Colorado won its first national championship in 1990 under the direction of head coach Bill McCartney, who helmed the team from 1982 to 1994. The national title was split with Georgia Tech who won the United Press International Coaches Poll, whereas Colorado won the Associated Press and Football Writers Association of America polls. The largest arguments against Colorado were that they had a loss and a tie, whereas Georgia Tech had a tie and no losses, and Colorado’s “unfair” win in the Fifth Down Game against Missouri. Another major controversy was Colorado’s Orange Bowl win over Notre Dame, which Colorado won in part because of a controversial clipping call that brought back a Notre Dame touchdown. The major argument for Colorado was that they played a more difficult schedule than Georgia Tech. Colorado capped the season with a 10–9 win over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, a rematch of the 1989 season Orange Bowl Game which Notre Dame won 21–6. Colorado’s tie came against Tennessee, who was ranked #8, the first week of the season when Colorado was ranked #5. The second week gave the Buffs a scare, scoring with 12 seconds left in the game on a 4th and Goal attempt. The next week gave Colorado its only loss of the season, losing 23–22 to Illinois and dropping Colorado to #20 in the polls. Colorado then went on to beat teams ranked (at the time) #22 Texas, #12 Washington, #22 Oklahoma, and #3 Nebraska. They ended the season 7–0 in the Big Eight Conference for the second straight season. They then capped the season with a win over Notre Dame who were number 1 until a loss in their second to last game of the regular season.
Competitive football began on the Boulder campus in 1890. Early games, which bore more resemblance to rugby than modern football, were played against the School of Mines and Utah. The football stadium, originally named “Colorado Stadium,” was opened in 1924 and was officially named Folsom Field in November 1944 to honor Coach Fred Folsom, one of the most respected college football coaches of his day.
In 1934, the university’s intercollegiate teams were officially nicknamed the “Buffaloes.” Previous nicknames used by the press included the “Silver Helmets” and “Frontiersmen.” The final game of 1934, against the University of Denver, saw also the inaugural running of a bison in a Colorado football game. A bison calf was rented from a local ranch and ran along the sidelines.
College Sports Established
University of Colorado Boulder
1973 – Present / NCAA Division 1
1921 – 1973 / University Division of the NCAA
1907 – 1921 / Athletic Association of the United States
2011 – Present / PAC 12 Conference
1996 – 2011 / Big 12 Conference
1964 – 1996 / Big Eight Conference
1947 – 1964 / Big Seven Conference
Buffaloes – A team originally known as the ‘Silver and Gold’, in reference to the Colorado Miners until 1934, when a $5 national contest was held by CU’s newspaper to find a new name. Previous nicknames used by the press included the “Silver Helmets” and “Frontiersmen.”
Both men’s and women’s team are called the Buffaloes (Buffs for short) or Golden Buffaloes (acceptable, but rare). “Lady Buffs” referred to the women’s teams beginning in the 1970s, but was officially dropped in 1993.
The nickname was selected by the campus newspaper in a contest with a $5 prize in 1934 won by Andrew Dickson of Boulder. Athletic director Harry Carlson, graduate manager Walter Franklin and Kenneth Bundy declared ‘Buffaloes’ as the winner.
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