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Bohn Talks All Things Buff After Golf Gathering

Jul 20, 2011

ERIE - Whether created by the entry into a new conference or the hiring of a new head coach, an emergent buzz around University of Colorado football has translated into a surge in season ticket and stadium suite sales for 2011.

CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn said Wednesday that Folsom Field's 41 luxury suites had been sold for the upcoming season - Jon Embree's debut year as head coach - and that the school has surpassed 23,000 in season ticket sales.

Bohn addressed those and other topics at the conclusion of CU's annual Casotti Classic, a golf tournament held this year at Colorado National Golf Club - the Buffaloes' home course.

CU went into the 2010 football season, ultimately the last under Dan Hawkins, with two or three of its luxury boxes available on a game-to-game basis. That won't be the case this season.

"And we're working on building a waiting list - which is a huge accomplishment for us," Bohn said. "We're inspired and appreciative of our fans in helping us do that. It's exciting for us; (it) sets a great tone for us when those boxes are full every game."

CU's season-ticket sales goal for 2011 was an ambitious 25,000. The last time the school surpassed that total was for the 2003 season, when 26,901 season tickets were sold. The Buffs became official Pac-12 members on July 1 and play the first football game in their new league on Oct. 1 against Washington State at Folsom Field.

Bohn acknowledged that the 25,000 target was recognized internally and externally "as a challenge for us. But we're thrilled and elated with how that's going."

The school recently concluded a Pac-12 ticket sales special that Bohn said was responsible for selling "almost 1,400" season tickets in one week. Also, Buff Club membership has increased by 621 since CU aligned itself with the Pac-12, according to Bohn. He said a majority of those new members joined on the West Coast, but in-state membership also has grown.

"We're thrilled by that," he said. "It's a great opportunity for us to interact with our fans and prospective donors."

In addition to the Buff Club membership increase, Bohn said a "number of major gifts are in the pipeline" and will be divulged at a later date.

Bohn said he and the school have "high aspirations" for Embree, his staff and players and are intent on providing the highest level of support for them. "If you're around our kids right now, they're incredibly upbeat, optimistic, encouraged, happy . . . they're enjoying each other, enjoying working very, very hard. They've had a phenomenal off-season."

As for specific goals in Embree's first year, Bohn wants the Buffs to compete at a high level in "each and every game. Does that mean we're going to win them all? I don't know about that, but I think this group of young men has been through a lot and they've come together. Jon's staff is phenomenal and these young men are really embracing them in a big, big way."

Other topics discussed Wednesday included:

JIM SENTER, formerly an Associate Vice President with the CU Foundation, moved to the athletic department to become an associate athletic director and the lead administrator for the football program. Senter, a former assistant football coach at Tulsa and Arizona State under John Cooper, assumes many of former Associate AD Tom McGrath's duties.

Bohn called Senter's new role "a nice fit" in the athletic department. "Jim will help manage all the nuances involved in a $30 million operation. He's going to help us with everything from day-to-day operations, to helping with recruiting information, to helping with supporting with the different things (football) needs, whether it's in the academic area, on campus, community outreach, donor relations, the operation side of it . . ."

Bohn said Senter and the football program also would have help from various other athletic department administrators already in place. Duties of Embree's operational staff will not change, Bohn said: "The difference they'll see, hopefully, is another senior level administrator helping them with different issues."

THE "THROWBACK" jerseys worn last season embody CU football. Thus, said Bohn, the Buffs will wear those jerseys again this season for home games. For away games, CU will wear similar jerseys featuring the "Northwestern" stripe and a large black "COLORADO."

"It'll be the exact same size and (letter) font that we wore in the '90s," Bohn said. "We recognize that's what Colorado football is and it was well-received by our fans and team. We'll have those (uniforms) in place for this season.

"We salute our friends at Nike for making that happen and helping us transition that into the 21st century . . . that's no easy task. Nike was wonderful in helping us pull that together."

THE CAL GAME on Sept. 10 at Folsom Field will kick off at 1:30 p.m. A local TV outlet is still to be determined, although Bohn said the game would be nationally televised. The Cal game is among 11 of CU's 13 contests that Bohn believes will be shown on national TV, with the other two also having a strong likelihood of being picked up, he said.

