UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Tale of Two Coaches playing out in Boulder

Two momentous occurrences competed for top play in news out of the University of Colorado recently. What is to follow might be called—with apologies to Charles Dickens— the Tale of Two Coaches.

In the afternoon Coach Prime, less than a month into his new job as CU head football coach, announced the first recruiting class of the Deion Sanders era.

That night Tad Boyle—in his 13th season at what he called his “dream job” when he was hired—became the winningest basketball coach in Buffs history.

Boyle is optimistic about his current team’s chances of making it to March Madness, and almost giddy when he looks ahead to next season, largely because of his incoming recruits.

Meanwhile Sanders, who appears to attract players the same way honey draws flies, is advising all who will listen:

“If I were you, I would stay tuned. I would not change the channel.”

In case you wondered, Sox Walseth held the record for most wins by a CU men’s basketball coach. He went 261-245 (.516) from 1957 through 1976. 

Ricardo Patton was second, winning 184 between 1996 and 2006. Of note, Patton was the only coach among six who followed Walseth, prior to Boyle, to have a winning record.

After Boyle’s 262nd victory, he had the second-highest winning percentage in school history at .621. That’s just .002 behind Frosty Cox, who won 147 and lost only 89 from 1936 through 1950.

Among CU football coaches the leaders are Bill McCartney (93); Fred Folsom, of Folsom Field fame, (77); Eddie Crowder, the Athletics Director who hired McCartney, (67); and CU Athletic Center namesake Dal Ward and Myron Witham, from the decade of the ‘20s, (63).

“I’m coming,” Coach Prime repeated, by unofficial count about 40 times, in one public appearance in Boulder.

The question will be, “Is he staying?”

There’s no more successful coach in college football than Nick Saban, and it took him three games into his ninth season at Alabama to surpass 93. It took McCartney 13 years to get to 93.

That suggests that, to even have a shot at becoming CU’s all-time leader in football coaching victories, Sanders likely will have to remain in Boulder for at least a decade. And how likely is that, especially if he’s approaching McCartney’s mark in record time?

(Saban averaged 11.4 victories per season on his way to exceeding McCartney’s total. McCartney’s average for 13 seasons was 7.2)

Between incoming freshmen and upper classmen arriving via the NCAA Transfer Portal, Coach Prime is virtually guaranteed to have more talent on his first CU team than any in the recent past.

And in addition to some of Jackson State’s best players, he’s also brought six of his assistant coaches with him. On top of that, he’s filled out his staff with some highly regarded coaches from other programs, including Kent State’s head coach.

But can he turn it around overnight?

The Buffs went 7-26 under Chuck Fairbanks in the three years before McCartney was hired from Michigan for his first, and, as it turned out, only college head coaching job. 

McCartney’s first team finished 2-8-1, and his third went 1-10. Saban’s first Alabama team was only 7-6.

Of course, they didn’t have the transfer portal. Already, more than a dozen players from other programs have announced that they’re switching to CU, just to play for Coach Prime.

CU begins the “Coach Prime Era” on September 2 ON THE ROAD against TCU, one of the four semifinalists in this year’s College Football Playoff.

The home opener follows against McCartney’s designated rival, Nebraska, which will be attempting a revival of its own under new head coach Matt Rhule. Then the Buffs renew the Mile High Showdown with rebuilding Colorado State, beginning Jay Norvell’s second season as Rams head coach.

Nebraska has had six straight losing seasons and seven head coaches, including two interims, since Tom Osborne stepped down in 1997 after 25 years. CSU has had five straight sub-.500 finishes, including 3-9 in 2022; Norvell is the Rams’ fifth head coach since Sonny Lubick retired with 182 victories after the 2007 season.

Following those three is the nine-game Pac !2 gauntlet.

By the time we find out how Coach Prime fares in his first year, Tad Boyle will be into “next season” and adding to his all-time record win total at CU.

Remember: Don’t change the channel.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 15 books, nine of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at dennydressman@comcast.net