Should New Football Facilities Be a Top Priority for Colorado?

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

 

From the 1-11 record this year, to the hiring and controversial firing of coach and alum Jon Embree, it’s painfully obvious that Colorado football is in a bit of a rough patch.

The Buffaloes have not been to a bowl game in five seasons, and they haven’t won one since 2004, when they beat UTEP in the now-defunct Houston Bowl.

Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2010, and the move to the increasingly strong conference has, so far, hurt the Buffs more than it has helped.

In an effort to compete with its new Pac-12 opponents – teams like USC, which unveiled the $70 million John McKay Center at the beginning of the season, and Oregon, which introduced indoor practice facilities to the conference fifteen years ago –  the Buffaloes have presented a $170 million proposal to the University’s board of regents for improvements to their football facilities.

“This plan represents a carefully conceived, strategic investment in our future in the Pac-12 Conference. It will position us to attract the best student-athletes in the nation. It will improve the performance of our student-athletes on the field and in the classroom, and it will enhance our fan experience,” said CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn.

It is true that the football program needs something to revive it. It’s also true that strong recruiting is a key part of rebuilding a program, and that cutting edge facilities can help lure a top recruit away from the competition – but is it prudent to propose a $170 million capital campaign on the heels of a one-win season?

It could be a tough sell, but it sends the message, loud and clear, that the administration is serious about turning the football team’s fortunes around.

In the push to improve the program’s facilities, Colorado hasn’t forgotten about its fans. In addition to creating a new academic center for student-athletes, the first phase of the project will add support to one side of the stands that are on shifting ground.

Later phases of the project include expanding the football operations complex, constructing a year-round practice facility, and redeveloping another side of the stands. The upgrades will take place in stages, over a number of years, and will be funded by $50 million in private support, as well as athletic revenues and what the university hopes will be sizable donations from the Colorado community.

“This plan will help bring people from across Colorado and around the country together in support of CU, and it will challenge all of us as donors, alumni and fans to work together to make this vision a reality,” CU President Bruce Benson said.

The biggest challenge might be getting alumni and fans to buy into the idea that the facility upgrades will help the Buffaloes become more competitive. After Bohn’s last two failed coaching hires, and his short leash with Embree, whom he fired after just two disappointing seasons, several alumni were vocal in their criticism of the AD and the direction in which the program is heading.

Shiny new facilities might help, but the people running the program inside those new buildings have to have a strong vision and good sense to make it worth the investment.

 

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