Leaders of the Pac

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Leaders of the Pac

June 28th

Colorado v. Pac-12 – A winning tradition

As noted earlier (see June 15th entry, below), Colorado has played 73 games against current members of the Pac-10, accumulating an overall record of 38-34-1. With the addition of Utah to the Pac-12, the number of games the Buffs have played against fellow members of the Pac-12 jumps to 130, as the Buffs have a 57 game history with the University of Utah.

The Buffs have a 30-24-3 overall record against the Utes, giving Colorado a 68-58-4 (.554) all-time record against its new Pac-12 rivals.

Colorado and Utah played their first game in 1903, with the Buffs prevailing Boulder, 22-0. The Buffs won the first three games in the series, and nine of the first 11 games overall. The rivalry was played out every year from 1903 to 1958, with only two exceptions – 1909 and 1918 – with two games being played in 1943 (the Buffs won both games – 35-0 in Boulder; 22-19 in Salt Lake City). The series has seen a number of streaks, with the Buffs posting four winning streaks of four games or more, with the longest streak being eight consecutive wins between 1951 and 1958 (and ten games unbeaten, counting a win in 1949 and a 20-20 tie in 1950). For Utah, the longest win streak came between 1925 and 1933, when the Utes won nine games in a row.

The Buffs own a 30-24-3 advantage in games played in Boulder, and are 14-15-2 in Salt Lake City. The last two games in the series, played in 1961 and 1962, were both Utah victories. The two teams were scheduled to resume the series exactly 50 years from the date of the last game – September 22, 2012 – but that may be changed once the Big 12 and Colorado come to terms as to when the Buffs are to be allowed out of their Big 12 contractual obligations.

Nebraska v. Big Ten

Colorado will enter Pac-12 play with an overall winning record against its new rivals – and Nebraska fans will be able to say the same.

Overall, Nebraska has an all-time record of 79-69-10 against existing members of the Big Ten, with the Cornhuskers’ .532 winning percentage just behind the .554 the Buffs have posted against the Pac-12.

While the Buffs trail in just four series in its new conference (against Arizona State, USC, UCLA, and Oregon State), the Cornhuskers trail six teams in their new league – Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State, and Minnesota.

Nebraska has played more games against Minnesota than any other Big Ten team, and trails in the series, 29-20-2. The two teams played every season in the 1940’s, and the Golden Gophers won all ten (since 1963, it must be said, Nebraska is 14-0 against Minnesota).

Just like the Buffs, the Cornhuskers will enter play in its new league without ever posting wins against two schools. For Colorado, its Arizona State (0-2) and USC (0-5). For Nebraska, its Ohio State (0-2) and Purdue (0-1, with the only game being played in 1958).

One of the two losses to Ohio State came in 1956. The Cornhuskers, heavy underdogs, stayed close to the Buckeyes, but lost, 28-20. Ohio State coach Woody Hayes was quoted as saying, “Nebraska should be proud of its team. They are not Big Ten caliber, but they played like it today.”

“Not Big Ten caliber …” – sounds like a midwest bumper sticker in the making to me.

June 23rd

Pac-10 commissioner defends addition of Colorado and Utah

With the loss of Texas as a potential member of the Pac-16, some fans of existing members of the Pac-10 are feeling that the conference lost out in settling for Colorado and Utah. According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto, Texas either: 1) played Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott in order to get a better deal from its Big 12 brethren; 2) misunderstood Texas A&M’s reluctance to go west; or 3) wanted to bolt, but was made an offer it couldn’t refuse by the “Little Seven”. What’s worse, Ratto contends, is that cash-strapped Cal not only lost all of the revenue that the addition of Texas had to offer, but now also faces only playing USC (a guaranteed sell out) once every four years instead of every other year. “The only way this could have worked worse for Cal and Stanford,” Ratto concludes, “was if the conference contrived a way to split all the rivalries in some sort of bizarre zipper formation and turn the Big Game (between Cal and Stanford) into a preseason after-school special.”

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, naturally, disagrees.

“Not surprisingly, the greatest question/concern/point of contention among the schools is the ‘frequency with with teams are used to playing,’ ” Scott told the Mercury News. “Everyone is potentially concerned about not playing the Southern California schools every year … But everyone recognizes that there are trade-offs to the division structure.”

While the ultimate division structure is on everyone’s minds, there is no specific timetable for a decision. The league’s athletic directors meet in Los Angeles on July 30th, but Scott does not expect a resolution at that time. Instead, Scott is “aiming for” a decision at the October meetings of league officials, although “that could change if there’s an emerging consensus.”

So, did the Pac-10 lose out by settling for Colorado and Utah?

No, said Scott.

“I’m absolutely confident that (the addition of the Buffs and the Utes) is additive in terms of value,” said Scott. “A football championship is additive. Now, if we chose not to have one, that would take away from any uplift.”

“But the TV strategies that we plan on pursuing,” Scott continued. “We felt the media markets and the athletic programs (Coloradon and Utah) would add significant value.”


June 22nd

No resolution … yet … on 2011 exit

Time for the attorneys to earn their keep.

With Utah set to join the Pac-12 in 2011, Nebraska willing to jump to the Big Ten in 2011, and Boise State set to join the Mountain West Conference in 2011, the dominoes should be in place for Colorado to team up with Utah in joining the Pac-10 next season.

And yet …

It’s all about the money – and a little bit of pride.

Nebraska has given its one year notice. The Cornhuskers are willing to go without 70-80% of its Big 12 revenue in order to leave early. Colorado, meanwhile, gave a two year notice, willing to go without 50% each year for two years.

Just because the Cornhuskers want to leave early, and pay more up front, doesn’t mean Colorado has to go along.

Which would make for an impossible scheduling problem for everyone in 2012.

So, the short answer: Colorado will play in the Pac-10 in 2011. The multi-million dollar question now becomes: how much will Colorado have to pay? The Big 12 can’t force the Buffs to take the 80% option just because Nebraska did, and Colorado has no interest in staying in a conference which now wishes to move on without them. Plus, you have the added sticking point that it has been reported that one way the “Orphan Five” (or the “Forgotten Seven”, depending on how you regard Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) were able to convince Texas to stick around in the Big 12 was to offer up some of the “penalty” money coming from Nebraska and Colorado.

As a result, if the Big 12 agrees to let the Buffs out for a smaller amount (with the Cornhuskers likely to demand the same treatment), there will be a smaller pool of dollars for the smaller schools to offer at the alter in Austin.

I still believe a compromise will be worked out, with Colorado and Nebraska conducting press conferences announcing the early buyout deal, with Dan Beebe announcing on behalf of the Big 12 that the remaining members have properly punished their departing traitors.

Let the spin begin.


June 16th

Did “Forgotten Five” offer “penalty” money to Big Three?

According to ESPN, the Forgotten Five of the Big 12 conference – Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri – offered their share of any monies received from Colorado and Nebraska as part of a “business plan” to save the Big 12.

Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins said the above five schools came up with the idea in order to keep Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M from bolting to other conferences. “Five schools got together, and we tried to develop a business plan,” said Perkins. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe had a different account, stating that the five schools offered to have extra funds taken from other sources, like television and tournament revenue, not from the “penalties”.

But, Nebraska is arguing that Colorado and Nebraska will owe nothing …

Nebraska, set to join the Big Ten as early as July 1, 2011, believes that there will be no penalties (or, more precisely, no withholding of revenues). “The bylaw is structured as ‘damages’, and it’s hard for me to see that there are any damages,” said Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman. “The Big 12 is getting more now than when we were a member.”

If Colorado leaves in two years, it will owe 50% of its revenues, or around $10.1 million. If Nebraska leaves with only one year’s notice, it will owe 70% of its revenues, or around $8.05 million … if the assessments are made. “Just take the liquidated damages (as Perlman call the “penalties”), and put an ‘X’ on it,” said Perlman. “Put it over here and don’t even think about it”.

Naturally, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe disagrees. “Our by-laws require us to withhold revenues from any departing members,” said Beebe, “which we’ll do, and then distribute (those revenues) to the remaining members.”

In other words, stay tuned, and get the University attorney’s office on the phone …

If there is a penalty, first there would have to be a determination as to the amount (there are predictions which vary from the numbers provided). Then, Colorado and Nebraska would have to figure out how to survive without the extra revenue. Not a real problem in Lincoln, which would have plenty of resources (not the least of which would be a call to boosters to raise the funds, which would take about a day to accomplish).

In Boulder, the Buffs have to look at other options. It has been reported that the Pac-10 has offered to help finance the move by assisting Colorado with the extra funds up front, to be paid off through a reduction of revenue distribution in later seasons.

June 15th

Colorado Football Schedule – 2012 (or 2011) – Revised

With the dilution of the Pac-16 to the Pac-12 (presumed) and with Colorado and Utah (presumed) to be the only new additions, the scheduling for Colorado becomes much easier.

It would be a natural for the Pac-12 to adopt a schedule similar to the one utilized by the Big 12 and SEC, namely to divide the conference into two divisions of six teams each. Each team would play an eight team conference schedule, with five games against every team in their own division, with three games against teams from the other division. With that schedule in 2010, Colorado is playing Kansas State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Kansas and Nebraska from the North, as well as Texas Tech, Baylor, and Oklahoma from the South.

The only debatable issue then, is, of course, how to divide up the new Pac-12. Naturally, Colorado and Utah would travel as a pair, so it is really a question of which two sets of schools match up with Colorado and Utah. There seems to be only one set of teams (Cal and Stanford) which does not fit with the Colorado/Utah pair. A couple of scenarios:

Colorado/Utah joins the Arizona schools and southern California schools to form the Pac-12 South;

Colorado/Utah joins the Washington and Oregon schools to form the Pac-12 North; or

Colorado/Utah joins the Washington schools and the Arizona schools to form the Pac-12 East.

From a Colorado point of view, the third option is the best. In terms of resources and national rankings, USC, Cal, and Oregon provide the most consistent teams. Having them battle one another to face a division champion made up of Colorado, Utah, Arizona State, Washington State, Arizona, and Arizona State would provide the Buffs with the most direct line to a conference championship game.

At the same time, the Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, who has proven to be capable in such areas, will likely see this. If you go by preseason rankings for 2010, the first Pac-12 championship game would be between Oregon and Utah.

Sound sexy to you?

Not exactly what the Pac-10 officials were hoping for when they approved expansion.

Best bet would be to go with Colorado/Utah the the northwest schools. As mentioned below, Cal and Stanford previously expressed reservations about giving up games in southern California when expansion was first being discussed. Any scenario which splits up the four California schools gives the Cardinal and Bears two trips to L.A. every four years. Published reports, however, have Colorado/Utah joining with the Arizona schools and the Southern California schools to form the Pac-12 South, so we’ll see …

This leaves us with the Pac-12 East, in which the six “western” schools are more powerful (not unlike the Big 12 South had become), so the third scenario, with Colorado/Utah joining the Oregon and Washington schools, becomes the most plausible.

Then the question will become, can a schedule be put in place as early as 2011 …?

Colorado Football Schedule – 2012

The landscape of college football shifted significantly the second week of June. While how the rest of the Great Conference Realignment of 2010 remains to be played out, Colorado knows it will be playing in the Pac-10 in 2012, perhaps as early as 2011. It is not too early, then, to take a look at how the Buffs’ new schedule might play out.

For starters, we’ll assume that the rest of the teams in the Big 12 South not named Baylor will ultimately opt for moving to the Pac-10. Whether its Texas A&M, Kansas, or Utah, the Pac-10 will likely have 16 teams. There will be any number of options for devising a schedule, the least attractive for Colorado is being placed into an eight team division with the Big 12 South teams, along with Arizona and Arizona State.

