Monday, November 21, 2011
Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Luke here.
Steamboat Springs While most of Colorado is caught up in Tim Tebow’s greatness, this week signified another great portion of American sports: College basketball has begun.
Just flash forward to the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in five months and think about that warm and fuzzy feeling we all get.
It also reminded me of a conversation I had with a longtime University of Colorado sports fan a couple years ago.
Having been a fan for 30 years, he made a bold claim. Colorado would win a conference title in basketball before it would again in football.
This was at the conclusion of the 2009 season, Jeff Bzdelik’s second to last in the program.
It seemed out of place.
Colorado has tried to live on its football lore for the better part of the past 25 years.
If you haven’t heard, the team won a split National Championship in 1990, when seniors on this year’s team were 1- or 2-years-old.
Colorado basketball, outside of Chauncey Billups and a 2003 team that made the NCAA Tournament, has been downright dreadful.
But there was certainly the chance for Colorado basketball to matter. If the team would start winning, people would start paying attention. If people started paying attention, then maybe the state finally would have a college basketball presence.
Well, it’s happening.
Tad Boyle took the program over last season, finally started to play an uptempo game at altitude, won a record 24 games and was the biggest NCAA Tournament snub.
The team just built a new basketball practice facility, making sure it doesn’t fall behind in the Pac-12 arms race. Boyle just landed what many consider the best recruiting class in school history.
The Coors Event Center actually drew almost 8,000 fans this year for an opening game against Division II Fort Lewis. Anyone who’s been to The Keg for a game in the past 15 years knows what a huge change that is. On campus, it’s cool to go to basketball games now.
The football program is rebuilding for the second time in the past five years. It hasn’t been competitive in most of its games this season. The facilities, once the biggest joke of the Big 12, are now the biggest joke of the Pac-12.
There shouldn’t be a resoundingly good feeling about the future of the program, either. The team hasn’t mattered outside of the state in more than 10 years. People still go back to the 1990 team and teams that surrounded it.
At that time, Colorado dominated recruiting — in sports, those that win recruiting, well, generally win — in Texas and California. That was at a time when the University of Southern California, Oregon, UCLA, Texas and Oklahoma didn’t matter. That’s not the case anymore.
I’m not saying that Colorado’s football culture can’t be turned around. But there are significantly more obstacles ahead than the basketball team has. The programs, at this point, are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Boyle has to prove he consistently can win, but here is saying that Colorado basketball will matter much more than football.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com