Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of 10 previews of Pac-12 football teams outside the state. Today: Colorado. Thursday: Arizona State.
Colorado program gets makeover after 1-11 season
After a one-victory season, Colorado has a new athletic director and football coach.
Seattle Times college football reporter
About the Buffaloes
Last year: 1-8 (last in Pac-12 South), 1-11 overall.
Coach: Mike MacIntyre (1st year at Colorado).
Leading lights: RB Christian Powell, WR Paul Richardson, CB Greg Henderson.
Key stat: In 2012, Colorado had 175 fewer first downs than Arizona, which led the Pac-12.
The schedule: Opener with Colorado State could set a tone, and in game No. 3, Buffs look to avenge a 69-14 loss to Fresno State in ‘12.
Earlier this week, Rick George, the new Colorado athletic director, was to meet with the higher-ups at the Pac-12 Conference in a getting-to-know-you session.
Commissioner Larry Scott probably didn’t tell George this, but he could have: Get with it. And George probably didn’t respond like this, but he could have: We’re trying.
George takes over a CU program struggling mightily enough that you might wonder whether the Pac-12 knew exactly what it was getting when it expanded in 2010.
A snapshot: George, hired from a job as president of business operations with the Texas Rangers, needs to raise money fast so the Buffaloes can jump into the football-facilities race consuming most other Pac-12 schools. He has set a goal of $50 million by Dec. 1, which seems ridiculously ambitious.
“Will it be tough? Yes,” George said by phone last week. “Can it be done? Yes.”
Potentially complicating the CU picture is a cart-before-the-horse move. George arrives after his predecessor, Mike Bohn, had fired football coach — and alumnus — Jon Embree after two seasons, and replaced him with Mike MacIntyre of San Jose State before Bohn himself was canned in early summer.
That doesn’t have to be an issue, but if the Buffs struggle on the field for an extended period, it could be.
“I’m really glad he’s our head coach,” George said. “He pushes our kids really hard, but at the same time, he puts his arm around them.”
It’s going to be breaking news if Colorado isn’t the worst team in the Pac-12 in 2013, but MacIntyre gets high marks from just about everybody for his feat of turning around San Jose State.
“He’s about as solid a guy as I’ve met,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley told me recently.
MacIntyre said he was “a little anxious” upon Bohn’s firing, but added, “The only thing I can relate it to is, I had three different ADs in three years and I had three different presidents (at San Jose State). Everything changed every year, but we just kept working in the football area.”
Perhaps the newsiest development of CU’s fall camp is that Bellarmine Prep product Sefo Liufau, a freshman, has impressed and looks like the No. 2 quarterback. Depending on how long a leash MacIntyre gives starter Connor Wood, who threw 42 passes last year as a backup for a 1-11 team, the launch to Liufau’s Buffs career could parallel MacIntyre’s.
The defense, which allowed school records of 488.5 yards and 46 points a game in 2012, looks iffy and so does offensive-line depth. The two best weapons on offense are Paul Richardson, a quality receiver returning from a 2012 knee injury, and running back Christian Powell, who rushed for 691 yards as a freshman.
Off the field, at least George has insider knowledge of Colorado, having served as director of football operations a generation ago under Bill McCartney.
He dismisses the notion Boulder is too liberal and Colorado too recreation-minded to care enough about football Saturdays.
“People do like football here,” he insisted. “I just don’t think we’ve given them a reason to like football here.”
He concedes there is fence-mending to be done with alumni upset with either the top level of Colorado administration or with the abrupt treatment Embree was given.
“Sometimes you’ve got to get past those things that irked you, and look at why you’re passionate about the school,” George said.
And then he conceded: “It is going to take some work.” Everywhere you look, the Buffs have plenty ahead.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org