Bowl or bust.
It is a phrase that has been tossed around by fans and media alike toward the University of Colorado football program this fall and, specifically, head coach Mike MacIntyre.
During Friday's annual media day session at the Dal Ward Center, the leader of the Buffaloes professed the bowl-or-bust mantra is one he has lived by since he took over the CU program before the 2013 season.
Now in his fourth season at the helm, MacIntyre is hoping the Buffs' wealth of experience on both sides of the ball leads to the end of the program's nine-year bowl drought.
"I've heard that since the first year that I got here," MacIntyre said. "When you haven't gone to a bowl in a while, that's always the first thing. We want to win every game we play. We really do. I definitely feel like we have the opportunity to do that. Hopefully at the end of the year all of that will take care of itself."
While some of that might be a bit of an exaggeration on MacIntyre's part — few folks, if any, were pegging the Buffs for a bowl berth in 2013 when he inherited a club that had gone 4-21 over the previous two seasons — the phrase has never been more appropriate or realistic during MacIntyre's tenure.
If the Buffs can avoid any debilitating spates of injury, MacIntyre will have the pieces in place. More than half the roster, 56 players to be precise, are juniors or seniors. Thirty-six of those players have been in MacIntyre's program for at least three years.
The roster boasts a wealth of playing experience, with a total of 1,072 games played marking the resumes of the players in camp. That's the most CU has had since 1,080 in 2005. The Buffs also return a total of 412 games started — the most in the program's history.
Of course, that experience can only take a team so far. The previous mark for the most returning starts was 333 by the 1979 Buffs, who promptly went 3-8. The third-best total of returning starts was 327 was from last year, when a 4-8 final mark was bolstered by a lopsided win against FCS-level Nicholls. However, the experience of 326 returning starts certainly paid off well for the 2001 squad, which went 10-3 and won the Big 12 Conference championship game.
"I think it's all a process, and it builds on top of everything," MacIntyre said. "They've built it in layers. Now they're at the point where they believe they can do it. They see they can do it. It's not only in their words, it's more in their actions more than it ever has been before.
"I think when your words turn into actions, that's when results start happening more often. I see that."