But first: In the last article we closed on the Fifties on an upward, but incomplete note. Head Coach Dal Ward was forced to resign after the 6-4 1958 season for any and no apparent reason, however he retained the tenure he'd earned teaching at Colorado and continued at CU as a professor while serving as Associate Athletic Director.
The Buffs in the Sixties
Enter a new decade and an impatient, fiery young coach who doesn't care which administrator's colleague's toes he has to step on to win: Sonny Grandelius. You already know how this story ends. He was fired after only three years coaching at CU, maybe for pissing people off, or maybe for paying players(citation needed).
But not before being the first CU coach to win 9 games in the regular season, and leading the Buffaloes to the 1961 Championship of the conference recently re-dubbed the Big 8. (Instead of its actual name, the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association).
In the Sixties, when the Big 8 wasn't winning National Championships, they went to the Orange Bowl. Remember the Orange Bowl in the 1956 season? Yeah. It's basically that all over again, right down to the teams attending the same stuffy Country Club in Miami.
Instead of being led by bruiser John Wooten, however, the Buffs were led by bruiser Joe Romig (LB/G), Colorado's second Rhodes scholar/two-time All American. Captain of the 1961 football team, Romig earned enough points in the final Heisman voting to place 6th.
Nevertheless, the Buffs lost the Orange Bowl to LSU 7-25. Grandelius' firing a few weeks later over "modest charges" was accompanied by a two year bowl and television ban and a handful of revoked scholarships.
Enter the rebuilder, Eddie Crowder. It took the Buffs 7 years to fully recover. For the first three years they won only 2 games each season, but apparently diplomacy can take you a long way because Colorado admin stuck with the Oklahoman. The Buffs first return to postseason play was the 1967 Bluebonnet Bowl, in Houston, against Miami. The 8-2 Buffaloes won 31-21.
Crowder's first banner year with the Buffs came two years later in 1969. In just the third game of the season against Indiana, the 1-1 Buffs had lost their backfield to injury. So Crowder told the All Big-8 quarterback Bobby Anderson to take a few more steps back, and line up at tailback. The Hoosiers didn't know what to do, and fell 30-7. The other teams CU faced that year didn't know what to do either, having an All-American quarterback running downhill at them. Bear Bryant's Alabama team didn't know what to do either, losing the Liberty Bowl to the Buffaloes 47-33.
The Buffs in the Seventies
The second banner year for Colorado under Crowder (the man best suited to wear the 'C' logo baseball hats) was two years later again, 1971. The Buffs opened the season by avenging their old bowl loss to LSU, 31-21, and promptly plowed through the regular season, winning all games but two: Oklahoma and Nebraska. The rankings at the end of the regular season read as follows:
1. Nebraska 12-0
2. Oklahoma 10-1
3. Colorado 9-2
Nebraska went on to win the National Championship and the Orange bowl against 'Bama, Oklahoma won the Sugar bowl against Auburn, and Colorado won the Bluebonnet bowl against Houston, 29-17. So don't let SEC fans think they have a monopoly on having their conference steal all the top slots in the rankings.
'Easy Ed' coached CU for two more years, compiling 67 wins and a 3-2 bowl record. After the 1973 season, Crowder became Colorado's Athletic Director for the next 13 years.
Crowder's successor, Bill Mallory, coach at CU for 5 years before continuing on to become a legendary coach for Indiana. In those five seasons his teams variously won 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 games and played in two more bowl games, all the while playing second fiddle to Barry Switzer's National Championship teams at Oklahoma.
The 1975 and 1976 seasons were his best (9-3 & 8-4), when he coached CU All-Americans the likes of Dave Logan, Don Hasselbeck, and the brothers Brock. In spite of actually beating Oklahoma in 1976 42-31 to claim a Co-Championship in the Big 8, the Buffs still fell in their trip to the Orange bowl against Ohio State, 10-27. It was then that Mallory learned everything he would need to know about losing to Ohio State. It's said that he put it to good use when he went on to coach at Indiana.
Every now and then, a story needs a villain. A real bad guy. Someone that even Lou Holtz doesn't think is a nice guy. And Holtz coached at Arkansas...and Notre Dame. He should know.
I am talking of course, about this guy...
Yep. Chuck Fairbanks. You see him as he arrived in Boulder in his first year, not far removed from his National Championship teams at Oklahoma (but removed enough to not be touched by the heavy sanctions that soon befell the Sooners). He comes to Boulder after nearly taking the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl several years running, but on his way out of town managing to faceplant in the first round of the playoffs to the Houston Oilers.
And breaking a contract along the way, for good measure.
In three yeas at Colorado, Chuck Fairbanks won 7 games total. That's 3-8, 1-10, and 3-8. A program that had been posting yearly All-Americans and had played in bowl games for 6 of the prior 10 years lost it all. And I'm blaming it all on the first true villain of Colorado Football.
Part four will pull the Buffs up out of the dust...