The division alignment would not be the tough part, it would be the scheduling. If the league demanded that every team play every other team in its own division, Colorado fans may soon be longing for the good old days of the Big 12 North. Every school in the division would have a larger stadium (though those at Texas Tech and Arizona are close), more money, and better facilities. Texas and Oklahoma would likely dominate, and the seven games played against the Pac-10 east foes would not be all that much different from what the Buff fans see on the calendar already.

To make matters worse, the benefit of playing (and recruiting) on the west coast would be negated. With only two conference games a year against Pac-10 west schools, it would take eight years to rotate through the western division (e.g., Colorado would play UCLA and USC home-and-home in 2012 and 2013; move on to Stanford and Cal in 2014 and 2015; play the Oregon schools in 2015 and 2016; and the Washington schools in 2017 and 2018. Colorado would not play again in Los Angeles until 2019).

Fortunately for Colorado fans, this schedule would also hold true for Texas and Oklahoma. As a result, the much talked about duels between Texas and USC, not to mention Oklahoma and Oregon, would only be played out twice every eight seasons. Here’s guessing that the television networks lining up to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for broadcast rights want to see those matchups occur more often.

Thus, it is the four-team “pod” system which is now being discussed most often. The league would be divided into four four-team groupings, which we will call the Northwest Division (Washington and Oregon schools); California Divsion (USC, UCLA, Cal, and Stanford), the Mountain Division (Arizona State, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas Tech), and the Red River Division (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas). For now, we’ll include Texas A&M. If that changes to, say, Utah or Kansas, move Texas Tech in with Texas, and move the other new school into the mountain division.

How the schedule would work: Each team would annually play every other team in its own division (For Colorado: Arizona State, Arizona, and Texas Tech). That would leave six conference games left to be played, which could quite easily be generated by having each conference team play a home-and-home series with two teams from the other three divisions, then switching out opponents every two years (not unlike how Colorado switched out home-and-home series with three of the six Big 12 South teams each season).

As a result, the Buffs’ 2012 schedule (or, if Nebraska has its way, the 2011 schedule) could look something like this:

Colorado State (Denver), at Minnesota, Utah (these first three games are already on the 2012 calendar), then: Arizona, at Arizona State, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma, Texas A&M, USC, at Stanford, Oregon State, at Washington.

In 2013, the calendar would look like this: Colorado State (Denver), Minnesota, Fresno State, then: at Arizona, Arizona State, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma, at Texas A&M, at USC, Stanford, at Oregon State, Washington.

In 2014 and 2015, the Buffs would swap out the other pod teams, with the 2014 schedule looking like this: Colorado State, Hawaii, at Fresno State, then: Arizona, at Arizona State, Texas Tech, Texas, at Oklahoma State, UCLA, at Cal, Oregon, at Washington State.

While 2015 would look like this: Colorado State (in Boulder, so the Buffs have six home games), Utah, at Hawaii, then, at Arizona, Arizona State, at Texas Tech, at Texas, Oklahoma State, at UCLA, Cal, at Oregon, Washington State.

This would allow the Buffs to travel to the west coast twice a season, including a trip to the State of California every year.

The real beauty of the pod system, though,  is that it would preserve all of the existing year-end rivalry games, as well as the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma. The only two teams which would be left without a rival on Thanksgiving weekend would be Colorado and Texas Tech, who would lose their year end games against Nebraska and, ahem, Baylor. This is a sacrifice most Buff fans would be willing to make in order to avoid a seven team division schedule, a schedule which would leave the Buffs with little exposure to the west coast.

One last item on scheduling I would suggest for Colorado.

With Nebraska off the calendar for the season finale, why not move the Colorado State game to Thanksgiving weekend? Many rivals who are not in the same conference – Georgia/Georgia Tech; Florida/Florida State; Clemson/South Carolina for example – play their rivals on the last game of the season, not the first. I have never, repeat NEVER, liked playing Colorado State in the opener. Give your in-state little brother a full month to prepare for you? Let them throw in gadget plays, new formations, different personnel – just for your game? I’ve never liked that. Put the game at the end of the season, and I will guarantee the already high winning percentage the Buffs have against the Rams would raise up even higher. Plus, it would give Buff fans something to look forward to at the end of the year. (Remember back before the Big 12, when Colorado would finish the season with late November games against Iowa State or Kansas State? Remember the tens of thousands of fans disguised as empty seats?).

