Thirteen years have passed since quarterback Darian Hagan and coach Bill McCartney led the University of Colorado Buffaloes to a controversial national championship in football.
Steamboat Springs entrepreneur Steve Moos recalls CU's 1991 Orange Bowl tilt with Notre Dame like it was played yesterday -- not because he has a photographic memory, but because he is selling DVDs and VHS tapes of the game. Oh yeah, the Buffs prevailed 10-9 over the Fighting Irish in the Orange Bowl and claimed a share of the national title with Georgia Tech.
"There were a lot of great players on those two teams," Moos said. "Some of them are still in the NFL."
Moos is a graduate of Colorado State University, but he found much to admire about the 1991 Buffs. Their championship showdown came against a Notre Dame team that had lost two games during the regular season, but made its own claim to greatness.
The 1991 Orange Bowl is one of a half dozen classic football contests Moos handpicked for his fledgling company Vintage Sports Video.
Moos is most visible to the community as coach of the Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball team. He also teaches video production and e-business at the high school. His business background is deeper than that.
After graduating from CSU, he went to work for Shell Oil Company as a regional marketing representative responsible for a territory in New Jersey. After that, he and a colleague at Shell invested in a convenience store in Wheat Ridge.
Moos grew disenchanted with the convenience store business and sold out to his partner so he could go back to CSU for his master's degree in business administration.
Vintage Sports Video is a result of his passion for college football and his desire to do more with his MBA. He is quick to point out that this winter's foray into marketing DVDs is at the experimental level.
"I hope this is just the beginning," Moos said.
If it goes no further, he will have acquired valuable insights into the challenges of starting an Internet-dependent business for his students at Steamboat Springs High School.
Moos' business background told him to take a cautious approach during his first year.
"I had to limit my initial investment. I thought about adding a seventh game, but I decided to stay with six initially. It took me a long time to choose the games. I picked (games) across geography, schools and time spans. Most of them include a winning drive."
Moos chose to reduce his initial licensing investment by agreeing to pay a royalty for each tape sold. Still, the upfront fee for each game reached into four figures.
"It's not like I could license 100 games," he said.
The choices also were limited by the willingness of TV networks and bowl committees to cooperate.
NBC and CBS were interested in licensing rights to their games, but ESPN and ABC were not. That made it tough to access games by Big 10 football powerhouses such as Michigan and Ohio State.
Moos found the University of Colorado, and licensing executive Bruce Fletcher, the easiest school to work with. The school provided him with vintage photos for the cover of the DVD and allowed him to use the athletic department's logo at no charge. The video also is featured on the school's Web site.
Even with his business background, Moos found he was embarking on a path of learning and discovery when he set out to start a company to market recordings of classic football tilts. He began by cold-calling TV networks, then followed up with a copy of his business proposal, seeking limited worldwide rights to broadcasts.
"I was a nobody," Moos said. "It was pure guerrilla marketing."
But he strove to present a professional approach. Universities are very sensitive about the quality of third-party products that represent the institution. When CU embraced his concept, it was an uplifting day.
"It felt good when they gave me a shot," Moos said, "the fact that they gave me a chance."
Moos began working with third-party network representatives who handled the mechanics of providing him with game tapes. They sent him oversize "Beta" tapes that resemble a VHS cassette, only they're 24 inches long. Each game required two Beta tapes, even though they came with the commercials edited out.
The elimination of commercial spots enhances the viewing experience and cuts the running time to just over two hours in most cases.
Moos originally intended to sell the game broadcasts, but the many details he needed to chase down postponed the release date to late November. That curtailed some of his marketing plans, such as advertising in game-day programs in key stadiums across the country.
The devilish details ranged from finding a company in Denver to burn the DVDs, to selecting the right graphics package for the cases, to the logistics of creating a functional UPC bar code. He worked hard on the most effective keywords for Internet search engines, figured out how to place classified ads in the South Bend, Ind., newspaper, set up an e-Bay auction and placed his company on Yahoo Shopping. Even finding a company that would shrink-wrap his DVD cases was a challenging detail.
