At the CU Events Center on Thursday evening, Fred Folsom III stood and looked at the photo on display of his grandfather and heard people say, “It’s about time.”
“That’s a thrill,” Folsom said.
On Thursday, 104 years after his coaching tenure at the University of Colorado came to an end, the late Fred Folsom was inducted into the CU Athletics Hall of Fame, along with nine other CU legends.
Along with Folsom, former football coaches Gary Barnett and Brian Cabral were also inducted, as was cross country and track superstar Jenny (Barringer) Simpson, whose story is still being written as she pursues her fourth trip to the Olympics in 2020.
The 15th CU Hall of Fame class also included All-American skiers Bruce Gamble and Jana (Rehemaa) Weinberger; football players Barry Helton and Ed Pudlik (who also played baseball); All-American cross country and track runner Daniel Reese; and the program’s first women’s athletic director, Jane Wahl.
For Folsom, the honor was a long time coming.
The second football coach in CU history, Folsom was hired as a 21-year-old in 1895 and spent 15 of the next 20 years coaching the Buffs through three different stints (1895-99, 1901-02 and 1908-15) while also practicing law.
Folsom’s winning percentage (.765) is the best of any CU coach that spent more than one year leading the Buffs, and only Bill McCartney won more games than Folsom, who went 77-23-2 and led CU to nine conference titles.
“He took a team that was losing 103-0 and took the same cast of characters to their first division championship,” his grandson said.
Fred Folsom III didn’t know his grandfather, who passed away in 1944 at the age of 71, but heard many stories about him from his father. According to Fred III, his grandfather approached football the way he approached law, by playing by the rules, but he was terrible with remembering names.
“He called all of his players every year, ‘Bill,’ and all of his players called him, ‘Bill,’” Fred III said with a laugh.
Folsom also coached baseball for one year and he taught law at CU until 1943. Among his law students at CU was Byron “Whizzer” White, who was arguably the greatest football player in program history and went on to serve on the United States Supreme Court for more than 30 years.
“Whizzer White was asked about his law instruction and he said, ‘Professor Folsom’s teaching was a baptism in integrity,’” Fred III said.
Folsom later developed the financial plan for a football stadium at CU. In 1944, after Folsom’s death, the stadium was named in his honor and has hosted more than 500 football games over the years.
More than a century after laying a foundation at CU, Folsom is now a Hall of Famer.
“It’s priceless,” Fred III said. “I just wish my dad could have been here.”
The night was emotional for Cabral, who was the longest-tenured assistant coach in CU history – for any sport. A three-time letterman as a CU linebacker from 1975-77, Cabral was a full-time assistant for 23 seasons, from 1990-2012.
“It’s overwhelming,” Cabral said of his induction. “To see all the great players, all the great coaches up there, some of them I played with, some of them I coached or coached with. I’m especially honored to be doing this with Gary. That’s really huge for me. This is a very awesome honor. I am so thankful and so grateful for the University of Colorado and it’s mutual.”
Cabral worked under five head coaches, including Barnett, mentoring many of the greatest linebackers in CU history. His tenure came to an end when Mike MacIntyre was hired in 2013 and didn’t retain him.
“I knew it had to end,” Cabral said. “All good things have to come to an end and it never really ends the way you want it to or would like to end, but I just knew that’s how it was. I just figured once that was it, we were parting ways.”
Cabral went on to coach at Indiana State for four years, but returned to the program this year, hired by new head coach Mel Tucker as a spiritual mentor.
“(CU) is my home,” Cabral said. “I’ve got to thank (athletic director) Rick George and Tucker for bringing me back because I never, ever thought I would be back again. And, for this (Hall of Fame) honor, I don’t know that it gets much better.”
Cabral spent more than two decades impacting the lives of many young Buffs and is doing so again, but the impact CU has had on his life is immeasurable.
“I think I’ve gotten much more out of this experience here at Colorado than I’ve given, so I have no complaints whatsoever,” he said.