“Be careful what you wish for...”
Colorado fans wanted desperately to get into the Pac-12.
The Big Eight/Big 12 was never, despite the Buffs’ 60-year history with the league, a good fit. Colorado was not a mid-western school, did not have fans interested in traveling to Stillwater and Ames, and could not annually compete with schools which had a football budget larger than what Colorado had budgeted for its entire athletic department.
The Pac-10, meanwhile, had institutions more on par with Colorado academically; more on balance financially. Buff fans have wanted to make the move for years.
"One thing first and foremost on our plate is, ‘How are we going to improve our competitiveness across the board?’, " said Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn. “(The Pac-10) is a great conference, and not just in football … It’s a big challenge and a great opportunity for us. We need to go in there and be competitive right away.”
Leaving aside for the moment that Colorado only competes in the NCAA minimum for varsity sports, and does not even field a team in such Pac-10 mainstays like men’s baseball, women’s softball, gymnastics, and swimming, Colorado is already well behind the curve in the big three collegiate sports—football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball—heading west to compete in 2011.
The Buffs will be breaking in new head coaches on the hardcourt this fall, and the four straight losing seasons for the football team hang like a dark cloud over the Dal Ward Center.
At least, it appeared back in June when Colorado accepted admission into the new Pac-12, that the Buffs were heading into a conference on a down cycle in football. USC, the perennial national contender, was slapped with scholarship reductions and bowl bans.
Washington, another traditional powerhouse, entered the 2010 season seven years removed from its last bowl bid. Cal and UCLA had proud histories, but had faltered of late.
Oregon has been making some noise for the last decade or so, but is hardly a fixture on the national college football landscape. The Arizona schools have had moments of glory, but they have been few and far between.
When the 2010 preseason polls came out, Oregon was the highest ranked Pac-10 team, coming in at No. 11. USC and Oregon State were further down the list, and no other Pac-10 team made the cut.
Perhaps the move to the Pac-12 would work out just fine for the Colorado football program.
Then the 2010 season started.
Yes, it is waaaay too early to start thinking about what the 2011 Pac-12 preseason magazines will look like next June. Still, if those magazines came out today, it would be hard not to see Colorado coming in at No. 11.
Colorado is 2-1 on the 2009 season, but the Buffs have had two good halves of football (the first half against Colorado State; the second half against Hawaii), with four bad halves in between. So how does Colorado rate against its new rivals?
For starters, until further notice, it would be difficult to see Colorado as being predicted to finish above any ranked team in the 2011 Pac-12 standings. This places Colorado below all of the Pac-12 teams which have been worthy of a ranking already this season—Oregon, USC, Utah, Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona, Cal, and Arizona State. That takes care of eight of the 11 new Pac-12 rivals.
UCLA, not on the list, was waxed at home by Stanford, 25-0, but bounced back by upsetting No. 7 Texas, in Austin, 34-12. Washington, everyone’s trendy pick to do better in 2010 under second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian, is off to a 1-2 start after being thumped by Nebraska, 56-21, but will be picked to continue its ascent back into prominence. It wouldn’t be a stretch, therefore, to see both UCLA and Washington picked ahead of Colorado.
Which leaves us with Washington State.
Thank God for the Cougars, who are 1-3 so far in 2010. Washington State needed a few breaks late to comeback to defeat Montana State (yes, that Montana State), 23-22. Otherwise, Washington State has been routed by, in order, Oklahoma State, SMU, and USC (the latter game by a score of 50-16).
Barring a complete collapse by Colorado, or an unexpected resurgence by Washington State, the Buffs are safe in at least knowing that they will not be picked to finish dead last in the first season of the new Pac-12.
there is another simpler, much more attractive option …
One which will guarantee more wins.
One which will has the potential for even more revenue than that which will come from the new Pac-12 television contracts.
All the University of Colorado needs to do is to fore go both the Big 12 and the Pac-12 …
And Go Green!
