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  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer



Now in his seventh season leading the Colorado men’s basketball program, Tad Boyle had the pleasure of meeting Rashaan Salaam several times over the years.

JR Payne is only in her first season as the head coach of the CU women’s basketball program and never enjoyed a similar meeting, yet that hasn’t stopped her from invoking the legendary running back’s accomplishments on the recruiting trail.

These are just a few examples of the wide-ranging, and long-lasting, influence Salaam made within the CU athletics department. As Salaam was laid to rest on Friday following his death in an apparent suicide earlier this week, the leaders of CU’s basketball programs offered their condolences and reflections on losing one of the Buffaloes’ all-time greats.

“I met him a couple times at some football games and some university functions. Obviously deeply saddened and shocked,” Boyle said. “I loved watching him play. Like most Buffs fans, they remember him on the field. What I remember about Rashaan when I met him was he was very respectful, very professional. I didn’t know him well, but what a tragedy.”

A Colorado native, Boyle began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant at Oregon in the fall of 1994 — the same autumn in which Salaam put together his season for the ages by surpassing the 2,000-yard mark and winning the program’s first and only Heisman Trophy.

Prior to his move to Oregon, Boyle was the head coach at Longmont High School, so he had the same interest as any fan when Salaam first drew recognition with his 844-yard, eight-touchdown season as a sophomore in 1993. For Boyle, the biggest takeaway from this week’s stunning tragedy is the continued need to reach out and let those who are struggling in life know there are options and outlets available to them.

“You just hope people that are struggling with whatever they are struggling with understand that there’s help out there,” Boyle said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that disappoints everybody because he was very well-loved and respected. Forty-two years old, that’s too early. I think everybody has dealt with it at some point in their life, maybe not directly but knows somebody, but you just encourage anybody who is struggling with those things to reach out for help.”

Payne, of course, is a relative newbie to the CU athletics department and even Colorado in general, having just been hired last spring. Yet even in her short time on campus, Payne has made a point of citing Salaam’s remarkable achievements in Boulder while wooing potential recruits.

“Even months ago, when we first got here, you could feel this place’s love for him, and the pride he brought to our department and the pride that people continue to feel every time you walk by that Heisman Trophy,” Payne said. “Even for us, who had never met him, we would tell recruits about him and his legacy here, and where the football team was and where it’s going.

“It’s devastating for all of us, even those of us who didn’t know him.”

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