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Rooney: Indifference, apathy greeting a CU football program in need of change

Colorado fans cheer on the Buffs on Saturday. Colorado dropped its sixth game in a row on Saturday.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado fans cheer on the Buffs on Saturday. Colorado dropped its sixth game in a row on Saturday.

It was the Nobel Prize-winning writer Elie Wiesel who coined the phrase, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

There is plenty of indifference hovering around the Colorado football team, even among those who love the program the most. And that’s why the time for change has come.

From head coach Mike MacIntyre cracking jokes to open his postgame press conference following his team’s sixth consecutive loss to the apathy that took the form of tens of thousands of empty seats Saturday for the 500th game in the history of Folsom Field, the Buffaloes program officially reached rock bottom of the MacIntyre era after a listless 30-7 defeat Saturday in the home finale against Utah.

A week that began with Denver Channel 7 reporting that MacIntyre’s ouster at the end of the season already is a done deal ended with yet another defeat, the sixth in a row after a 5-0 start and the ninth in a row over the past two seasons with bowl eligibility on the line.

Athletic director Rick George has denied the rumors of MacIntyre’s imminent demise, but if he was holding out to find a reason to reconsider, he didn’t see one Saturday.

Indeed, if MacIntyre’s tenure is nearing an end, there will be plenty of shortcomings to point fingers at, from questionable game-day management to his stubbornness in relying on underperforming veterans even while talented youngsters are nipping at their heels. Above it all, however, is that since the moribund program MacIntyre took over finally turned a corner in 2016, the Buffs simply have failed to improve from the beginning of the season until the end. In the past three years, they’ve gotten worse — none so dramatically as during this season.

In 2016, when the Buffs won the Pac-12 South and MacIntyre was rewarded with numerous coach of the year honors and a contract extension that still will pay him nearly $10 million if he is let go in the near future, CU ended the so-called “Rise” with back-to-back blowout losses in the Pac-12 title game and the Alamo Bowl.

Last year the Buffs were expected to take a slight step backward, yet an 0-3 finish after a 5-4 start made it a much more precipitous drop than warranted. This year the Buffs have been the exact opposite of a team striving to improve week-to-week. Heck, remember that stirring Week 2 win at Nebraska against a Cornhuskers team enduring a historically bad start? In the third week of November, when a Utah squad playing without its starting quarterback and starting running back managed to dominate the second half at Folsom, Nebraska knocked off Michigan State. UCLA, which looked awful when it lost at Folsom in the Pac-12 opener, defeated USC to get out of the Pac-12 South cellar it shared with CU.

Nebraska and UCLA got better between September and November. The Buffs got worse, and right now they wouldn’t win a rematch with either team.

If and when George makes his final decision, the scene at Folsom during the final three home games should be part of the equation. On Oct. 27, lowly Oregon State celebrated a victorious four-touchdown rally. On Nov. 10, droves of fans flocked to the exits as Washington State gradually pulled away in the second half.

On Saturday, those same fans cut a step out of that process by not showing up at all, with only 16,627 tickets scanned. That’s not at all a knock at those who had better things to do. With Thanksgiving break beginning for the students, a home-cooked meal no doubt was more palatable than another miserable football game. And even the most devoted of season ticket holders had to think twice about sitting in the cold and snow for more than three hours just to witness another train wreck.

Between the no-shows and early exits, the empty seats will be impossible to ignore when measuring the bottom line of the football program. On the field, the Buffs are dissolving. Off the field, the interest rekindled so fervently just two years ago already is eroding.

The snow that painted a white canvas across the darkened Folsom turf hours after the Buffaloes limped home offered a fitting metaphor for the program. It’s time to wipe the slate clean.

Pat Rooney: or

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