Late in the autumn of 2010 with another losing season torturing their pride, a group of nearly 100 former Colorado football players gathered in a downtown Denver sports bar to talk about the future of their program with former athletic director Mike Bohn.

They complained about the state of a program that had won a national title in 1990 and ranked as one of the nation's powerhouses throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s.

But there was more than losing on their minds.

They felt shut out and discarded by what they had helped build in Boulder. And they were hurt -- offended is more accurate for some -- that traditions they took part in or helped establish had been abandoned or painted over in the previous five years.

The Buffs wanted a Buff back in the Dal Ward Center office overlooking the north end zone at Folsom Field because they knew a Buff would restore those things they held dear and a Buff would know how to win in Boulder.

Only half of that proved to be true.

If former CU tight end Jon Embree succeeded at anything in his brief tenure as head coach of the Buffs, it was in restoring traditions that had been lost in the years since Gary Barnett was fired in December 2005 and teaching those traditions to players from this era.

"When I first got here, I didn't really pay attention to that," said senior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who was recruited by former coach Dan Hawkins. "I didn't really know who Alfred Williams, Kanavis McGhee or any of these guys were. I didn't know about the traditions of this place.


"Then when Embree came here, I feel like that's when he really brought out the traditions of this place and a lot of us started realizing it."

One of Embree's priorities was to bring back the wall of wins outside the CU locker room and adding to it. The wall of wins is where the scores of significant wins from the past have been painted on cinder blocks in the hallway. The blocks are gold with scores painted in black except for one. The first brick the program earned under Embree was a victory over Colorado State in September 2011. It is in the middle of the wall painted black with gold writing. It's also a win that seems relatively insignificant now.

But now that Embree has been replaced by coach Mike MacIntyre, the program is once again at a crossroads with how some of its traditions will be cared for and passed down to future Buffs.

Mike MacIntyre has respect for Colorado football traditions -- old and new. But he readily admits he doesn't understand the significance of some, though he is trying to educate himself.

"I don't know what earns a spot and I need to find out," MacIntyre said when asked about the wall of wins. "I guess I need to ask David Plati and some other people around here that have been around for a while what earns a spot on that wall because that's a special wall. To me, all victories are special so in my mind all victories are on that wall. I have to figure out what the criteria is to go on the wall because I think the wall is a special wall and of course I'd like to have some up there and I know we will but I don't know the exact criteria for that."

While he's getting a feel for those things held dear by former CU players, MacIntyre also is trying to establish traditions for the players he is coaching and will coach in years to come.

"I feel like coach Mac is a great blend of both," Uzo-Diribe said. "He's about today and the players that he has here but also still having traditions of the past. All the trophies are still up here. There was a practice in the fall where he had a bunch of former Buffs come out to practice an talk to us. I feel like coach Mac is a great blend of both."

MacIntyre brought with him a tradition he instituted at San Jose State where one player carries a sledgehammer and another player carries a toolbox when the team takes the field before each game.

The sledgehammer is carried by the player who had the biggest hit in the previous game and is voted on by the team. The toolbox contains commitment cards from each player.

There is nothing special about the look of the cards. In fact, they're just ordinary sheets of paper on which players write something they are committed to doing for their teammates in that game.

It can be anything and most are often as simple as holding on to the ball, not committing a penalty or leaving it all on the field. The cards are never revisited after the game and players don't put their names on them. But each man knows whether he has lived up to his commitment after each game.

"I think they've immediately embraced it," MacIntyre said. "They're excited about us doing it. They want to do all the things we do with it. They seem like they're having fun with all of it and they like doing the commitment situation so to me I think they've embraced it."

Senior linebacker Derrick Webb is another player who has now played for three coaches at CU and he's seen three different ways of handling the program's rituals and rights of passage.

"It's always important to remember the great traditions that we have here in Colorado, but I'm not afraid to go in a new direction, and kind of take this program to a new place," Webb said. "We've obviously moved conferences. A lot of those traditions were with Big Eight and Big 12 and all those schools. Now we're in a new environment. We've got new ideas and we're doing new things and we can take this program to a whole new level.

"The overall tradition here is winning. So as long as we can keep that tradition going, that's all I care about."

Contact staff writer Kyle Ringo at or