Time to turn the page on 2018.
December will be a busy, direction-changing month for the Colorado football team. And with regime change on the way, for those Buffaloes set to return in 2019 it’s perhaps best to start trying to block out the past two months as quickly and pervasively as possible.
Late Saturday night, while driving back from the Colorado basketball game at Air Force, I took advantage of the rare opportunity to listen to the Buffs football radio call of Mark Johnson and former coach Gary Barnett. Once the misery of a seven-game collapse became official with a 33-21 loss at Cal, a message from Barnett afterward struck a chord.
The former CU leader was talking to quarterback Steven Montez, a key figure in any bounce-back attempt by the Buffs in 2019, when he espoused the idea that the story of the 2019 team had just begun. The final cringe-worthy chapter of the 2018 team had already been written, and when the Buffs woke up on Sunday morning it would be with an eye toward writing a new narrative over the next 12 months.
Coach-speak? No doubt. But the point seemed fitting and appropriate for this particular batch of Buffs. While they invest their immediate future in having faith that athletic director Rick George can find the right man to turn a talented but underperforming roster into winners, those already eager to make a stronger statement in 2019 should let the dust settle from the monumental collapse.
Focus on finals for the next few weeks. Indulge in a hike or two. Do whatever you can to forget exactly how the past seven weeks unfolded.
Whether the Buffs had clawed their way into the dregs of the bowl season or not, the immediate future of a program that has an opportunity to rebound quickly will be as much a mental as physical task for whoever takes over.
For this Buffs team, the reset button couldn’t have arrived soon enough.
In August it was noted in this space it could be a memorable fall for Colorado’s volleyball and soccer programs. It was, though neither season unfolded quite as expected.
In mid-October, the soccer team appeared to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament, while the volleyball team struggled to find its footing. On Oct. 18 the soccer squad topped Cal 3-0 on the road, improving to 13-0-3 while setting a school record with the 46th goal of the year with four games still to play. The Buffs lost all four of those games, and in the end the reality that CU no doubt was one of the top 64 teams in the nation was overshadowed by too few victories that would impact the Buffs’ RPI.
The volleyball team, meanwhile, staggered out of the gate after the unexpected preseason departure of outside hitter Frankie Shebby and an injury to standout middle blocker Naghede Abu that kept the senior sidelined through the first eight games. But like last year’s squad, coach Jesse Mahoney’s bunch finished strong down the stretch, going 4-2 in the final six road games to secure a second consecutive tourney berth and the program’s fourth in the past six seasons.
I understand there forever will be a pecking order in the popularity of collegiate sports, and that it starts with football and trickles down from there. But if ever there was a Colorado living legend that deserves more praise, it’s track and cross country coach Mark Wetmore.
With the individual national championship won by Dani Jones last week and the team title secured by the CU women’s team, Wetmore joined exclusive company. No coach in NCAA history has led, at one time or another, a men’s and women’s individual champion as well as men’s and women’s team titlists. Wetmore has now mentored at least two of each.