight will still pick up and move Nike Campus to Boulder and turn Eugene into a satellite campus.

    1. Knight can send his money to Eugene just as easily from Boulder as anywhere else. No reason to believe he would give bunch of money to CU.

  11. We will continue to lose players to the transfer portal because we just don’t have the funds to match other schools. I really think it is time to consider moving to one of the other conferences if we want to have a team that might be able to be competitive.

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