One month after Colorado participated in its first Pac-12 athletic event, one thing has become painfully clear to all observers.
The Buffs — in most sports — currently lack the speed and athletic firepower to compete in their new conference.
Volleyball, soccer and football have registered a headache-inducing 0-14-1 record in the conference, the only tie coming in a soccer match against Arizona, easily the worst team in the Pac-12. Volleyball has lost every one of its 27 sets in the conference, and soccer has been outscored 11-3. Football has been very competitive against two of the three Pac-12 teams they have faced, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are still looking for their first win of the Pac-12 season.
While the first year has been particularly jolting for the Buffs, it doesn’t mean that the switch in conferences was the wrong decision. The remnants of the Big 12 are reminiscent of Rose and Jack from Titanic, barely clinging to their conference allegiance while looking for lifeboats provided by other conferences.
The Pac-12 also provides the Buffs a terrific chance to compete in the future. Additional television revenue and the Pac-12’s equal revenue sharing system ensure that the Dal Ward Athletic Center will have a steady flow of cash coming in for the foreseeable future.
The increase in revenue should allow the athletic department to make major upgrades to facilities, attracting top-level recruits to Boulder. This process has already started at CU. Women and men’s basketball, along with volleyball, should all have top 25 2012 recruiting classes, thanks in part to the new volleyball/basketball practice facility.
While the future is bright for the Buffs, they must figure out a way to be competitive in the present. For a team like CU’s soccer squad, which looked primed for a NCAA tournament run at the beginning of the season, to be struggling mightily is concerning. Another losing season for Bill Hempen’s Buffs would set the program miles away from its Sweet 16 days just five years ago. Both men’s and women’s cross-country figure to finish well at Pac-12 championships late in October.
The football team will likely continue to struggle through the month of October. Road games against Washington and Arizona State are expected to be lopsided losses for the injury-prone and under-talented Buffs. CU should have a chance to get a few wins on the board in their final three games of the season, when Arizona comes to Boulder and the Buffaloes make trips to UCLA and Utah, both of which have not fared much better than the lowly Buffs in conference play.
Men’s and women’s basketball should provide some relief when their seasons start in mid-November. While the Pac-12 provided an upgrade in difficulty for many sports, both basketball teams should feel relief once conference play rolls around. The Big 12 has been consistently the best women’s basketball conference for the last five years, and the men’s side isn’t that much worse, yielding to only the Big East in terms of conference superiority. The Buffs should be over .500 on both the men’s and women’s side.
CU athletics may struggle mightily in the Pac-12 conference during the 2011-12 academic year, but the move will be worth it. The Buffs’ on-field shortcomings this year will pay dividends in the future.