Tabula Rasa

I didn’t even open the link.

I didn’t need to, as the photo (below) and the headline told me all I needed to know: “New Bottom 25 Champion Crowned

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Sure, the CBS Sports article was all in fun, with the Buffs winning the “playoffs” of the worst teams in football. It was no different over at ESPN, with the Buffs being named “No. 1” in ESPN’s final “Bottom Ten” article of the season. These were not just tabulations of the bottom teams in the Power Five, mind you, but the bottom teams in the entire country. To earn the moniker of the best of the worst, CU had to beat out such powerhouses as UMass, Akron, Northwestern and Colorado State.

The Buffs were No. 1!

Hilarious.

And yet, truth be told, the title was earned. Colorado in 2022 was, if not the worst team in the country, pretty damn close. The Buffs were horrid on offense, finishing 128th in the nation in total offense (out of 131 teams), and 127th in scoring offense. On defense, the Buffs were just as awful, finishing 130th in total defense and 131st – dead last – in scoring defense.

Remember the quote from legendary Tampa Bay head coach John McKay?” … “Well, we didn’t block, but we made up for it by not tackling”.

They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but being a fixture in the Bottom 25 and Bottom 10 represented about the only times Colorado football was mentioned this fall. Even when Karl Dorrell was fired in September, it was met by a collective shrug by the football world. CU athletic director Rick George said he wouldn’t discuss the hiring search publicly, and went quiet for two months … which was fine with college football writers, who had actual competitive games to write about.

And it wasn’t as if the future of the program gave Buff fans much reason for optimism. The next head coach seemed to be destined to face the same issues: A seemingly indifferent – if not outwardly hostile – administration; no NIL money to attract players; and another offseason with the Transfer Portal being a net negative.

The preseason magazines could have been written six months in advance:

“New head coach xxxxxx xxxxxx brings with him a new enthusiasm and optimism, but the Buff roster remains the worst in the Power Five. Some of the best players from the 1-11 team abandoned ship, and xxxxxx was only able to bring aboard a mediocre recruiting Class and a few castoffs from the Transfer Portal. The quarterback position remains unsettled, the offensive line is in disarray, and the defense lost most of its productive players to graduation and the Transfer Portal. CU’s “Super Bowl” this fall will be played out in Folsom Field on September 16th against Colorado State. Not because it is the renewal of a bitter rivalry, but because the game against the Rams represents CU’s best chance at picking up a victory in 2023″. 

Many Buff fans abandoned ship. Attendance for the 2022 home finale against Utah, played on a sunny 58-degree November afternoon, was 33,474, the lowest attendance for a CU home game since 1988. The home debut for the new head coach next fall promised to be a “Red Out”, with the ever-optimistic Nebraska faithful taking over Folsom … coming after the Buffs limped home after absorbing a beat down on the road against TCU to open the season.

CU gear, for many, was stowed away in the closet. Who would want to disclose loyalty to an embarrassing program?

No sense adding insults to injury.

But then, just like that, the narrative changed.

The hiring of Deion Sanders as CU’s new head coach went from myth to reality, and it was if the 2022 season had never happened.

Coach Prime took the stage at his introductory press conference, and wowed the press and the public.

“All you want is the opportunity to win, to compete, to dominate, to be among the elite, to be among the best,” Sanders told a crowd that consisted of far more CU supporters than media members. “Darn it, I’m gonna give you that. We’re going to outwork ’em. We’re going to out-recruit ’em. We’re going to develop. We’re going to get our education. We’re going to graduate these young men … I just want you to know we are on the way. Not to compete but to win, not to show up but to show out, not to be among the rest but to be the absolute best”.

We had wandered the desert for almost 20 years, and, just when we were about to give up hope and succumb to the elements, an oasis appeared.

But not just an oasis … Buff fans found not just water, but paradise.

Coach Prime is not only the right coach to make Colorado relevant, he comes to Boulder at exactly the right time in the history of the sport.

The Colorado football program doesn’t have to be built on the weak foundation of the 2022 season. Coach Prime gets a “tabula rasa” – a clean slate. He doesn’t have to pick through the passed over three star recruits, looking for “diamonds in the rough” who he can develop over time. Coach Sanders is a name, and he can cherry pick from among the most elite talent in the nation.

He is not taking over a 1-11 team … He can make up his own roster.

If Coach Prime had come to Boulder five years ago, or ten years ago, or twenty years ago … well, he wouldn’t have come, because the opportunity for quick results wouldn’t have been there. It would have been more like the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers that legendary USC coach John McKay took over in 1976. That misfit squad which led to so many timeless McKay quotes (When asked about his team’s execution, McKay replied: “I’m in favor of it”), a team which went 0-14 in its first season, then 0-12 in 1977 before winning the final two games to finish 2-12.

In today’s college football world, which is basically an unregulated free market, Coach Prime doesn’t need three years to build a roster which can compete. At present, one out of every 13 players in the FBS is in the Transfer Portal. Not every one of them has Power Five talent; not every one will find a chair to sit in once the music stops.

But there are talented players out there, difference makers who will represent a significant upgrade in talent from what CU was able to field in 2022. There are still recruits from the Class of 2023 who can step in and play right away, and who will want to play for Coach Prime in Boulder.

Chances are, they wouldn’t have wanted to play for a Bronco Mendenhall, a Tom Herman, or a Ryan Walters … at least not at Colorado.

“I’ve assembled some of the best scouts, some of the best kids that we’re recruiting, commitments already coming on the way as I speak”, Coach Prime said when introduced to the Buff Nation. “And now that I’ve gotten here and I see it and understand it, and I can grasp it, and I can touch it. I can feel it, I can taste it, I truly understand what you want. All you want is the opportunity to win, to compete, to dominate, to be amongst the elite, to be amongst the best and darn it, I’m going to give you that”.

The narrative about Colorado football has changed. The 2022 season – or the decade-and-a-half of mediocrity which preceded it – is irrelevant.

Let CBS and ESPN have their fun. Let them mock the Colorado football program of 2022.

For Coach Prime and the Buff Nation, the 2022 season is already in the rear view mirror.

We have been given a fresh start; a clean slate.

I can’t wait to see how the 2023 season unfolds …

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6 Replies to “Tabula Rasa”

  1. It’s crazy to think the very rules that was damning CU to be a have not can be used to turn the program around in just one year. All it took was for a major financial commitment … Along with a change in academics… AND the hiring of probably the only coach available that could pull off turning CU around.

    A trifecta of a perfect storm to bring the Buffs from last to…

    Only a few established coaches who were not even available, could do the same.

  2. It is truly Amazing what happens when A President, A Chancelor, The Regents and the Athletic Director truly support the program. I think they finally got it (after 15 years of crap) that the univiersity needs to support the Football Team

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