CU recently started a new chapter in its 135-year history when the Board of Regents approved the decision to leave the Big-12 Conference in favor of the Pac-12.
On the streets of Boulder, the community is buzzing over the switch. The decision has created a varying array of optimism and uncertainty within the student body and fan base.
Some fans were apprehensive about the increase in competition that CU can expect in it’s new home.
“I personally don’t like it,” said 18-year-old open-option major Renee Savelli. “I think before we played schools that had better fans and more compatible teams. I think we’re going to lose more games this year.”
The PAC-12’s redesigned shelf is stocked with elite athletic programs, including the powerhouses of USC, Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, and Stanford. But the move isn’t necessarily about CU winning more games, it’s about creating a more sustainable and progressive athletic future.
“The switch was a great idea and had to be made,” said Andrew Reed, also known as the CU Barrel Man. “Within the next five years the Big-12 will be dismantled.”
Although this prediction is uncertain, there is little doubt that the Big-12 Conference is in a state of growing instability. Texas A&M recently announced they will leave the conference by July of 2012. Also, in recent years the University of Texas has dominated the Big-12 Conference in just about every sport with 48 national titles.
Another huge loss to the Big-12, and possibly the deciding factor for CU’s year early departure, was Nebraska leaving for the Big-10 Conference.
“Losing the Nebraska game is a staple and it’s going to take getting used to,” said 20-year-old integrative physiology and neuroscience major James Allen.
No matter what conference CU plays in, Allen says students will still back their school.
“But if you’re like CU, then you can obviously find another rival within the PAC-12 that we can latch on to and have just as much fun as the old rivalry games,” Allen said. “We can build that hatred with some other school.”
The Buffs football team starts its season off with a road trip to Honolulu to take on University of Hawaii. The Sept. 3 opener will be aired on ESPN2. The Buffs will also travel to visit one of college football’s most prestigious programs when they face Ohio State on Sept. 24, so Buffaloes’ football will likely be in the limelight for much of the 2011 season. How they will respond under national attention is up for debate.
“I think we’re going to be psyched and amped up,” said geology major Tristan Wolff. “I think we’re going to have a bit more adrenaline because we’re going to be in a new conference with a fresh start.”
The most loyal of Buff fans will weave through all hordes of doubters and cynics and into Folsom Field when the Pac-12 competition comes to town.
“My entire family is coming to the USC game,” said open-option major Megan Winer. “It is going to be crazy, everyone from L.A. will be here.”
A popular phrase echoing through campus is “the University of California at Boulder.” There is no doubt that CU has a lot of Californian students, and it’s entirely possible that the figure is only going to rise with the switch to the PAC-12.
So too could the amount of student-athlete recruits that Buff programs will seek. Football coach Jon Embree and his staff have already put a premium on finding players from the Golden State. Tad Boyle’s basketball program and Liz Kritza’s volleyball team, among others, are following that same pattern for recruiting success.
“I think that we’ve always had a lot more people from California anyway coming here,” said Patrick Tally, academic advisor for the History Department. “That’s where they’ve recruited heavily for football, it’s where they’ve recruited heavily for students, so I think [the PAC-12’s] actually a perfect fit. We never really got people out of the Big-12 footprint, except for Texas.”
The switch to the PAC-12 Conference brings a lot more to CU than just a sustainable and promising athletic program, and this year may just be the perfect timing for the switch from the declining Big-12. The schedule is set up for an exciting fall, and who knows, fans might be witnesses to something historic.
“Right now we’ve got such a good offense and defense because they’re all seniors and they’re all ready to win,” said 21-year-old communications major Negou Seid. “And I feel like our recruiting has just gotten better, we just had two first-round picks in the NFL, so that should put us in the category of a higher, prestigious school when it comes to football.”
Nate Solder and Jimmy Smith going in the first round of the NFL draft may make the football program seem prestigious, but prestige is created through championships and trophies. The Buffs definitely have the potential to pull off a few upsets this year in all sports, but it may take a few years before some of the athletic programs will have the components to compete for a PAC-12 Championship.
CU fans will continue to hold very high expectations for the future. A new chapter in CU athletic history has officially commenced.