Although the CU-Cal game matches Pac-12 opponents, it will not count in the league standings as it is the second game of a home-and-home series contracted between the schools before league expansion. The conference office and both schools agreed to make it a non-league game.

Also, CU's 2001 Big 12 championship team will be recognized at the Cal game, much like the 1990 National Championship team was honored at last season's Georgia game. There also will be a reunion of the Buffs' 1961 Big Eight championship team.

ONE PRESEASON football publication ranks CU's 13-game schedule - that's 13 weeks without a break - the nation's toughest. Said Bohn: "I think Jon relishes that (and) our players love to play in big games and in good environments."

However, Bohn added, "Now, with that being said, I wouldn't anticipate this type of schedule in the next two years, maybe the next three. I think we need to give the opportunity for our program to ramp up a little bit."

Future schedule will be done with an eye toward "being a little more user friendly to our program." But that doesn't mean the schedules will go "lite" on the traditional heavyweights that CU has lined up in the past.  Scheduling through 2017 is being finalized and could be announced as early as September, Bohn said.

Before the move to the Pac-12, CU had put together schedules featuring non-conference games with a number of opponents now in the Buffs' new league. Bohn said CU's desire to continue to seek out top non-conference opposition has not waned. Retaining Southeastern Conference schools such as LSU remains a possibility and scheduling long-time Big 8/12 rival Nebraska would be a boon to both schools, Bohn contended.

But there are obstacles to reviving the Cornhuskers series. With its move from the Big 12 to the Pac-12, CU goes from eight to nine conference games annually. A long-term contract with Colorado State leaves CU to schedule only two non-conference opponents.

The Nebraska rivalry "would be good to preserve," Bohn said. But he cited significant scheduling hurdles both schools would have to overcome to make that happen. The Cornhuskers begin play in the Big Ten Conference this fall.

Playing Nebraska early in the season would be a challenge for CU as it "tries to grow our program," Bohn said. "But it makes sense. They've proven they help fill our stadium and we've proven (the same). I think it would be good to pursue."

He explained, however, that Pac-12 scheduling rules prevent members from scheduling past the third week for non-conference games. "So that puts pressure into a two-week window . . . trying to match that up is very, very difficult," Bohn said. "I'm not saying it can't be done, but it creates a little (problem) in working with them."

THE CSU SERIES needs some TLC on several fronts. "We need to work hard with them, our fans and theirs to fill the stadium and enjoy the excitement of college football," Bohn said.

Both schools and the game's Denver sponsors "need to do a better job of marketing the game," while CU and CSU students and fans should be cognizant of helping create a more enjoyable game-day atmosphere that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The Buffs and Rams play this season on Sept. 17 - CU's third game - in Invesco Field at Mile High. 

THE CU MEN'S 2011-12 basketball schedule is within one non-conference home game of being complete, while the women's schedule is done. Unless the game is added to the front end of the schedule, Tad Boyle's team opens on Nov. 17 at the Puerto Rico Classic, while Linda Lappe's squad opens at home on Nov. 11 against Northern Arizona.

Boyle's first-year Buffs won a school-record 24 games, advanced to the NIT Semifinals last season and played before a record five sellouts at the Coors Events Center. Bohn said this season's attendance goal would be at least six sellouts. (The CU men's 2011-12 schedule is posted separately on CUBuffs.com.)

Bohn lauded both first-year hoops coaches, saying Boyle and Lappe conducted themselves and their programs with integrity and are "incredibly inspiring to all of us. We're very, very excited about that."

THE NEW HOOPS and volleyball practice facility will be dedicated on Saturday, Aug. 20. The new building, constructed adjacent to the Events Center, will house the CU Athletic Hall of Fame. It also will be ready for public viewing on Aug. 20. "That will be a special day for us," said Bohn, adding, "Our fans are going to have a great time utilizing the new facility on game day. We've got not one small opportunity for hospitality now, we've got one small one, a medium one and a huge one. All those are going to be great opportunities to create a sense of enjoyment and excitement for pregame social activities that people like to be a part of."

IN AN ATTEMPT to maintain touch with the school's athletic past, coaches will not have their names on their reserved parking spaces. Instead, the names of prominent former athletes in their particular sports will be printed on the signs designating the current coaches' parking spots. "It's another way for us to embrace the past," Bohn said. "We've got to continue to do that."

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU