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Colorado Buffaloes: Stories of the Decade

A look back at stories that turned the page for the Colorado Buffaloes into 2020

Rashaan Salaam Getty Images

The wins for the Colorado Buffaloes came in waves over the past decade. From a joining a new conference to having different coaches, the 2010’s will be remember for several reasons. Here are a few as we look back on the biggest stories of the past ten years in Boulder.

2010

Colorado and Utah realign with the Pacific 10 Conference

Colorado v Ohio State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Buffaloes began a new era of athletics when the school realigned with the Pacific 10 conference on June 11, 2010. CU Board of Regents voted unanimously to accept an invitation to join the PAC-10. Utah would later make the move from the Mountain West Conference to form the Pac-12 conference.

Honorable mentions: Tad Boyle takes over in Boulder; Dan Hawkins fired as Colorado Buffaloes head football coach

2011

Jon Embree hired as Colorado’s head football coach

Ohio State Buckeyes Vs. Colorado Buffaloes 9-10-2011

Nothing was roses for Jon Embree at Colorado. As CU’s 24th head football coach, Embree came into a program embattled by past errors and faced stiffer competition in a new conference. He sought to bring the Buffs back to the glory in a time when the school needed it the most. Embree came back to Boulder after serving under Mike Shanahan as the Washington Redskins tight ends coach and was athletic director Mike Bohn’s choice to replace Dan Hawkins, who was fired after going 19-39 in five years in Boulder.

Honorable mentions: Colorado Skiing wins 18th national championship; Buffaloes basketball makes it to NIT Final Four

2012

Colorado wins a Pac-12 Basketball Championship

Getty Images

Tad Boyle’s second season in Boulder was one to remember. Colorado won their first conference title in 43 years and advanced to NCAA tournament for first time in nine years. Andre Roberson earned all-conference defensive honors and led the Pac-12 with an average of 11.1 rebounds per game.

Honorable mentions: Mike MacIntyre hired as Colorado 25th head football coach; Jon Embree fired after 4-21 record in two seasons at CU

2013

Welcome Home: Rick George returns to Boulder as AD

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Rick George was named CU’s athletic director on July 17, 2013. The former COO of the Texas Rangers returned to Boulder after playing a role in the national championship season for football in 1990. Since being named the AD, George has successfully improved Colorado’s athletic programs and facilities. Most notability, overseeing an overhaul of CU’s Dal Ward center, along with the construction of the Champions Center— a $156 million athletic complex expansion project.

Honorable mention: Bill McCartney enshrined in College Football Hall of Fame; Colorado Skiing wins national championship; CU hoops rise to #15 in the AP Poll before Spencer Dinwiddie injures knee

2014

CU Men’s Cross Country repeats as National Champions

Colorado’s cross country team took home a second consecutive national championship with a total of 65 points on Nov. 22, 2014. It was the fifth title for the men and 27th overall for CU athletics. The Buffs became one of three teams ever to win back-to-back NCAA Championships. Ammar Moussa led CU with a top-five finish to earn his first All-American honor, finishing in 30:29.6. He was followed by two other top-10 finishers as Ben Saarel came in seventh (30:30.7) and Blake Theroux came in ninth (30:31.3). Mark Wetmore called this team the best he ever coached.

Honorable mention: Colorado upsets No. 6 Kansas in Boulder, 75-72; CU football goes win-less in conference play for the first time in 100 years

2015

Colorado beats Denver for 20th skiing national championship

Nancie Battaglia/NCAA Photos

Colorado’s ski team took home a 20th national championship on March 23, 2015. It was the eighth championship for CU since the sport was named co-ed in 1983. The Buffaloes’ slalom performance was outstanding. All seven CU skiers collected a total 505 points to defeat in-state rival Denver. Thea Grosvold finished sixth ahead of Jessica Honkonen in seventh and Brooke Wales Granstrom, who finished 15th in the women’s slalom. In the men’s slalom, the Buffaloes were led by Henrik Gunnarsson in 12th ahead of Adam Zika in the 13th position and Kasper Hietanen, who finished 19th overall.

Honorable mention: ”The gospel according to Mac”: ESPN 30-for-30 series features CU’s 1990 national championship; Colorado hires Jim Leavitt as new defensive coordinator

2016 (Tie)

‘The Rise’ puts Colorado football front and center in national conversation

Mike MacIntyre’s fourth year at Colorado was a cornerstone of his tenure with the university. A year called ‘The Rise’ started out about progress with a program that once hit rock bottom. Little did anyone know how good the Buffaloes would be on the way to a berth in the Pac-12 championship game vs. the 4th-ranked Washington Huskies. A loss against No. 4 Michigan fueled an upset victory led by back up quarterback Steven Montez the next week at Autzen Stadium vs. Oregon. A near defeat of USC at the Coliseum was CU’s lone conference loss during the regular season. The Buffs cracked the top ten for the first time since 2002 before back-to-back losses to end the season at 10-4.

Goodbye to a legend: Rashaan Salaam dead at 42

Rashaan Salaam poses in Heisman stance Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Rashaan Salaam accomplished a feat every football player dreams of— winning a Heisman Trophy. The 1994 winner left behind a legacy, along with many records that might go untouched for years, if not decades. Salaam tragically took his life at a park in Boulder on Dec 5, 2016— days before another Heisman would be handed out at a celebration in New York City. Embattled by so-called “dark periods” of his life, Salaam’s final words read, “Some days good - Some days bad - F--- Rashaan Salaam - Don’t be sad!! - No funerals please.” Boulder police later found a second note in the car, behind the driver’s seat: “No funerals, wakes, memorials— let me be in peace!!”

CU alum and ESPN lead analyst Chris Fowler reflected on his memory of Salaam during this year’s Heisman weekend.

Honorable mention: Mike MacIntyre named national Coach of the Year

2017

Colorado assistant coach Joe Tumpkin charged with domestic violence

Oregon v Colorado Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Former University of Colorado assistant coach Joe Tumpkin was formally charged on Jan. 31, 2017 with five felony counts of second-degree assault in relation to allegations that he physically abused his ex-girlfriend. The story first surfaced in 2016 but became a national story as Sports Illustrated reported details of CU mishandling the situation.

Honorable mention: Colorado Women’s DMR relay team win first national title; Phillip Lindsay carries the Buffs

2018

Mel Tucker hired as head coach of Colorado Buffaloes

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado went south to find a replacement for Mike MacIntyre, hiring Georgia Bulldogs assistant Mel Tucker on Dec. 5, 2018. Tucker was noted as one of the most experienced assistants among the college ranks. He won two national championships at Ohio State as Jim Tressel’s defensive backs coach in 2002, and the other at Alabama for Nick Saban in 2015.

Honorable mentions: CU Women’s Cross Country team wins first national championship in 14 years; CU head coach Mike MacIntyre fired with one game remaining in 2018 season

2019

‘Ralphie V’ retires

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A bit of unexpected news came with the announcement that CU’s live mascot ‘Ralphie V’ would be retiring. The 13-year-old American Bison was donated to the university by media mogul Ted Turner in 2006. She lead the Buffs onto the field 76 times, including CU’s trip to San Antonio, Texas for the Alamo Bowl in 2016. Colorado has celebrated a live mascot over the past 53 years. ‘Ralphie V’ was the second-longest serving Ralphie— two games shy of the original Ralphie, who ran at 78 games over 12 seasons.

Honorable mentions: Colorado renews rivalry with Nebraska; CU hoops elevate in national prominence