In a word, yes. Yes we did.
‘We' being the twenty or so members of the Houston chapter of CU Alumni who attended our professional luncheon Tuesday of this week. For half an hour, Mike Bohn chatted with us, gave us some big news, and answered some of our questions, too. I was there, and here's some of what he had to say.
We kicked things off with CU's move to the eventual Pac-12: "2010 will most likely be our last year in the Big 12," he said, and told us that "Phil DiStefano and our team of lawyers are down in Dallas right now resolving our exit from the Big 12."
He said the timing of everything is very good, and noted that the Pac-12 re-branding lends itself very well to Colorado's entrance to the conference. He also mentioned that the marketability of the Pac-12 is better as a whole than the Big 12, both to the CU fanbase and more broadly.
Mike described the excitement that he and many others have about the move and added "our faculty is excited about the move." He cited several reasons that he likes the conference change, and he told us that, "often schools will look for research partners within their athletic conferences, and going to the Pac-12, the research opportunities will be much better suited to Colorado and more in-line with the university's strengths and culture." [I think that's his nice way of saying that we're not an Ag school. I'm looking at you, maroon carrots.] He also mentioned that, "the academic rigor relating to student athletes will be more consistent, and that's more along the lines of what we're doing at CU."
We asked him what the hardest thing was about leaving the Big 12. He didn't hesitate, "Nebraska," he said, "and the history and tradition that we have with them. And also, the tradition that we were starting to develop with UT, too." He mentioned that another tough thing about leaving was losing the familiarity he had gained with the Presidents, Athletic Directors, and Coaches of the Big 12; though he pointed out that he and others look forward to establishing the new relationships that await them in the Pac-12.
On the topic of football, Mike was quick to tell us Texans that there are plans to keep the team coming down here, but he also said that they plan to continue to increase the football team's exposure across the country...
"We're planning major non-conference games in Texas and on the East Coast...we're also looking at setting up a marquee game in Texas stadium." He also said that the Alamo bowl will tie into the Pac-12.
We asked him about the future of the Nebraska rivalry, and he said, "I've been visiting with Tom [Osborne], and we're going to schedule that game again every few years. They want to have games with several of the Big 12 teams, and we're part of that."
When asked how football recruiting in Texas would be affected by the conference move, Bohn cited that when Bill McCartney started out at CU, he didn't have the benefit of yearly games in Texas, (we only returned to playing annual non-conference games in Texas in 1989). He said that the non-conference scheduling was the key to raising and maintaining our national exposure.
Speaking of scheduling, he said that, "if we leave the Big 12 in 2011, which it looks like we will, our re-vamped schedule features a major cross-sectional game with a Big Ten team."
Several of our contingent asked about Baseball, and how moving to the Pac-12 will affect the school adding sports. "The first step," he said, "will be to take the increased revenue from the Pac-12 and better invest in the 16 Division-1 sports that we currently have; then we can look at expansion."
An important part of expansion is galvanizing the fanbase, he said. As an example, he pointed out the 23,000 alumni who live in California, "I'm not trying to call anyone out, but before the conference switch, of those 23,000 alumni, only 97 were members of the Buff Club." [i.e. having given $100 or more to athletics] "Now it's not all about money, but those numbers can be a good measure to see where your alumni are at."
He did say that when expansion does occur, that it will likely start with Men's Baseball, and "the fastest growing sport in the state of Colorado, Women's Lacrosse. You'll have the Women playing Lacrosse on Folsom field, and then we'll have to build a new baseball complex down on the south campus. It's going to be great."
Something new that he told us about is a program that's being called the ‘Buff Nation Initiative.' In his words, "it's a campaign to establish athletics as a window to the university as a whole." [I can imagine that this could be a tough sell on some parts of campus, but if we can do it half as well as other universities, it will be a boon for CU.]
Mike also gave us an update on the new CU Basketball practice facility that's being built, "construction is going well, and the renovations to Coors Events Center are going great, as well. Everything's going to be ready for the November 12th season-opener, it's a Men's and Women's double-header. We're adding ribbon boards and a screen, and bringing back the fly-away goals; you're not going to recognize Coors Events Center."
Mike saved the best for last, he announced that, "I'm proud to say that for the entire season, our home uniforms will be in honor of the 1990 National Championship team and the 20th anniversary of our football National Championship. It'll have that big, bold ‘Colorado' across the front of the jersey, and the more traditional helmet color; it's more of a bronze than a gold, but it just looks right. It's different than our current helmets, which got a little tinge of green in them last year. I think it's going to be that Colorado ‘championship look' that people remember and are accustomed to." [In case you didn't notice, those jerseys went on sale today.]
To the parting question of, "So who's going to be our starting quarterback?" Mike Bohn had this to say: "For anyone who's been paying attention, I think that's already been announced in a lot of ways... I truly believe that Tyler Hansen will be our starting quarterback on September 4th when we take on Colorado State, and I hope to see you there."