Now ranked in the Top 25 in men’s basketball (23rd in the AP poll), the University of Colorado Buffaloes are off to a strong start. Fans of the Buffs have turned in recent weeks to saying that Boulder, Colorado is now home to a basketball school rather than a football school. Despite the football team’s 1-10 record heading into their final game at Folsom Field hosting the University of Utah, the football team still dominates campus. The cheers that CU is a basketball school still come as cries of quiet desperation from a football school with no hope.
The football team amassed over 25,000 season tickets for their 2012 campaign, while the 2012-2013 basketball season tickets are close to a record setting 6,000. With non-conference basketball games left to be played, there are still tickets available. That 25,000 in football, which was an increase of 6,000 tickets this year despite a bad season last year, has not translated into the confines of the Coors Event Center, even though the building will likely be sold out for much of the season.
The basketball team’s popularity is huge right now, but without a solid foundation. Three seasons ago, there were few fans despite the rising talents of future NBA guard Alec Burks. Two years ago, the stadium filled up in the second half of Big 12 play, as the team made a run at the NCAA tournament, but was shunned by the selection committee. Last year saw a more full basketball arena and a traveling mass to the Pac-12 tournament, which the Buffs won, and two NCAA games in Albuquerque. Of course, some of that was due to the athletic department rewarding student attendance, capping off at 100 fans for the NCAA games. While the basketball team’s fan base is growing, coach Tad Boyle’s success has a lot to do with the rising numbers.
On the football side, two years have left coach Jon Embree’s coaching staff with four wins and a reignited anger among Buffs fans who endured Dan Hawkins. There are some calls to terminate his five-year contract now, while others will settle for the demolition of his coaching staff. The coach before Boyle, Jeff Bzdelik, had three losing seasons in a row, including 1-15 in conference. There were no calls for him to be fired three years ago before he fled to Wake Forest.
Colorado is looking to have an exciting basketball season after an abysmal football campaign. Tad Boyle has turned the program around and for the first time the Buffs have a basketball following. However, any cosmic shift of the school from primarily football to basketball will take time and sustainability through tough seasons. Duke wasn’t built in a day.