Kiszla: Buffs bolt back to the future before the Pac-12 crumbles into ocean. “My job just got harder … and better,” CU basketball coach Tad Boyle says.


CU quarterback Shedeur Sanders is behind the wheel of a $200,000 Maybach, with athletic director Rick George merely along for the ride, as the Buffs speed down the road back to the Big 12 Conference, where the cows and paychecks are bigger.

“This move,” George insisted Thursday, when the Buffs bolted the Pac-12 before it crumbled and fell into the Pacific Ocean, “was not just based on money or finances.”

Well, I’m not here to call George a liar. But nobody forsakes CU alums basking by their swimming pools in sunny California and loads up the family van with young Buffs for road trips to Waco, Texas and Ames, Iowa. That simply doesn’t happen if it’s not all about the Benjamins.

And the family van? No longer hip.

“In today’s world, with NIL (name, image and likeness) money,” chuckled Colorado basketball coach Tad Boyle, “nobody’s driving a van anymore.”

I’m so old I remember when Colorado ditched the corn dogs at truck stops of the Big 12 for a chance to rub elbows with rocket scientists at Stanford. And muckety mucks up in Boulder told us all that trashing decades of athletic tradition was all about some high flalutin’ desire to hang with a better class of people on the West Coast.

I didn’t buy that nonsense back in the day, and I’m resisting the urge now to remind CU administrators I tried to warn them severing ties with the Big 12 and football-rich Texas was a big mistake. Thirteen long years later, I’m humbly happy new Buffs savior Deion Sanders, the father of that Maybach-driving quarterback, finally convinced the knuckleheads in charge that I was correct.

We all know why the Buffs are hooking back up with their exes down in Texas, not to mention folks in Kansas and Oklahoma that CU once regarded as deplorables in the collegiate athletics landscape.

“It has more to do with the media rights, that’s what is driving all of this conference realignment,” said Boyle, the most successful basketball coach in CU history. “You want to be in a conference with lucrative media rights.”

Then, choosing his words carefully, Boyle told me: “As a member of the Pac-12, we were left out in the cold a little bit.”

Nothing is sacred in college football and basketball anymore except the relentless pursuit of money. And I don’t mind being the old man shaking a fist while shouting at the dark clouds gathering over the NCAA’s fading empire.

While I began advocating for college players to get paid real money way back when the baggy shorts of Michigan’s Fab Five were all the rage more than 30 years ago, the lack of NIL regulation and transfer portal madness is ripping asunder the fabric of dear old alma mater’s school colors we hold near and dear to our hearts. If college athletics trades its heart for a Maybach, everybody from coaches to fans to academic leaders have sold their souls.

Change is inevitable. Progress is not.

And where is this all headed? Nobody knows, and that uncertainty goes for elites as mighty as Alabama and Notre Dame every bit as much as Colorado, determined to keep a seat at the big kids’ table.

“These decisions are made far above the basketball coach’s head, as well they should be,” said Boyle, amused by life’s strange twists of fate. “When I started at Colorado 13 years ago, we played in the Big 12. And look at us now. We’ve come full circle.”

While Sanders and Son are driving CU sports into prime time, they are 272 victories behind what Boyle has given the Buffs during his tenure on the sideline. When 2024 rolls around, Boyle will be tasked with earning invitations to March Madness against the likes of Kansas, Baylor and Houston.

Good luck with all that.

“My job just got harder … and better,” said Boyle, during a dinner-hour conversation on the telephone.


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