So, should the Big 12 South migrate to the Pac-10, the four-team pod system would work well for Colorado and its fans …

I’ll leave to others as to how to devise the Pac-16 championship game tie-breakers.

Familiar Territory

Other than moving to the Mountain West (thank heavens that isn’t the case!), Colorado could not have moved to a conference with which it has had more experience. Over the years, Colorado has played 73 games against current Pac-10 teams, accumulating an overall record of 38-34-1. The Buffs’ winning percentage against the Pac-10  (.521) is on par with the Buffs’ overall winning percentage against former Big 12 foes (253-229-13; .511). The Buffs have played all ten teams in the league, and has posted wins against all but two (0-5 agaisnt USC; 0-2 against Arizona State).

The first game the Buffs ever played against a team from the west coast was back in 1904, when Colorado played Stanford in Denver (If you watched the  Colorado press conference Friday, or read the CU at the Game account, you know that CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano was more than a little embarrassed to learn that the score of that 1904 Colorado/Stanford game was 33-0, Stanford).

Colorado’s overall record against the league has certainly been bouyed by the Buffs’ record against Arizona. Over the years (mostly in the 1950’s, when the two teams played every year), Colorado accumulated a 12-game winning streak against the Wildcats. It was only in the last game played between the two schools, in 1986, that Arizona broke into the win column against Colorado. (The 92.3 winning percentage is the best for the Buffs against any team Colorado has played that many times, though the Buffs’ 24-2-1 record against Wyoming – 90.7% – is close).

The Colorado v. the Pac-10 breakdown:

Arizona – 12-1; last game played, 1986;

Arizona State – 0-2; last game played, 2007;

USC – 0-5; last game played, 2002;

UCLA – 2-4; last game played, 2003;

Stanford – 3-3; last game played, 1993;

Cal – 2-2; last game played, 1982 (the teams will play September 11th);

Oregon – 8-7; last game played, 2002 (Fiesta Bowl)

Oregon State – 2-3; last game played, 1988

Washington – 5-5; last game played, 2000

Washington State – 4-2; last game played, 2004 (in Seattle).

Looking at the numbers, Colorado and its Pac-10 brethren, other than Arizona and USC, are within two games of one another in the all-time series, which makes the renewal of some of these rivalries all the more intriguing.

Other series tidbits:

Colorado trails UCLA 2-4 and Oregon State 2-3, but the Buffs have won both of the last two games played in those series … The last two games played against Washington, in 1999 and 2000, two Washington victories which permitted the Huskies to tie the all-time series, were both coached by former CU head coach (and present UCLA head coach) Rick Neuheisal … Colorado has played a Pac-10 team five times in bowl games, including Oregon three times (CU going 2-1 in those games), and Washington twice (1-1) … When Arizona won its only game in the series, in 1986, the Wildcats were ranked 10th in the nation. Colorado, 0-3 at the time, hung close, falling 24-21. The Buffs used the momentum from that game to go on to post a 6-1 Big Eight record, including the epic 20-10 win over No. 3 Nebraska .

Significant games between Colorado and existing Pac 10 teams:

1982 – Colorado head coach Bill McCartney makes his debut as Buff head coach against Cal. The Bears, led by new head coach Joe Kapp (older fans will remember him as the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV), beat the Buffs, 31-17. The game was the last between the two schools until this fall, when the rivalry will be renewed on September 11th.

1982 – The week after the Cal game, Bill McCartney posts his first win as the Colorado head coach, defeating another Pac-10 school, Washington State, 12-0. The game, played in Spokane, marked the last time McCartney would have a .500 record as the Buffs’ head coach until the middle of the 1989 season – seven years later.