Forget conferences! Follow the lead of Notre Dame and BYU, and go independent!
Now, Colorado doesn’t have a national following, either real (Notre Dame), or imagined (BYU), so the Buffs will have to come up with a gimmick to get attention.
Going Green will accomplish that goal.
I’m not talking about changing the Colorado school colors. I’m more interested in the colors of the Buffs’ opponents.
Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs have posted a less than stellar 18-34 overall record, a .346 winning percentage. Against teams with green as one of its teams primary colors, however, Hawkins is 5-3 (3-2 v. Colorado State; 1-1 v. Baylor; and 1-0 v. Hawai’i), a much more acceptable winning percentage of .625. The Buffs are 2-0 against green teams in 2010.
It’s simple, the Buffs need more teams in green on the schedule!
The problem, there is only one team left on the 2010 list of opponents, Baylor, with green as a primary school color. If Colorado holds true to form, the Buffs will win only one more game this season, and finish with a second consecutive 3-9 season heading west to play in the Pac-12.
So, the Buffs have only one choice—go independent, and line-up teams wearing green as opponents.
It so happens that there are 13 teams which have green in their uniforms (counting Notre Dame, which on occasion, trots out green uniforms). The 13th game on the new Buffs’ schedule will not present a problem, as Hawai’i wears green, and the NCAA already allows teams to play a 13-game schedule when Hawai’i is an opponent.
So, who will be the Buffs’ future rivals?
In addition to playing Colorado State (see, we preserved the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Invesco!), Hawai’i, and Baylor every year, Colorado would also face Eastern Michigan, Marshall, Michigan State, North Texas, Notre Dame, Ohio, Oregon, South Florida, Tulane, and Alabama-Birmingham. Of the 13 games on the schedule, only five would come against teams currently in a BCS conference (including Notre Dame).
The benefits would be immediate.
First, let’s take a look at the opponents. True, Oregon and Michigan State are ranked, and South Florida and Notre Dame could present problems on a regular basis. The remainder of the schedule, though, should provide plenty of opportunities for victories. Through September, the combined record of the 13 teams on the new ”Green” Colorado 2011 schedule is 22-28 (.440)—and that includes 4-0 records for Oregon and Michigan State.
Compare that winning percentage to the combined record to date of the Big 12 in non-conference play (32-5; .864) and that of the Pac-10 plus Utah (23-9; .718), and you begin to see the merits of the move.
Colorado, by going green, would have the schedule Notre Dame has used for decades (until just recently) to generate winning teams and bowl appearances: sprinkle in a few national games (instead of USC and Michigan, Colorado would have Oregon and Notre Dame) against a backdrop of generally easy wins (the service academies for Notre Dame. In the Buffs’ instance, the schedule would be littered—no pun intended—with games against the likes of Tulane, Eastern Michigan, and North Texas).
The “Going Green” theme would take on a life of its own. The “Zero Waste” stadium policy at Folsom Field could be carried throughout the university. The Colorado athletic department, forever at odds with the local community, would become the darlings of the Boulder counter-culture. Waste Management and Solar One could become game sponsors.
And recruiting? Players coming to Colorado would have trips to Hawai’i, South Florida, and Notre Dame. The Buffs would be able to recruit nationally, with games in every region of the country.
Colorado, with 7-8 wins per season – and the occasional ten-win campaign – would be regular bowl participants. The “Colorado television network” would bring in enough revenues so that the Buffs could once again compete in sports dropped thirty years ago, like baseball, gymnastics, and wrestling.
True, it would be hard at first fighting off the criticism of leaving two conferences in one year, and there would be the issue of the carbon footprint left by traveling all over the nation for games (any bio- diesel sponsors out there?), but the rewards for Going Green would far outweigh the costs.
So, my advice to the University of Colorado: Go Green!
Or, in the alternative, figure out a way to beat teams wearing red …