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CU football: Buffs’ image, depth take another hit with latest player arrests

Colorado athletic director Rick George said he does not believe there is a football program-wide problem despite a recent string of off-the-field incidents. "However, we will not tolerate behavior that does meet our core values," he said.
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Colorado athletic director Rick George said he does not believe there is a football program-wide problem despite a recent string of off-the-field incidents. “However, we will not tolerate behavior that does meet our core values,” he said.

For the past three years, Mike MacIntyre has worked tirelessly to try to get the Colorado football team to the top of the standings.

Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, they are currently atop the wrong list.

On Thursday, two more football players — linebacker NJ Falo and running back Dino Gordon — were arrested, leaving the Buffs to deal with another set of off-the-field issues that have given the program a black eye this offseason.

Earlier this spring, defensive linemen Blake Robbins and Samson Kafovalu were arrested in separate incidents. started the Fulmer Cup a decade ago to track offseason legal issues in college football. It tracks points for each charge, not necessarily each incident. Colorado already was the Fulmer Cup leader — by a long shot — this offseason before the latest round of arrests. The Buffs may have locked up the dubious honor on Thursday.

CU apparently has 68 Fulmer Cup points, while No. 2 Kentucky is sitting at 19. (Perhaps not coincidentally, CU and Kentucky have two of the three longest bowl droughts, along with Kansas, among Power Five conference schools. Kansas is No. 4 in the Fulmer Cup standings).

Other than to say that Falo and Gordon have been suspended indefinitely, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre declined to comment on CU’s off-the-field issues.

Athletic director Rick George said he does not believe there is a program-wide problem.

“I am not concerned, given the quality of our student-athletes, both on the football team and in our athletic department,” George said. “However, we will not tolerate behavior that does meet our core values.

“Our football team and our other student-athletes do a great job in the community and that is who we are. These recent events are an aberration.”

They may be an aberration, but they’ve become a big problem for a football team trying to end a decade of losing.

In addition to the four players arrested, backup quarterback Cade Apsay and backup safety Evan White were dismissed from the team earlier this year for violating team policy. Robbins has been dismissed from the team, too.

Kafovalu, Falo and Gordon are still on the roster, but their standing is now in question. All three are suspended indefinitely.

MacIntyre said Thursday that CU is already working with Kafovalu, who was arrested three weeks ago, on what he needs to do to return to the field this fall.

“Hopefully he’ll do all the things we have set up for him to do and he can be back, but he’s got a lot of things to do,” MacIntyre said.

Falo and Gordon may have a similar set of guidelines to meet before they can play, but it’s too early in their process to know if they’ll return or not.

There’s no guarantee any of the three will ever play for the Buffs again, so at the very least the off-the-field incidents have damaged CU’s depth. And this was not a deep team to begin with.

Apsay started the final two games last season. If Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb decides to play in Boulder and senior Sefo Liufau returns from a foot injury that knocked him out of the 2015 season, Apsay’s loss won’t hurt. But if Webb lands at Cal and Liufau can’t play, the Buffs may feel the pain of not having Apsay around, possibly forcing true freshman Sam Noyer to be the No. 3 quarterback this fall.

White’s departure leaves the Buffs thin on experience at safety. Kafovalu was a starter at defensive tackle this past season and was penciled in to start this year, too. He is a senior who had the best season of his career in 2015. If Kafovalu doesn’t return, the Buffs will rely on very young, inexperienced tackles to fill out the rotation.

Falo had a roller-coaster true freshman season in 2015, but was exceptional this spring and is being counted on as one of the Buffs’ top three outside linebackers, along with Jimmie Gilbert and Derek McCartney.

If Falo doesn’t return, the Buffs may need to lean on senior Deaysean Rippy, who has yet to play a snap on defense during his college career, or true freshmen Sam Bennion and Pookie Maka.

Gordon was at the back end of a talented and deep running back group, so he may not play a lot this season anyway. However, the Buffs love his potential for the future and he could be in the mix as a kick returner.

Regardless of whether any of these players are on the field this fall or not, this has been an offseason of distractions CU doesn’t need or want.

The Buffs can’t afford to lose more depth, but more importantly, they can’t afford any more bad publicity.

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.

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