The aftermath of the University of Colorado Buffaloes’ 2012 football debacle—its 1-11 record was the worst in school history—was almost as disheartening as the season itself. First, CU fired head coach Jon Embree, prompting accusations of institutional racism from former coach Bill McCartney. Then its first choice to replace Embree, the University of Cincinnati’s Butch Jones, left CU at the altar to take a more attractive job at the University of Tennessee. The school finally hired San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre to rebuild a program that, by at least one measure, was ranked 123 out of 124 Division I college football teams last year.
Just how bad is it? Buffs football hasn’t had a winning record since 2005. The facilities are aging. And only two highly rated recruits arrive next year (if they honor their commitments, and that’s a big if after a coaching change). Can CU even be called a football school anymore?
Meanwhile, the men’s basketball team has quietly become the university’s showcase athletic program. After nearly a decade of unremarkable results, the team’s run to the third round of the NCAA tournament last season suggests that the young squad is ready to be a national player. Buffs alum Alec Burks was an NBA first-round draft choice in 2011, after which head coach Tad Boyle landed one of the strongest recruiting classes in school history, boasting a 11-6 record as of press time.
No, CU isn’t suddenly a Kansas- or Duke-level hoops juggernaut. Tournament appearances have been intermittent, and we’re still waiting for the next Chauncey Billups, last seen in Boulder in 1997. Still, CU fans looking for a thrill should steer away from the gridiron and head toward the hardwood.