CU Buffs AD Rick George frustrated but focused on improving football

Buffs heading for their 14th losing season in the last 16 years

BOULDER, CO - September 18, 2021: CU Athletic Director, Rick George, left, and new Pac-12 Commissioner, George Kliavkoff, at Folsom Field. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – September 18, 2021: CU Athletic Director, Rick George, left, and new Pac-12 Commissioner, George Kliavkoff, at Folsom Field. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

For several weeks, the offense struggled to get first downs, let alone points. Now, the defense doesn’t seem to be able to stop anyone.

One heartbreaking loss was followed by an embarrassing shutout – and then two more blowout losses. And, now with two games to play, the Colorado Buffaloes are out of bowl contention with yet another losing season guaranteed.

If this was simply a down year for the Buffs (3-7, 2-5 Pac-12), it would be a bit easier for the fans to say, “There’s always next season.”

Buff Nation isn’t blowing a gasket over a down year, though.

With the exception of the 2016 season – and, to a lesser extent, 2020 – CU fans have endured bad football since the disastrous four-game slide to end the 2005 season and they are fed up. This is CU’s 14th losing season in the last 16 years and it will be the 13th in that stretch that won’t include a bowl game.

“I share that frustration,” CU athletic director Rick George told BuffZone this week. “I appreciate the passion that (fans and donors) have for this program and I appreciate the expectations that they have for this program. I get it. I understand their frustration. I live it every day. One of my big responsibilities in this athletic department is to ensure that we’re moving in the right direction.”

BOULDER, CO - Oct. 15, 2021: ...
University of Colorado, Boulder’s head coach, Karl Dorrell, argues a possession call on a punt that could have gone to CU during the NCAA football game on October 16, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

It’s been a while since the program has shown significant signs of moving in the right direction. And, it doesn’t help that the man who seemingly had CU on the right path two years ago is now constantly reminding the Buffs of how far they still must climb.

Mel Tucker generated a load of excitement during his one season in Boulder (2019) before taking the money and running to East Lansing, Mich., in February of 2020. He’s now got Michigan State at 9-1 and ranked No. 7 nationally. Oh, and he’s made headlines this week because of a stunning new 10-year, $95 million contract coming his way.

Current head coach Karl Dorrell is the target of criticism for this season, which is fair. But, until – or unless – he turns things around during his tenure, Dorrell will also be linked to the previous 15 years of losing, and he’ll be forever compared to what Tucker does in East Lansing.

Amid all the criticism and frustration, George is adamant that better days are ahead for CU and Dorrell.

“I share the disappointment on where we are, but I also understand where we’re at and Karl and I have had a lot of discussions on how we can get better and that’s what we’re gonna focus on,” George said. “I know where this program’s been, and I know how to get it there. That’s why I’m disappointed and frustrated like everybody else.”

Long ago, CU had one of the elite football programs in the country. From 1987-90, George was the Buffs’ football recruiting coordinator before being promoted to assistant athletic director for football operations. CU went 37-10-1 during those years, including the program’s only national title, in 1990.

In the past, George has talked about competing for championships again, but he’s aware of CU’s reality at this point.

“We’ve got to continue to move this program in a direction that makes us consistently relevant every year,” he said.

“I think we’re a program that can compete at the top level in this conference.”

The Buffs haven’t competed at that level this year, or in much of the time, they’ve been in the Pac-12.

As for this year, significant injuries at key positions and young players in many spots impacted what could have been a better season. It started off fairly well, but a miserable six-game stretch dropped CU’s offense to the bottom of the country. They scored 71 points in that six-game stretch, with 34 of them coming against hapless Arizona.

“We didn’t look good in (that stretch), honestly, but I think we’re starting to figure it out and we’re playing better,” George said. “My hope is that we’ll end the season in a positive way, we’ll do a good job recruiting, and then come January, we’ll start getting ready to have a great ’22 season.”

To do that, however, the Buffs have plenty of work to do.

“It’s been a challenging season; it really has in a lot of ways,” George said. “But, I’m ready to provide whatever support we need to get to that next level. That’s the role that I’m going to play in this. Karl and I will have a lot of discussions and, again, I’m very confident in him, because he’s a good football coach. He’s a smart guy.

“What I can do is provide the resources to provide the support that he needs, but do we have the right coach? Absolutely. Do we need to make some changes and some fixes? Absolutely, and we will.”

Those specific changes will be ironed out between George and Dorrell after the season, he said, but he added that CU will support the program financially to make positive changes, including possible staff adjustments.

For now, CU and George are behind Dorrell, who is in the second year of a five-year contract, and George hopes a weary fan base can support him, too.

“I want the same thing that (the fans) want,” George said. “It’s hard for me to say, ‘You need to have patience,’ because they’ve shown a lot of patience to this point. Now we’ve got to start delivering and I get that, but it’s not time to move on. It’s time to really get behind our staff and our student-athletes and support them because we’re going to be fine. We’ll be fine. A year from now we’re gonna have a much different discussion.”