Sports: Can CU Football Recover?

A once-proud college football program is having a bumpy ride back to relevancy.
September 2012

University of Colorado football is making progress. No, really. That’s what head coach Jon Embree said at a luncheon Tuesday. "I do believe we've gotten better," the coach of the 0-2 team said. "Our record doesn't show it, but we are better than what we were in the past.” Of course, Embree won’t have to read the Twitter messages ridiculing him for his statement: He disabled his account.

You probably would, too, if you were coaching CU this season. There was the 22-17 loss to Colorado State University. And the humiliating 30-28 loss to Sacramento State University—a team that lost 49-19 to New Mexico State University a week earlier. A team CU paid $460,000 to play in Boulder. Ouch.

This is a tough time to be a Colorado Buffalo fan. In fact, it’s been quite a long time since CU fans could be proud of their program. The team has six straight losing seasons. Could this be the seventh? Do you really have to wonder?

Right now, folks who back the team in Boulder are just hoping this isn’t a return to the dreaded Chuck Fairbanks era. In three dismal seasons from 1979 to 1981, the Buffs went 7-26 and were a national joke. Fast forward nearly three decades, and former head coach Dan Hawkins was certainly heading in that direction. Now, you have to wonder if Embree thinks he’s staring into the abyss.

Already, the second-year head coach has issued his first apology of the season for his team’s play, and ESPN rated CU football among the country’s 10 worst teams—after the first week. Take that, then add a Pac-12 schedule that isn’t exactly a collection of terrible teams, and you have to wonder: How bad can this get?

Outside its game against Washington State University—a 1-1 team so far, but at least it beat its Big Sky Conference opponent—there might not be any winnable games. This weekend’s opponent, Fresno State University, is a two-touchdown favorite. You can only imagine the kind of underdog Colorado will be against teams like the University of Southern California and the University of Oregon.

The ramifications of nearly a decade’s worth of poor seasons are devastating. No longer can the team legitimately point to its proud history: the national championship, Rashaan Salaam’s Heisman Trophy, the conference championships, and the big bowl games. To the high school kids being recruited today, the trophies and banners are old news. Let’s just hope these Buffaloes don’t become the same.

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