He learned to program "chapters" into the DVDs, one for each quarter of the game, and a fifth for a key play, allowing viewers to chose between watching the entire game, or skipping ahead to the good parts.
To date, Vintage Sports Video's main bricks-and-mortar retail presence is in a Boulder store called the College. Moos said his sales there don't generate as much profit as Internet sales, but they are a form of marketing.
His first sale was a copy of the BYU game, and he identified one customer who found his products by typing "Notre Dame items" into a search engine. He's sold game tapes in Great Britain, Canada and Singapore, forcing him to learn about international express shipping.
Moos intends to use this winter to test enthusiasm for his products. After the high school basketball season, he will study customer response and conceive a full marketing push for next fall.
Now, back to the 1991 Orange Bowl game, which Moos sells complete with the game-day commentary.
Notre Dame was coached by legendary Lou Holtz that year. Rick Mirer, now starting for the Oakland Raiders, was the quarterback and future professional great Ricky Watters was the tailback. Still, it was flanker and kick returner, Raghib "The Rocket" Ismail, who claimed the national spotlight 13 years ago.
CU was loaded with talent. Left guard Joe Garten was a two-time All America selection, but it was center Jay Leeuwenberg who would go on to a lengthy NFL career. Tailback Eric Bieniemy also was destined to "play on Sunday," and enjoyed a fine career with the San Diego Chargers.
The Colorado defense, led by its linebacking corps, was downright scary. All-American Alfred Williams went on to play defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. Linebackers Greg Biekert and Chad Brown remain starters in the NFL. Cornerbacks Dave McCloughan and Deon Figures were both stoppers in man-to-man coverage.
Play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg was joined in the booth by former 49ers coach Bill Walsh. The sideline reporters were Bob Trumpy and O.J. Simpson.
The game began with both teams pulling trick plays and suffering through a variety of miscues.
With the defensive struggle finally winding down, CU was hanging onto a 10-9 lead. When CU inexplicably punted to The Rocket with 43 seconds left on the clock, Ismail took off on a 91-yard punt return for the apparent winning touchdown. It wasn't to be.
Notre Dame's hopes were dashed when the play was called back for a clipping penalty.
The replays of that punt return and penalty were shown over and over, but that wasn't the most controversial moment in CU's greatest season ever.
The Buffs claimed their share of the national title that year thanks in part to one of the most controversial college football plays of all time. On Oct. 6, 1990, in Columbia, Mo., CU was able to achieve a key 33-31 win over Missouri when officials mistakenly allowed the Buffs a "fifth down" at the goal line, resulting in the winning touchdown.
Colorado's national championship always will have an asterisk next to it, and some things about college football, such as deciding the national champion, never change.
Moos, who favors a collegiate football playoff to determine the champions, is counting on many more classic games to drive Vintage Sports Video to success.
Football games worth watching over and over
In addition to the University of Colorado's 1991 Orange Bowl victory, the other videos in VSV's portfolio include the 1978 Cotton Bowl in which Notre Dame jumped from No. 5 in the polls to the national championship. Notre Dame, led by Joe Montana, dominated the University of Texas and future Hall of Famer Earl Campbell in the game.
The 1979 Cotton Bowl saw Montana rise to prominence as he overcame hypothermia to bring the Irish back from a 34-12 deficit against the University of Houston.
Moos became an Oklahoma fan while coaching at Pomona High School on Colorado's Front Range, and that partially explains his decision to license the 1981 Orange Bowl. That was the year future Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, under head coach Barry Switzer, staged a fourth-quarter comeback that lifted the Sooners over Florida State.
One of the most unlikely national championship scenarios played out in 1984 when quarterback Robbie Bosco returned from mid-game injuries to lead Brigham Young University's upset of Coach Bo Schembechler and the University of Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. It was the first time a non-New Year's Day bowl determined the national title.
Finally, Moos is offering the 1994 Orange Bowl in which Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward led Florida State to a come-from-behind win over previously undefeated Nebraska to steal his school's first-ever national title.
VHS tapes and DVDs both sell for $29.95. They can be ordered at vintagesportsvideo.com.
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