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The Continuing Scandals of CU Football

and to whose benefit?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, December 29, 2010.

A chronic issue of late, and actually since Chuck Fairbanks was hired as coach thirty odd years ago, is the relationship between the University of Colorado and its football program.

The program is seemingly not run for benefit of students but as a farm team for the NFL and local business, including gambling, under guise of alumni connection. CU was never a football powerhouse, and its only national championship was two decades ago, and shared. That was a period of many players on police blotters, an entirely suspicious 5th down accorded to CU that allowed a win, and a relationship between the then coach Bill McCartney, God, his family, and players that raised more than a few eyebrows. These are the glory days to which Buff Boosters and business interests wish to return.

Generally, CU has a pretty mediocre team albeit with some great players through the decades. And although the new coach is a former player from those supposed glory days, he still has the same restrictions that have disallowed CU from becoming an academic joke jock house despite the chronic efforts of some of Boulder's seedier elements, who wish to remove them. They think that the university should be on the hook for their benefit, much like an arm of the local Chamber of Commerce. That the mission of the university is to students and not to those rewarding advertisers and associates with game tickets is ignored if not laughed at.

The mentalities behind this have a record of near constant damage to CU, but because the media is currently near dependent upon the businesses that profit from CU football, they aren't going to do their job. They never have; every scandal about Boulder is broken in the national press.

Chuck Fairbanks was hired after a period of football mediocrity that some in Boulder felt reflected badly on their own virility and status. Fairbanks was a coach who only seems to prosper by massive violations at every level of his career. He became head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners in 1967 by the death of his predecessor, and he began a run of great success. But just as Fairbanks conveniently moved to the pro ranks of the New England Patriots, an epic academic scandal forced Oklahoma to forfeit nine games from 1972 when evidence of recruiting violations, not excluding altered transcripts of student-athletes, was found. Fairbanks denied responsibility, of course. Plausible deniability was a well known defense before the term gained traction so recently here during another scandal.

Everywhere, a whiff of deceit, unnecessary conflict, and illegality hung about Fairbanks. Despite that, or because of it, CU and its backers actively recruited him in 1979, threatened him with cash, and encouraged violation of his NFL contracts and general business ethics in doing so. New England sued Fairbanks, who admitted under oath recruiting for Colorado while with the Pats. It took Colorado boosters to buy out Fairbanks' contract to allow him to produce about the worst record the Buffs have ever had over three years, 7 wins, 26 losses. This is a good example of the incompetence and ethics of CU's football boosters. Many viewed the disaster in Boulder as deserved by all parties involved.

The Fairbanks fiasco led to Bill McCartney, who led to Rick Neuheisel. Neuheisel caused Colorado to lose five of 25 scholarships for one year, and was put on two years' probation largely for 51 rules violations by Neuheisel, who had already left under dubious legality for another job. The NCAA said "This was a serious case in which a football coaching staff, led by the former head football coach, in a calculated attempt to gain a recruiting advantage, pushed beyond the permissible bounds of legislation, resulting in a pattern of recruiting violations." That attitude was repeated with Gary Barnett and expanded to include hookers and worse in his recruiting scandals and resultant crimes. This led to the squeaky clean but nepotistic Dan Hawkins, and here we are.

Running all through this is the serpentine presence of the CU Foundation, whose massive money stashes seem always to be available for football benefit. That foundation was declared a bookkeeping disaster by a recent objective audit, and its chief executive resigned with the coach and CU president and so many others a few years back. Now, public interest has declined, and the same mentalities that produced Fairbanks and innumerable scandals and incompetencies are back in the saddle.

You'd like to think college football would eventually be brought under control, and that chronic scandal of the sort that CU has lived in for three decades might cease. You'd like to think that.