1984 - Colorado tight end Ed Reinhardt almost loses his life after collapsing near the end of the game against Oregon in Eugene. Bill McCartney is touched by the outpouring of support by the people of Eugene. Reinhardt eventually recovers most of his abilities, becoming an inspiration to a generation of Buff fans.

1985 - Oregon, trailing 21-17, drives the length of Folsom Field as time runs down. On fourth-and-goal at the Colorado three yard line, Buff safety Mickey Pruitt sacks Oregon quarterback Chris Miller for a sack as time expires. The win gives Colorado a 2-0 record, doubling the victory total from 1984.

1985 - Two weeks after defeating Oregon, the Buffs hold off Arizona, 14-13, on the road in Tucson. The win over the Wildcats propels the Buffs to their first winning season since 1978. Colorado finishes 7-5 after losing to another Pac-10 team, Washington, 20-17, in the Freedom Bowl.

1987 - Colorado plays three Pac-10 teams to open the season, defeating Stanford and Washington State, but losing to Oregon. The 1987 season marked the third time in the 1980’s (1982 and 1985) in which the Buffs played three games against Pac-10 teams in the regular season.

1989 - No. 5 Colorado defeats No. 21 Washington on the road in the emotional first game for the Buffs after the death of quarterback Sal Aunese.

1990 – Running back Eric Bieniemy goes up and over the top on fourth-and-one with seconds to play to defeat Stanford, 21-17. Colorado, ranked No. 6 in the nation after tying Tennessee, 31-31, in the season opener, score on a play which Stanford coach Dennis Green said Bieniemy did not break the plane of the endzone.

1990 - Against the Washington Huskies a year after the emotional win in Seattle, No. 20 Colorado hangs on to defeat No. 12 Washington in Boulder, 20-14. With a fourth-and-goal at the Colorado seven yard line with 1:04 to play, Husky quarterback lobbed a pass to the corner of the endzone, trying to hit wide receiver Mario Bailey. Colorado sophomore safety Deon Figures (who would go on to win the Thorpe Award in 1992) intercepted the pass, preserving the Colorado win.

1993 - Stanford gets payback for the 1990 controversial win. With eight seconds remaining, and the Cardinal trailing the Buffs, 37-34, quarterback Steve Stenstrom hit Tony Cline for a game-winning five yard touchdown. As Cline came down with the ball, he was clocked by Buff safety Dwayne Davis. Cline dropped the ball, but was nonetheless given credit for a touchdown catch.

1995 – Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisal completes a successful first season with a 10-2 record, including a 38-6 romp over Oregon in the Cotton Bowl. The game is most remembered, however, for a controversial fake punt call by Neuheisal late in the fourth quarter with the game no longer in doubt. The Ducks remembered the play (see: 2002 Fiesta Bowl).

1998 - Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisal coaches in what turns out to be his last game in Boulder, leading the Buffs to a 51-43 win over Oregon in the Aloha Bowl. Less than a week later, Neuheisal accepts the head coaching job at Washington.

1999-2000 - Colorado players get a chance at revenge against their former coach, but Rick Neuheisals’ Washington Huskies defeats Colorado both seasons (31-24; 17-14).

2002 - Colorado upsets No. 20 UCLA, 31-17, in Los Angeles. The game, played in the Rose Bowl in September, is played in 99-degree heat, the warmest game for Colorado, ever.

2004 - In a game played in Seattle, Colorado holds on to defeat Washington State, 20-12. Senior defensive tackle Matt McChesney recovers a Cougar fumble at the Colorado two-yard line in the last minute of play to preserve the win.

2007 - Colorado falls to Arizona State, 33-14, on the road, in the last game played between Colorado and a Pac-10 team before the June 10, 2010, announcement that Colorado was to join the Pac-10 conference.

Just 16 or so memories from the past 30 seasons. Feel free to post your comments about these games, or memories of your own, by clicking on the “Comments” bar at the top and/or the bottom of this article. You are also invited/encouraged to check out the Archived Seasons, in which stories, stats, and memories of Colorado games played since 1980 have been preserved.

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