Published: July 10, 2023 By

We Comin' sign at football spring gameParking was a pain. Finding tickets, at least at the eleventh hour, was even more so. 

And, as often happens in a Colorado spring, the weather refused to cooperate.

No matter. This was a moment Colorado football fans had been pining for over the better part of two decades.

On April 22, Boulder became something it hadn’t been since the early 1990s: the focus of the entire college football world. And this was for a spring game — held about five months after the Buffaloes turned in arguably the worst season in the program’s rich history, and four months before the Buffs were set to kick off the 2023 season with a whole new set of expectations.

The reason, of course, was the new coach in town — Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, hired on Dec. 2 to reinvigorate the CU program. He’s done that already without yet coaching a real game.

A total of 47,277 fans attended the sold-out spring game at Folsom Field. The comparative numbers are staggering: An estimated 1,950 fans watched the previous year’s spring game. Even fewer, an estimated 1,000, did so in 2021. The most recent spring game attendance would have been the third-biggest crowd at Folsom during the 2022 regular season, and it was less than 600 fans off from topping the No. 2 crowd in 2022.

In fact, the previous seven springs combined featured an attendance of 30,450. This year, the Buffs’ spring game was the only one in the nation broadcast live on ESPN, and the Buffs have suddenly become a regular feature on national talk shows.

Already “Coach Prime” has done the impossible. CU football once again is relevant nationally. What does it mean for Boulder? There will be a significant financial impact, but anyone who has been trying to rent in town or who pays property taxes understands the city isn’t exactly hurting.

Coach Prime at football spring gameStill, new revenue streams will help both the city and the campus (CU hadn’t even sold spring game tickets since the 1980s). And football often remains the gateway to major universities. Like myself, my wife, Andrea Nozykowski (Jour’99), is from South Bend, Indiana. She fell in love with CU Boulder while watching the epic Notre Dame-Colorado battles of the late 1980s and early 1990s, then following the Rashaan Salaam (Soc ex’95) and Kordell Stewart (Comm ex’95; BA’16)-led Buffs while she was in high school. 

Much to the chagrin of her parents, she traveled the roughly 1,100 miles to Boulder for college, in large part because of what she watched during football games. She graduated from CU in 1999.

No doubt, the buzz is back. If Coach Prime sees his vision through, the Buffs will be as well.

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Photos courtesy Tyler Davis, CU Athletics