“History Never Repeats Itself, but it Does Often Rhyme”

In my early days in Libby Hall on the CU campus, I lived in a dorm filled with engineering and computer science majors. Being a history major in a dorm overloaded with science nerds, my response of “History” to the question, “What is your major?” often got eyerolls – and more often than not a smirk.  My dormmates were on a path to riches; I was on a path to a tweed jacket with an elbow patch.

When pressed about my choice of majors, I would turn to the familiar Winston Churchill quote: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. It was a smug response, and occasionally quieted the listener. The Churchill quote became my mantra, and I pressed forward towards my degree, memorizing names and dates for my next history quiz.

My ace in the hole, though, came courtesy of dear ‘ol CU.

For those who my have had a beer or two too many, and who still wanted to make fun of my major, I would tell them to check out what was chiseled in stone above the main entrance to the epicenter of knowledge on the CU campus, Norlin Library.

The quote was suggested by George Norlin, then President of the University of Colorado. It was placed above the main entrance to Norlin when it was opened in 1940, with the Norlin Library at the time becoming the largest library between Chicago and the west coast.

The phrase?

“Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always a Child” …

Take that, science geeks!

The good news/bad news about being a history major was that I have always had an above average memory for times and dates.

Great for remembering the order of Civil War battles …

Not always great for being a fan of Colorado football.

The last two decades for the Buffs have been, to put it mildly, a struggle. Remembering some of CU’s low moments is unavoidable, and with the trajectory of the 2023 season, bad memories from the past have, inevitably, returned.

The 34-31 loss to Arizona is a hard one to take. The Buffs never trailed in the game … until the clock read 0:00.

The Buff offense played well against the Wildcats … at times. Shedeur Sanders threw the ball well when he had time, but the problem was – as it has been for much of the season – he didn’t have enough time. Three sacks and many other hurries prevented the Buff offense from getting enough yards to pull off the upset. The CU rushing “attack”? The Buffs had 50 yards rushing in the first quarter … then 27 yards rushing in the final three quarters.

The Buff defense played well … at times. CU forced seven punts, including three three-and-outs, from an Arizona offense which had been clicking on all cylinders in taking down three straight ranked opponents. But … with the game on the line after Alejandro Mata missed a 44-yard field goal attempt with five minutes to play in a tie game, the Buff defense couldn’t get the ball back, with the Wildcats running out the clock, winning the game on a chip shot field goal as time expired.

The Buff special teams played well … at times. Punter Mark Vassett continued his excellent work, averaging 45.8 yards on his six punts, with three kicks finishing inside the Arizona ten yard line. Xavier Weaver had five punt returns for 66 yards, with two of those returns setting the Buff offense well inside Arizona territory, leading to touchdowns. Kicker Alejandro Mata made a 39-yard field goal as time expired to end the first half, but couldn’t hit from 44 yards out with five minutes remaining … setting up Arizona’s final scoring drive.

Coach Prime has said for months that he is waiting for the Buffs to play a complete game … and he is still waiting.

“We still haven’t shown up together in one game yet,” Coach Prime said. “What I mean by that is the offense played their butts off, the defense here butts off and special teams played their butts off. We still haven’t done it as of yet. But it was close … We scored 31 points. That should be enough to win the football game.”

At the end of the day, though, the Buffs walked off of Folsom Field with another loss. A fourth straight loss overall; a fourth straight loss at home. A 4-6 overall record … 1-6 in Pac-12 play. Visions of a winning season and bowl bid, so clearly in our sights when the Buffs were 3-0, are all but extinguished.

It certainly seems like we have seen this movie before.

As Mark Twain is credited for saying, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme”.

Let’s take a walk down some of CU’s recent history, and see if any of this sounds familiar:


The 2018 Colorado football season, like the 2023 campaign this fall, got off to a hot start.

The Buffs roared out of the gate with a 5-0 record, including wins over Colorado State and Nebraska … rivals CU also took out this September. Colorado was ranked 19th in the nation when it hit its first wall that fall, a tough loss to USC.

CU was still 5-2 when Oregon State came to town in mid-October. There was talk aplenty about bowl bids when the Buffs took a 24-3 lead into halftime. When Travon McMillan raced 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second half to make it a 31-3 game, a sixth win and a bowl opportunity were all but assured.

