Several hundred fans and supporters of Colorado football stood and applauded as head coach Karl Dorrell went to the podium to talk about his team Friday at the Buffaloes’ indoor practice facility.
“I haven’t won a game yet in 2021 and it was a standing ovation,” Dorrell joked as he got to the microphone. “I’ve got to remember that feeling.”
If Dorrell and the Buffs realize his vision for the program, it won’t be his last standing ovation.
For 17 minutes, Dorrell spoke during the 32nd Annual Boulder Chamber Colorado Football Kickoff Luncheon, and he laid out the plan he has for the program as he enters his second season in Boulder. CU opens the campaign on Sept. 3 at Folsom Field against Northern Colorado (7 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Network).
Dorrell spoke about lofty expectations, on the field and off.
“I want to change the narrative,” he told the crowd.
Dorrell is aware of the perception of the CU program, which won a national title in 1990 but has produced just two winning seasons since 2005.
Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, CU has been projected to finish fifth or lower in the six-team South division 10 times, including each of the past four years. Despite low expectations going into a 2020 season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Buffs went a surprising 4-2. Pac-12 media projected the Buffs for a fifth-place finish again this year.
“I want to change the perception,” Dorrell said. “I want it to be a winning perception. When I came here a year ago, that wasn’t the case. I want that perception to be realized again with people that are behind us as supporters.”
Dorrell spoke of being an assistant at CU in the early 1990s. In 1992, Dorrell’s first season at CU, head coach Bill McCartney led the Buffs to a 9-1-1 regular season, but, Dorrell said, “I felt like we went 1-9-1 because of how hard we coached and the standard that was in place.”
That standard hasn’t been in place at CU in nearly two decades.
“I worked for the best coach in the history of this program, Bill McCartney,” Dorrell said. “I learned a lot from coach Bill McCartney. … I’m very proud to have been part of his lineage. This team is going to learn those aspects, as well.
“I think (current players) are starting to understand there’s a tremendous history of pride and tradition that this program is all about. And they’re going to show you that this fall. … We’re going to restore that culture, that winning culture.”
That culture goes well beyond the playing field, and Dorrell took time to talk about his players as men and as students. According to Dorrell, 21 football players had a grade-point average of 3.0 or better in the spring 2020 semester. That number jumped to 39 last fall and 43 this past spring.
“They’re intelligent guys,” Dorrell said. “We’re not athletes; we’re student-athletes that aspire to do great things.”
With many area business leaders in attendance, Dorrell had the NCAA’s new legislation that allows student-athletes to profit off their name, imagine and likeness in mind. He told his players before the luncheon to take the opportunity to meet local business professionals and make a good impression.
“I don’t want (the narrative) to be that we’re just football players, because we’re better than that,” Dorrell said. “And they know they’re better than that. I want the people in our community to know that these are special young men that do great things and they’re not only doing great things on the field, but they’re great people and great young men off the field.”
In establishing that culture, Dorrell believes CU’s players can achieve success in life, including on the football field. And, he has no doubt the current Buffs can change the perception of the program.
“We have a football team that’s really eager to really prove who they are,” Dorrell told the crowd. “You’re going to see a great, inspired team that’s going to do great things. But, I don’t want you to be surprised because that’s what our expectations are.”
Under Dorrell, CU’s annual goal, he said, will be to contend for a championship.
“That’s what this place deserves,” he said. “That’s what you’re gonna get.
“I guarantee you this: you’re gonna like what you see. You’re gonna see a passionate, inspired football team that’s going to lay it on the line for each other. And you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
During the luncheon, athletic director Rick George said that over 90% of CU’s student-athletes have received the COVID-19 vaccine.