A weekly notes column penned by David Plati, who is in his 16th year as Colorado's Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations.
EDITOR'S NOTE... Welcome to the debut of "Plati-'Tudes," a weekly (I hope) column of notes about University of Colorado athletics. First and foremost, it will serve to feature those stories that may not get much play from the mainstream media. But it will also offer our take on issues raised by those who have an interest in the program, to answer questions and concerns, and to offer our point of view if we should disagree with what may have been written. Enjoy!
ALL-DECADE FOOTBALL TEAM... As of this writing, over 400 people had already voted for the 1990s All-Decade Football Team, which will be announced the day of the spring game (April 15). It's a good trip down memory lane as you view those players who were predominantly starters from the beginning to the end of the 90s. There were some tough choices to make, the most difficult being at inside linebacker. Two will make the team, but the candidate list is deep. I selected Matt Russell, the winner of the 1996 Butkus Award, and Ted Johnson, who was the runner-up in '94. That's how I broke the tie in my mind with Greg Biekert ('92) and Jashon Sykes (99), though Sykes gets another chance for the all-2000s team in 10 years. Biekert would have been a finalist for the nation's top honor for linebackers had he not split votes with OLB Chad Brown, an occasional problem. That happened in 1989 for the Lombardi Award; outside linebackers Alfred Williams and Kanavis McGhee both received a lot of votes. Neither had enough to advance to the finalist stage, but added together, one had enough to win in a landslide. If you take the youthful Sykes out of the picture, the arguments for the other three are all solid.
You do have to separate their college careers from how they've done professionally, which is hard but must be done to be fair. Russell has missed two seasons due to as many knee injuries, and Johnson missed most of last season for the same. Biekert's been the best pro of the group, and recently resigned with the Raiders. Biekert led the team in tackles between 1990-92, Johnson in 1993-94, and Russell in '95 (a scheme change had the strong safety position get a lot of tackles, and he was thus second in '96).
All were hard hitters, relentless pursuers and good team leaders. So good luck in making your picks, but regardless of how the vote comes out, it's a testimony to the coaching skills of Brian Cabral. He tutored the five ILB's mentioned in this paragraph. I wonder how Cabral will vote...
And speaking of the ballot, we have had a couple of complaints that we listed Rae Carruth. The former CU wide receiver is facing murder charges in North Carolina for the November death of his girlfriend. Since he has only been charged at this point and intends to plead innocent, one must remember that in America, one is innocent until proven guilty. To not have him on the ballot would be inappropriate.
"REBUFFAL"... A column by Bob Kravitz in the March 20 Denver Rocky Mountain News decries, "Why can't Colorado schools celebrate March Madness?" Now we admit our history of going to the NCAA in recent years isn't what we'd like it to be, but you have to incorporate a few facts into his statement, "Why is it that CU has been to exactly one NCAA Tournament in 31 years?" That appearance came in 1997, CU's first and only since 1969.
In 1969, 24 teams were invited to the NCAA Championships, a number which grew to 32 in the mid-1970s, then to 40, then to 48 and finally to the present 64 in 1985. Had the field been 64 in size, CU would have been invited at least twice in the Bill Blair-era as well as in 1983-84, Tom Apke's best team that featured senior stars like Jay Humphries and Vince Kelley. Suffice it to say CU would have had a presence in the tournament between 1969 and 1985 had the field been the size then that it is now. Heck, before the days of the RPI, the 14-12 CU teams in 1970 and 1971 may have had a chance to get in with 64 teams instead of 24.
Between 1985 and 1990, CU had five straight sub-.500 seasons until going 19-14 in 1991, returning to postseason as Joe Harrington's first CU team finished third in the NIT. In the last decade, CU has had five winning seasons, going to the NCAA once and to the NIT the other four years. And this year's 18-14 team defeated two teams that have advanced to the Sweet 16, Gonzaga and Iowa State. So we look to be headed in the right direction.
What Bob failed to point out is that CU is a member of the basketball-rich Big 12, which makes the task that much harder. The Buffs finished where most predicted they would prior to the start of the season - in seventh place, behind six schools that were all ranked at one time or another: ISU, Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. And that list doesn't include Kansas State, which has perhaps the third or at least fourth most notable basketball tradition in the Big 12. Making in-roads against these schools takes time.
Incidentally, Denver columnists were scarce at CU and CSU basketball games this winter. There were no columnists from either paper at the CU-CSU, CU-DU or CSU-DU games, and the Rocky Mountain News did not have a columnist attend a single CU or CSU game. The News had three columnists write about CU, all about the ACLU complaint against Ricardo Patton for post-practice prayer. The Denver Post had five sports columns about Buff basketball, two on the ACLU issue (along with a third by a news columnist), and three others on CU with two on CSU. So that's a total of 11 columns by the two largest Colorado newspapers on major college basketball in the state (9 CU, 2 CSU), or one less than the Boulder Daily Camera had written by Nov. 4. And five of the nine on the Buffs were opined in connection with the ACLU.
A LITTLE HOOPS HISTORY... Colorado has some Final Four tradition, finishing third in 1942 and 1955. The Big 12 has had four NCAA champions: Oklahoma State in 1945 and 1946, Kansas in 1952 and 1988. Kansas has lost the championship game four times; Oklahoma twice, and Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State one time each. CU, Kansas and Texas have two third place finishes, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State one. There used to be a third place game, which CU won twice, but it was last played in 1981. Four Big 12 schools have never made it to a Final Four: Missouri, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
HMMM... CU guard Brad Bedell, expected to go in the top three rounds of next month's NFL Draft (April 15-16), wants it known that the 10 he scored on the NFL's Wonderlic test should carry an asterisk. He only answered 14 or 15 of the 50 questions, as he had already taken what amounts to the league's version of an abbreviated IQ test. He's not worried, because most have the results of the first test he took, but was upset that the figures were published. That fact is interesting in its own right, because those results have never been released before. I've seen some before, as pro scouts who drop by the office will often show me the results, but they guard them pretty close.
HAVE YOU NOTICED? ... Colorado's golf teams are both nationally ranked simultaneously for the first time ever. Mark Simpson's men's team is holding down the No. 30 spot in the latest MasterCard Collegiate Golf Rankings, while Anne Kelly's women's squad came in at No. 48. Simpson might have his best team ever, doing it with a mix of Colorado prep products as well as with some international flavor. There are seven Coloradoans on the team, four from Broomfield, with three Australians and one Swede. Kelly's program is in its sixth year of existence and is bidding for its first NCAA Championship appearance.