Then, the Buffs collapsed. A 31-3 lead turned into a 41-34 overtime defeat (I won’t go any further to draw the parallels to the Stanford debacle this season – you get the point).

The once 5-0 Buffs fell to 5-3 after the loss to Oregon State, and never recovered, losing the final seven games of the season to finish 5-7 in Mike MacIntyre’s final season in Boulder.

Unless CU can find a way to pull out a road victory against Washington State or Utah, the Buffs will finish Coach Prime’s first season 4-8 … and on a six-game losing streak.


The 2015 team was led by quarterback Sefo Liufau, running back Phillip Lindsay, and a young but improving defense. The Buffs started off 3-1, including an overtime win over Colorado State. The start of Pac-12 conference play, though, brought about a rude awakening, with a loss to Oregon (again, this should sound familiar, as it parallels how the 2023 Buffs opened their season).

From there, the promising start to the 2015 season slipped into yet another losing campaign. The Buffs would win only one more game the rest of the way, going 1-8 in Pac-12 play. The season ended with road games against Washington State and Utah, both losses, as CU, with four wins in the bank by October, went oh-for-November.

If the Buffs don’t find a win at Washington State or Utah this season, the 2023 Buffs will finish with a 1-8 record in Pac-12 play, just like the 2015 team.

That being said, it also needs to be remembered that the 2015 team, disappointing end an all, turned it all around in 2016. With determination and grit, the Buffs, who went 4-9 in 2015, went 10-4 in 2016, winning the Pac-12 South.

Perhaps the Buffs will be able to repeat a little of the 2015-16 history in 2023-24.

“I’m apologizing to the fan base,” Coach Prime said after the Arizona game. “They’ve been supporting the heck out of us and they’ve been showing up and showing out. Another sellout crowd that ended in disappointment. We’re so close, is what I told the team, but yet so far. We just simply truly don’t know how to win yet. It’s not for lack of effort, not for lack of coaching … We just can’t get over that hump. Another game, we’re right there. … It seemed like we were the better team and we just couldn’t get it done.”

The Buff Nation has suffered through far too many losses in the past two decades. Far too many close losses. Far too many gut-wrenching defeats.

There is always next week; there is always next year.

The Arizona loss was all too familiar; the trajectory of the 2023 season is all too familiar.

CU has some storied seasons in its history.

We deserve to have some of that history repeated … and it can’t come soon enough.


11 Replies to ““History Never Repeats Itself, But It Does Often Rhyme””

  1. Trying to remain positive like everyone else in the comments here, but I just can’t. If Colorado can’t beat WSU then they will be last place in the Pac12, like so many other years. I see that as pretty much zero improvement vs. MickyMac or Dorrell coached teams. Sorry. Less Pac 12 wins than Stanford. Less than ASU. Those are not good teams. If our Buffs can only win one Pac12 game this year, that is truly disappointing.

    One more thing. Comparing this team to last year is faulty logic. Coaches aren’t taking all of last years players and coaching them up for more wins this year. It’s a different team. There is almost nothing carrying over from last year that has any impact on this year. But hey if it makes you feel good, then great, but you’re fooling yourself.

    I like Coach Sanders, I think he was the right hire at this time. I like the asst coaches. I like the new players and talent. There is a bright future. I’m incredibly impatient to see what 2024 brings. 2023 season started with a bang, but a last-place finish in the Pac12 will be a huge disappointment.

  2. I didn’t expect big things for the 2023 season and felt, before the first game, that 2024 is when things would become exciting. But then things got more exciting than expected and when the Stanford debacle occurred along with limited emphasis on the running game, I started to get frustrated. Now I see some progress in a more complete game yesterday and trust that Coach Prime will address the key deficiencies for 2024. Though it looks like, and feels like, the same movie, I am still positive and expect bowl eligibility for 2024. (Though theoretically still possible this year and maybe even a win against Wazzu, I feel like a win against Utah is highly unlikely given their physicality). Go Buffs!!

  3. The hot start created unrealistic expectations for all of us. In retrospect, things are still looking good despite the recent slide. Last year’s team won one game and lost the rest by an average of 29 points. This year’s team has won 4 (so far) and lost the rest (so far) by an average of 11, even including the OU blowout. Better than incremental progress. Next year will be better, hopefully resulting in a decent bowl game.

