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Colorado Buffaloes

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Conference  Pac-12 Conference
Athletic director  Rick George
Varsity teams  17
NCAA  Division I/FBS
Location  Boulder, Colorado

University  University of Colorado Boulder

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The University of Colorado Boulder sponsors 17 varsity sports teams, with the addition of women's lacrosse, which began play in the spring of 2014. Both men's and women's team are called the Buffaloes (Buffs for short) or Golden Buffaloes (acceptable, but rare). "Lady Buffs" referred to the women's teams beginning in the 1970s, but was officially dropped in 1993. The nickname was selected by the campus newspaper in a contest with a $5 prize in 1934 won by Andrew Dickson of Boulder. The university participates as a member of the Pac-12 Conference at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level. Rick George was announced as the sixth athletic director in program history on July 17, 2013, following the resignation of Mike Bohn, and after an interim appointment by former Women's Basketball Head Coach and current senior associate athletic director and senior women's administrator Ceal Barry. Colorado has won 28 national championships in its history, with 20 in skiing, including 2015. It was ranked #14 of "America's Best Sports College" in a 2002 analysis performed by Sports Illustrated. The University has no men's baseball, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, or volleyball programs.


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Competitive football began on the Boulder campus in 1890. Early games, which bore more resemblance to rugby than modern football, were played against the School of Mines and Utah. The football stadium, originally named "Colorado Stadium," was opened in 1924 and was officially named Folsom Field in November 1944 to honor Coach Fred Folsom, one of the most respected college football coaches of his day.

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In 1934, the university's intercollegiate teams were officially nicknamed the "Buffaloes." Previous nicknames used by the press included the "Silver Helmets" and "Frontiersmen." The final game of 1934, against the University of Denver, saw also the first running of a bison in a Colorado football game. A bison calf was rented from a local ranch and ran along the sidelines.

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The year 1947 marked key point in race relations on campus. The Buffaloes joined the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, commonly known as the Big Six, then to be known as the Big Seven, and later the Big Eight (whose former members would merge with four schools from the former Southwest Conference to create the new Big 12 Conference in 1996). However, Missouri and Oklahoma had rules which would have allowed them to challenge teams with "colored" players. A student outcry, led by campus paper Silver and Gold, led to a movement against these Jim Crow restrictions which expanded to all the campuses of the Big 7 and eventually lead to their repeal.

On June 10, 2010, the Buffaloes announced that they would join the Pac-12 Conference in all sports beginning on July 1, 2011.

NCAA team championships

Colorado has 26 won team national championships,

  • Men's (16)
  • Cross Country (5): 2001, 2004, 2006, 2013, 2014
  • Skiing (11): 1959, 1960, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982
  • Women's (2)
  • Cross Country (2): 2000, 2004
  • Co-ed (8)
  • Skiing (8): 1991, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2006, 2011, 2013, 2015
  • see also:
  • Pac-12 Conference NCAA championships
  • List of NCAA schools with the most NCAA Division I championships
  • Other national team championships

  • Men's (1)
  • Football (1): 1990
  • Women's (1)
  • Skiing (1): 1982 (AIAW)
  • Note: Skiing was a men's NCAA sport from 1954–82 and became co-ed in 1983. The AIAW sponsored women's skiing and a national championship from 1977-82 before being absorbed by the NCAA at which time skiing became co-ed.
  • Varsity sports

    The University of Colorado was a member of the Colorado Football Association in 1893, and became a charter member of the Colorado Faculty Athletic Conference in 1909, which changed its name a year later to Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference. Colorado left the RMFAC to become a charter member of the Mountain States Conference (a.k.a. Skyline Conference) in 1938. CU joined the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1947, then commonly known as the Big Six, changing the common name to the Big Seven. In 1958, the conference added OSU to become the Big Eight Conference. It remained the Big 8 until 1996, when it combined with four member schools of the defunct Southwest Conference (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor) to create the Big 12 Conference. On July 1, 2011, the school joined the Pac-12 Conference along with Utah. A total of 12 of CU's 17 varsity sports compete in the Pac-12, except the ski teams, indoor track & field teams and the lacrosse team. The ski teams participate in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA), of which it has been a member since 1947, along with fellow Pac-12 newcomer Utah. The indoor track & field teams participate in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) as the Pac-12 doesn't sponsor indoor track. Women's lacrosse was added in the spring of 2014; that team also competes in the MPSF, although the Pac-12 Conference will add women's lacrosse as a sport for the 2018 season.

