Why CU Buffs, CSU Rams football brands matter, especially to TV networks reshaping landscape of college sports.


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When Brock Huard thinks of Colorado football, his mind races back to a slew of boyhood memories. Those Orange Bowl tussles with Notre Dame. Games with national title implications. The “Fifth Down” at Mizzou. Kordell Stewart’s Miracle at Michigan.

Here’s the problem: Huard just turned 46.

And those memories? Well, they’re starting to fade.

“If you’re (the Buffs), you’re not where you want to be,” the FOX Sports analyst and former University of Washington and NFL quarterback told The Denver Post recently. “That’s just as flat-out and as blatant as I can say it.

“It’s not (coach) Bill McCartney’s Buffaloes anymore. Just like it’s not Don James’ Huskies anymore. And in college football, that’s the bottom line. That’s why Oklahoma and Texas were poached (by the SEC). That’s why USC and UCLA went along for the ride (to the Big Ten).”

Why was Nebraska, CU’s old rival, invited to the Big Ten? Its football brand. Why did the SEC snap up the Sooners and Longhorns out of the Big 12? Same deal.

What made the Trojans and Bruins, tentpole programs in Southern California for more than a century, attractive to the Big Ten, whose physical headquarters is in suburban Chicago and cultural hub resides in the Great Lakes and the Plains? B-R-A-N-D.

Airplanes fly over Los Angeles Memorial ...

Ashley Landis, The Associated Press

Airplanes fly over Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before an NCAA college football game between San Jose State and Southern California Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Los Angeles.

“East Coast media bias is real,” laughed Russell Wright, managing director of Atlanta-based Collegiate Consulting and a former executive at College Sports Television (CSTV), which later became CBS Sports Network.

“Outside of (USC and UCLA), you don’t really hear much about Washington or the Bay Area schools, or even Arizona State (in the southwest), unless they’re doing something screwy and they’re about to get a show-cause (penalty from the NCAA). And that’s why I get why the Big Ten went (west). And why USC and UCLA were (willing to leave) for what they were told would be gobs of money.”

So where do CU and Colorado State fit within that “brand” ecosystem, where television networks that pay for broadcasting rights up front call the shots? Where the lack of a national unifying voice for college football has created a leadership vacuum that’s been filled by individual financial interests first?

And what advice would Wright give to the administrators in Boulder and Fort Collins given the respective states of the Pac-12, which saw two of its biggest brands get plucked, and the Mountain West, where the same thing could happen?


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