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Rooney: Rick George has plenty of reasons to be proud of 2020-21 CU Buffs

Unprecedented year didn’t slow CU on or off the field

Colorado head coach Mark Wetmore (R) ...
Colorado head coach Mark Wetmore (R) speaks to Colorado senior Sage Hurta (L) before the womenÕs NCAA cross country championships at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course on Nov. 23, 2019, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
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The routine was monotonous, frustrating, and likely tested the limits of the love of the game for nearly everyone involved.

Whatever was first on the morning docket for any of Colorado’s athletic programs, the daily testing took priority. Take the mask off long enough to get swabbed, wait patiently for the COVID result to come through, and then go about the day. Or not, if that result proved positive. And then the quarantine and contact tracing would begin, scuttling a team’s plans for days at best, if not longer.

And that was just to practice or play. Never mind the challenges of holding team meetings virtually, or excelling in the classroom when you couldn’t actually be in a classroom. Against this backdrop, the Buffs not only excelled in the competitive arenas through the 2020-21 academic year, but they did so in the virtual classrooms as well.

When CU athletic director Rick George met with the media this past week, he was quick to laud the Buffs’ academic work this past year alongside an impressive array of athletic accomplishments. It’s a standard administrative approach, making certain those lesser-known, off-the-field stats hit the airwaves when the media is paying attention. In George’s case, he had good reason to boast.

Per George, the Buffs’ athletes posted a 3.139 GPA for the spring semester. They recorded a 3.158 cumulative GPA for the year, and 14 of CU’s 17 athletic programs posted a GPA of at least 3.0. CU’s athletes have now posted a collective GPA of at least 2.9 for 14 consecutive semesters. That’s even more impressive considering the fact that since CU started tracking those numbers in 1994, those 14 consecutive semesters with at least a 2.9 account for nearly all of the 15 total 2.9-plus semesters over the past 27 years.

And all of that was accomplished with those athletes rarely being in the same room as any professor or tutor.

“I’m really proud of their efforts despite all of the ups and downs and the challenges, and moving the season so we had 16 of our sports playing in the spring and winter,” George said. “They persevered and we had our best academic success in our history.

“It was a challenging year, but I still believe that we achieved a lot. We all know how difficult it was on our student-athletes not only to learn remotely and some hybrid classes.  To do it in the fashion they did, I’m really proud of their efforts. We’ve got great young men and women that represent our athletic department. We also had seasons that weren’t like normal.”

In the playing arenas the Buffs were equally successful, from the football team’s surprising run to the Alamo Bowl to NCAA Tournament appearances by the men’s basketball team and women’s soccer team. Among plentiful individual highlights, NCAA championships were captured by skiers Magnus Boee (10K classic and 20K freestyle) and Cassidy Gray (giant slalom), in addition to Sage Hurta in indoor track (one mile).

While every advisor and tutor deserves recognition for the impressive work in the classroom, the same can be said for folks like the equipment and venue management crews, who had to keep every team and venue ready to go as every sport but football played a competitive season after Jan. 1. And though it’s easy for us Average Joes to scoff at the pay cuts absorbed by the well-paid coaching staffs, they nonetheless had to navigate hurdles and challenges unlike anything any one of them had ever encountered. As just two of many possible examples, I didn’t envy Karl Dorrell having to get to know his new team virtually, or Tad Boyle when he had to tell dependable senior D’Shawn Schwartz, following a positive test, he was being sent home from the Buffs’ season-opening road trip.

Kudos to the Buffs for getting it done on and off the floor amid those challenges. And kudos to the rest of us that, in less than two months, the 2021-22 athletic year will begin with a sense of normalcy.

“I still believe that we achieved a lot,” George said. “I’m really excited about the fall and this coming year.”