  4. It was a hard loss to take but have to look at the big picture. Including the 30 plus point loss to U of O, the buffs average loss is by 11 points. It was over 20 points per game last year, here is to a brighter future

  5. The history you cite is from Mickey Mac’s tenure, I don’t see much similarity once you get past the records. Mickey Mac never did learn how to sustain winning. 2015 led to 2016, but Mickey Mac became overly impressed with himself and let the 2017 season go off a cliff. This is Prime’s first year not 3rd or 4th. A closer analogy might be to Midnight Mel’s first year. A 5-7 record, wins over CSU and the holers and a 3-1 record to start the season. A losing streak in Pac 12 play, but with mostly respectable scores. MMT got the Buffs to 5-6 with a chance at a bowl going into the Utah game. No bowl, but a lot of hope for the future with a dynamic coach that seemed to understand how to recruit. Then of course the bottom fell out and MMT did his thing and snuck out to town to become a big problem for Sparty.

    The difference with Prime and MMT is that MMT was taking over .500-ish team, not so with Prime. Year two will be big in my opinion. Instead of repeating history, Prime is writing his own history of the Buffs.

  6. As depressing as all of this is… I couldn’t imagine what Washington State fans are feeling about now. The season is cratering right in front of their eyes (after a hot start and national ranking), plus there are no ‘greener pastures’ awaiting them in 2024 and beyond. Buffs will get better, next year is a bowl season for sure (me thinks).

  7. To be fair, prior to the beginning of the season, nobody knew how good the Pac-12 would be. Over the course of the season, no fewer than 9 of the 12 teams found themselves ranked in the top 25 at some point. Arguably the best top to bottom conference in the nation (ironically), in it’s final season in existence. Coming in on the heels of 1-11, #1 bottom 10 finish, certainly no small task all things equal. I give Buffs benefit of the doubt, 5-3-1 against the spread versus very good competition. Predict a very good team next year.

  8. C’mon now Stuart. Somewhere along the line I heard you were an attorney so you couldn’t have done that bad. I come from a family of attorneys…..a brother and 3 first cousins. I was headed to law school (BA in poli sci) but I was burnt out and impetuous. For what its worth I was employed by CU t take care of the grounds around the law school during my last year of studies. Attorneys are doing real well these days especially ones repping politicians.
    I quit reading this piece when you started rehashing previous frustrating years. I wanted to start out my day a little better.
    I watched portions of the WA UT game. Whittingham still has a brutal team without a starting QB.
    WA, though, had Penix . The coaches at Indiana must not have known what to do with him…and Michael made the best choice with his new team. I cant help what to think If Shedeur had WA’s O line would we be WA?
    As good as WA’s O line was it still had some tough moments with UT’s D. I think one of Whittingham’s keys to success is that he recruits animals. They have to have some talent too but he must be able to look in a kid’s eyes and his film and see an above average relentlessness and intensity.
    So maybe a month until the portal opens back up? Will we get some guys closer to the linemen we need? I get the picture O linemen are stay at home no nonsense guys. After all the few 5 stars they are probably the most in demand of any other position. Will we get new coordinators or position coaches? I’m more interested now to see what happens after the season although one more win would be nice.

    1. Prime needs to bring in Matt McChesney to recruit dirty hogs for the lines… we need guys that have the killer instinct

  9. Whether they win the last two games or not, is irrelevent to me. They didn’t have the talent to compete for a 10 win season. However, next year I expect will be different, they will not be facing ultra talented teams (like Oregon, just look at there recruiting class), and they will be upgrading their own talent. In fact they may be one of the top 2 or 3 teams talent wise in the Big 12. Given that and a 12 team playoff, I expect they will be in the mix for the championship and playoff.

    1. Yup right yup.

      I don’t care to relive the consecutive “5 and 7” seasons and then leading up to 1-11

      Forward looking only.

      Go Prime. Better players needed…………oh wait maybe better coaches who actually execute the mantra………….WE DESIGN PLAYS AND SCHEMES TO FIT OUR PLAYERS AND GIVE THEM SUCCESS.

      Sorry didn’t see much, if any, so far this year.

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