    The Colorado Buffaloes are represented in the following NCAA Division I varsity sports:


    The Colorado football program is 16th on the all-time NCAA Division 1 win list and 22nd in all-time winning percentage (.614). Since Folsom Field was built in 1924, the Buffaloes have been 280-132-10 at home. The Nebraska game in 2006 was the school's 1100th football game.

    Beginning competitive play in 1890, Colorado has enjoyed much success through its history. The team has won numerous bowl games (27 appearances in bowl games (12-15), 23rd (tied) all-time prior to 2004 season), 8 Colorado Football Association Championships (1894–97, 1901–08), 1 Colorado Faculty Athletic Conference (1909), 7 RFMAC Championships (1911, 1913, 1923, 1924, 1934, 1935, 1937), 4 Mountain States Conference Championships (1939, 1942–44), 5 Big Eight (Six) conference championships (1961, 1976, 1989, 1990, 1991), 1 Big 12 conference championship (2001), 4 Big 12 North Championships (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005), and an Associated Press National Championship in 1990.

    Bill McCartney is the most famous head coach, leading Colorado to its only National Championship Title in 1990.
    The current head coach is Mike MacIntyre.

    Men's basketball

    They play at the Coors Events Center on campus and are 401-166 (.707) at home, through the 2015-16 season, including 88-15 (.854) in six years under coach Tad Boyle.

    ¹ Invitations

    Women's basketball

    Women's Basketball started at Colorado in 1975. The team has had seven coaches and the current coach is JR Payne.


    The CU ski team competes as a member of the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, as CU is one of two members of the Pac-12 along with Utah that competes in skiing. Colorado is one of the dominant programs in the NCAA in skiing, winning 20 total national championships, including 19 NCAA Championships, most recently in 2015. The Buffs have won three NCAA Championships since 2011, and have finished in the top four at NCAAs for 11 straight years with four championships (2006, 2011, 2013, 2015) in that span. The 11 straight top four finishes is the longest streak in the country. The Buffaloes have won 27 RMISA championships, most recently in 2015. The Buffaloes have had 51 individuals connected to the school participate in the Olympics 83 times. Colorado has had 90 individual NCAA Champions, including Mads Stroem winning both Nordic races in 2016.

    Cross country

    The high altitude at Boulder, Colorado adds aerobic stress to distance runners and is known to produce a competitive edge when altitude-trained athletes compete at sea level. The 1998 cross country team was the subject of a book, Running with the Buffaloes, which documents the team's training regimen under long-time coach Mark Wetmore. Colorado has won five NCAA Men's Cross Country Championships (2001, 2004, 2006, 2013, and 2014) and two NCAA Women's Cross Country Championships (2000 and 2004). The men's team also has won four individual titles (Mark Scrutton, Adam Goucher, Jorge Torres, and Dathan Ritzenhein), while the women's side has won one (Kara Goucher).

    The men won the first twelve Big 12 Conference titles in the conference's history and the women won eleven of the first 12 (all but 1998-99), with the two teams combining for 23 of the 32 championships awarded before the Buffs left the Big 12 in 2011 to join the Pac-12. Since joining the Pac-12 Conference, the Colorado men have taken home six consecutive conference titles (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and the Colorado women have claimed three conference titles (2011, 2015, 2016).


    The Colorado Buffaloes baseball team was discontinued after the 1980 season. Baseball, along with men's and women's gymnastics, men's and women's swimming and women's diving comprised seven sports that were discontinued on June 11, 1980 due to budget cuts.

    Men's golf

    The men's golf team won three Big Eight Conference championships: 1954, 1955 (co-champions), 1968. Hale Irwin won the 1967 NCAA Championship.

    Club sports

    Colorado has a very active and developed club sports system with over 30 sports.

