And so, dear readers, the history of Ralphie Report takes us all the way to the present. When we last left you, Colorado Buffaloes football just reached a new watermark in the 2010’s. Everything was back on track, and with our Coach of the Year Mike MacIntyre, who could stop CU from rising again?
Well, it turns out, as it so often happens with the Buffs, they stopped themselves.
Directly after a magical year in football, the administration and coaching staff found out about the Joe Tumpkin situation and reacted poorly. This led to some punishments doled out to everyone from Mike MacIntyre to chancellor Phil DiStefano and cast a pall over the program. Spring recruiting was slow to say the last. There were some lingering feelings of resentment, and after losing Jim Leavitt to Oregon in January, there were now three new staff positions to fill on defense.
The Buffs stumbled their way through spring ball after salvaging the 2018 recruiting class, and for the first two weeks, everything seemed as usual. After holding CSU to 3 points, and Texas State to the same amount, it looked like another bowl appearance was all but certain. A concerning 41-21 win against UNC (not the Chapel Hill one, the Greeley one) raised some doubts, but the Buffs were still sitting at 3-0 heading into conference play.
This is where it fell apart.
CU would win two more games during conference play (Cal and Oregon State), and they watched a number of games slip way in the 4th quarter. All of the close calls in 2016, where the mental toughness and leadership led the Buffs to grind out a win? Those all became L’s in 2017 when the leadership changed. Your Colorado Buffaloes had late leads at UCLA, at Arizona State, and Phillip Lindsay nearly outdueled Khalil Tate before those games went the other way. The Buffs put it all together for one splendid afternoon against Cal, but the damage was already done. The team was too inconsistent, too soft on defense, and too young at key positions to hold up for 12 games. After a sorry showing against Utah to end the year, Mike MacIntyre went from a universally celebrated savior of CU football to a coach that is taking leaps towards a hot seat he just left.
However, the offseason has been mostly good news. MacIntyre made three strong hires, replacing Brian Lindgren with Kurt Roper at QB coach and adding some new recruiting chops with Kwahn Drake at DL coach and familiar face Ashley Ambrose at the CB spot. The 2018 recruiting class finished strong and with a heavy JuCo lean, and now the football team is ready to begin anew.
Tad Boyle’s eighth year at the helm of Colorado Basketball represented a rebirth of the program. With five players leaving from the previous year’s team, all on a fourth year or higher, a new era dawned. George King was set to be the obvious focal point of the team, but that’s before McKinley Wright stole everyone’s hearts. After a few strong early season performances at home, it was clear that Wright had the goods to lead the team. The Buffs took off for the Paradise Jam Tournament in beautiful... Lynchburg, Virginia. Wake Forest was upset in that tournament and CU did not get to face off against the only other P5 team there. Against lowly competition, the Buffs easily cruised through Drake and Mercer to win the tournament. Then McKinley Wright saved the team and won the tournament with a buzzer-beater three-pointer to finish a furious comeback.
From there, the 2017-18 season is an easy story to tell. This is a young team full of potential that won at home, even against the big teams, and lost almost every contest on the road. The wins against ASU (then #4 in the country) and Arizona (#14) were things of beauty, and the season sweep of UCLA was a great sign of things to come. These high marks were met by extreme lows. The loss at Colorado State to a team that was nearing complete collapse, then they lost in Sioux Falls to an Iowa team that got worse every week when Big Ten play started. CU had chances at making the NIT, but a loss to WSU in Pullman set aflame their resume, plus the blowouts against the Oregon schools was not confidence inducing.
But all of this was to be expected. This was an extremely young team, made even younger by long-term injuries to Tory Miller-Stewart and Deleon Brown. Inconsistency was recurrent throughout the year, and the pure talent and will to win games against some top teams made Buff fans hopeful for the future. The season ended as it usually does, with a loss to Arizona in Las Vegas after a fun Round 1 win.
The 2017 Buffs sent mixed messages throughout the year. Both the football and basketball teams were inconsistent, young, and finished with middling records. While the basketball team under Boyle almost certainly has a bright future, the football team’s outlook is a little more cloudy.