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Last week at the NCAA Tournament, a booster looked me dead in the eyes and without falter told me CU would never be a basketball school.
Politely, sir, I would like to smash that idea to smithereens. And I don’t need to temper it by mentioning how nice of a balance Ohio State has found between their football and basketball programs.
Sure, one day we might be like the Buckeyes and have our football team make it to bowl games and have our basketball team make it to the NCAA Tournament year after year. But right now, we’re not there. We’re not even close.
All I know for sure is as things currently stand, our basketball program is one of the most successful at CU. And Tad Boyle is the best coach.
Boyle has already solidified his name in CU history. In his two years as head coach, he has taken the Buffs to the semi-finals of the 2011 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The latter was a feat not reached since 1997.
He became the first coach in CU history to win 20 or more games in both of his first two seasons. It took him just 61 tries to win 40 games, tying him with Frosty Cox for the fewest in program history.
He already has the most post-season tournament wins of any CU men’s basketball coach. Five of the wins in his 10-2 record came in the last month alone.
But we’re still a football school, right? Let’s take a quick look at Folsom Field to see how they’re doing:
Our storied National Championship happened the year I was born. In that time, I’ve gone from drinking from a milk bottle to legally drinking from a beer bottle.
It’s been that long.
Our last bowl game appearances were losses in 2005 and 2007.
Sure, we made it to 12 bowl games in the past 20 years, but under Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett, our football program was riddled with NCAA violations and other scandals.
Since that time, we had year after year of losing seasons under Dan Hawkins. Unfortunately, we got just three tastes of winning during the inaugural Pac-12 season with new head coach and CU alum Jon Embree.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Folsom. I love our football team. I have great faith in Embree and his staff’s coaching style and recruiting.
But that doesn’t change my belief that we’re becoming a basketball school.
I honestly had really high hopes for this past football season. Others doubted what a new coach could do in a season meant for rebuilding, but I thought we could make some waves in Embree’s first year like coaches Boyle and Linda Lappe did for their basketball teams.
So much for that idea. My comparison to the basketball programs was my downfall.
Still want to say we’re a football school?
Regardless of how well Boyle has done, everyone knows the most important statistics are the ones related to money. Let’s face it, we moved to the Pac-12 for monetary reasons. A lot of our alumni live on the Pacific Coast and the University of Texas is the Scrooge McDuck of the Big 12. So we left.
Yeah, we’re adding new screens in Folsom and maybe sometime soon we’ll get an upgrade on the practice bubble. But the Coors Events Center (CEC) is one classy keg. The screens in the CEC actually work and the new practice facility is a great addition.
One more thing, the CEC has sold-out games. Under Boyle, by the numbers, the Buffs have had the best ever back-to-back years in attendance. The 2011-12 season averaged 7,804 fans per game, the largest number in CU history.
Meanwhile, Folsom Field averaged 50,355 fans per game this season. That number is nothing to scuff at, but at perhaps the biggest home game of the season, the senior day win against Arizona, only 48,111 fans made it.
Students can take to Twitter and exclaim their excitement for an exhibition football game in April and say they’re going to fill Folsom Field. I can tell you right now they’re lying. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the flat-out truth is students don’t care about football the way they do about basketball.
If they did, they’d actually show up to football games early (or even on time) and not feel the need to get blackout drunk before 11 a.m. But who can blame them when our team is lucky to get one win on our own turf?
Older fans can proclaim we’ll never be a basketball school, and a certain Denver Post columnist can write that we’ll have to pay out the ass for a coach whose only dream has ever been to coach for his home state’s university. I’ll sit here in bask in the fact that our men’s basketball team won 24 games, took the Pac-12 Conference Championship and made it to the Big Dance.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Marlee Horn at Marlee.email@example.com.