    Men's Rugby

    Colorado's rugby program was founded in the 1960s. The Buffaloes play in the Western Division of Division 1-A, where they play against local rivals such as Colorado State and less localized teams like the New Mexico and Utah State. The Buffaloes are led by head coach Murray Wallace, assisted by John Barkmeier Chris Dyas, Justin Holshuh, Conor Sears, and Steve Brown. Kevin Whitcher coaches the Buffaloes sevens team. The Buffaloes have consistently been ranked among the top college rugby teams in the country.

    Colorado's best run was 1984-1985, when it reached the 1984 national finals before losing 12-4 to powerhouse Cal, and finished third in the 1985 national playoffs losing again to eventual champion Cal, this time in the semifinals. More recently, in 2008 the Buffaloes went 15-3 and reached the semifinals of the national championships. Colorado won the 2011 Pac-12 rugby sevens tournament, defeating Utah 14-12 in the final, to qualify for the 2011 USA Rugby collegiate rugby sevens national championship. Colorado finished the 2011-12 season ranked 14th in the nation. In the 2012-13 season, Colorado defeated Wisconsin 54-24 to advance to the national D1-A quarterfinals, before losing to St. Mary's. The Buffs also won the plate final in the 2015-2016 season at the Las Vegas Invitational 7's tournament in the college bracket. Most recently the Buffs lost in the plate final to Clemson in the inaugural international Red Bull University Sevens tournament.

    The Buffs are currently ranked 25th in the nation with a competitive season ahead, and plans to travel further West in the spring.

    University of Nebraska

    A traditional college football rivalry with the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers restarted in the 1980s (many historical documents show the importance of this game going back to 1898) when Bill McCartney declared the conference opponent to be their rival. His theory was since Nebraska was such a powerhouse team, if Colorado was able to beat them then they would be a good team. Colorado began to repeatedly threaten Nebraska in the late 1980s, following their win over the Huskers in 1986, and then surpassed the Huskers for the Big 8 crown in 1989.

    In 1990, Colorado beat Nebraska 27–12 in Lincoln for the first time in 23 years, en route to their first national championship. From 1996–2000, the series was extremely competitive, with the margin of victory by NU in those five years being only 15 points combined. The rivalry was further buoyed by the introduction of the Big 12 Conference in 1996, which moved Oklahoma & Oklahoma State to the southern division with the four new schools from Texas, formerly in the Southwest Conference. Nebraska had traditionally finished the Big 8 conference schedule with a rivalry game with Oklahoma, but the two were now in different divisions, which meant they met every other year in the regular season. Colorado replaced Oklahoma as Nebraska's final conference game of the regular season, which further intensified the CU-NU rivalry. In 2001 Nebraska came to Folsom Field undefeated and left at the short end of a nationally televised 62–36 loss. Other sports have then taken on Nebraska also as their rival. Both teams departed the Big 12 in 2011, as NU headed east to join the Big Ten and the future of the rivalry is in doubt.

    Nebraska currently leads the football series against Colorado 49–18–2.

    Colorado State University

    Colorado's in-state rival is Colorado State University of the Mountain West Conference, located north of Boulder in Fort Collins. The two schools are separated by 45 miles (72 km) and both consider it important and noteworthy to beat the other for bragging rights for the next year. The two football teams annually compete in the Rocky Mountain Showdown for the Centennial Cup, played in Denver and Boulder. The trophy takes its name from the state of Colorado's nickname of "The Centennial State."

    Colorado currently leads the football series against Colorado State 62-21-2.

    University of Utah

    The intercollegiate rivalry with the University of Utah ran from 1903–62, in which Utah and Colorado played each other nearly every year; through 1962 they had met 57 times. At the time, it was the second-most played rivalry for both teams (Utah had played Utah State 62 times; Colorado had played Colorado State 61 times). The rivalry was discontinued from 1963–2010 and then resumed in 2011 when both teams joined the Pac-12, renewing the rivalry on an annual basis. The Colorado–Utah rivalry remains the fifth-most played rivalry in Utah's history, and the eighth-most played rivalry in Colorado's history.


    The University has had several fight songs that have lost and gained popularity over the years. The oldest, "Glory Colorado", is sung to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and has been around nearly as long as the school. Glory Colorado is considered to represent all campuses of the University. "Go Colorado" was originally sung exclusively by the Glee Club at football games, though it is now played and known almost exclusively by members of the Golden Buffalo Marching Band. The most popular of the three fight songs and the most widely recognized is "Fight CU." Originally sung by the football team, the song has gained enough popularity that few people outside the band know that it is not the only fight song of the university. The original version included the line "fight, fight for every yard" but the line was changed to "fight, fight for victory" to allow the song to be used for all sports, not just football.


    The two mascots present at all football games are Ralphie, a live buffalo, and Chip, a costumed mascot who was selected to the 2003 Capital One All-America Mascot Team and won the 2009 and 2010 UCA Mascot National Championships. Ralphie is actually Ralphie V and leads the football team onto the field at the beginning of the first and second halves. A buffalo leading the team onto the field dates as far back as 1934 and the Ralphie tradition began in 1966. In 1934 after the selection of Buffaloes as a nickname when a group of students paid $25 to rent a buffalo calf and cowboy as his keeper for the last game of the season. The calf was the son of Killer, a famed bison at Trails End Ranch in Fort Collins, Colorado. It took the cowboy and four students to keep the calf under control on the sidelines during the game, a 7-0 win at the University of Denver on Thanksgiving Day.


    The official school colors are silver and gold, adopted in 1888 as a symbol of the mineral wealth of the state. In 1959, the athletic teams started using black and yellow, because silver and gold ended up looking like dirty white and dirty yellow. The colors have stuck and many are unaware that the official school colors are silver and gold.

    On May 28, 1981, black was curiously replaced by "Sky Blue" by a mandate of the CU Board of Regents, to represent the color of the Colorado sky. However, this color was different than the blue uniforms of the U.S. Air Force Academy. After three years, the blue was changed in 1984 to a darker shade, though still unpopular. In black and white photographs the players' numbers are nearly invisible. During a difficult 1-10 season in 1984, football head coach Bill McCartney employed black "throwback" jerseys for an emotional lift for the games against Oklahoma and Nebraska, without success.

    In April 1985, the CU athletic teams were given the option of blue or black. The football team chose to wear black, and at Folsom Field the background for the signature "Colorado" arc (at the base of the seats behind the south end zone), blue for four years, was repainted black as well. On the football uniforms, the blue was reduced to a stripe on the sleeve for three seasons (1985–87) before being dropped completely in 1988. In 2007, CU debuted new football jerseys that reintegrated silver as a uniform color.

    University of Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame

    Criteria for automatic selection: Three-time all-conference selection, two-time All-American, trophy winner and/or previously retired jersey. Beginning in 2015, the school went from a two-year to one year induction cycle to catch up on its history. Inductees are nominated by their peers in the Alumni C Club or by members of the selection committee. The 2015 class will be inducted on Thursday, Nov. 5, ahead of the CU-Stanford football game on Saturday, Nov. 7.

    Notable Buffaloes

  • Byron White was a Supreme Court Justice after his football career.
  • Hale Irwin, who was a two-time All-Big Eight defensive back and an NCAA individual golf champion at Colorado, went on to spectacular success in professional golf. He won three U.S. Opens and 17 other PGA Tour events, and is the all-time leader in both wins and career prize money on the 50-and-over Champions Tour.
  • Adam Goucher is currently a professional runner who competed for the United States in the 2000 Olympic Games.
  • Chauncey Billups played for the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors in a 17-year NBA career (1997–2014). He was named the NBA Finals MVP in 2004.
  • Jeremy Bloom played football and skied internationally finishing 6th in the 2006 Winter Olympics in the moguls and briefly played in the NFL. He also sued the NCAA and lost, having to give up football for Colorado in 2004 because he received endorsement money for skiing.
  • Bill Toomey won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1968 Summer Olympics
  • Jimmie Heuga, 1964 Olympic bronze medalist, and Spider Sabich were both CU alpine ski racers from northern California.
    (Billy Kidd, 1964 Olympic silver medalist, is a CU alumnus, but did not race for the Buffs.
    He skied for the University of Vermont before joining the U.S. Ski Team, and later finished his bachelor's degree in Boulder.)
  • References

    Colorado Buffaloes Wikipedia