I’m energized walking across campus these days as we return to the type of university experience we’re accustomed to. And I’ve been inspired by the support our campus community and fans have shown our student-athletes so far this fall. With the excitement of Family Weekend upcoming, we’re approaching a sellout for the football game against Arizona on Saturday, continuing a trend of large crowds this season. Some 14,000 students purchased sports passes this fall, the most we’ve sold since 1990.
We take to heart the role Athletics plays in fueling a collective campus spirit and sense of community and belonging. We are all Buffs. We all missed the opportunities to connect during the pandemic. And we are all excited to reconnect around shared experiences like sporting events and other extracurricular activities.
I know our student-athletes in particular feel and appreciate the enthusiasm. They worked tirelessly to do what was needed to get back to this point. Like many other students around campus, they found ways not just to endure the pandemic but to thrive throughout despite the challenges. This included:
- Excelling in the classroom. With the support of our Herbst Academic Program staff, our student-athletes logged the two best department-wide semester grade point averages in our history. Last spring, 14 of our 15 programs owned team cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or better for the second semester in a row.
- Mitigating against COVID-19. With the support of our facilities and medical staff, our student-athletes diligently participated in robust testing and screening protocols that helped us keep the disease out of our CU Athletics facilities. When vaccines became available, our student-athletes stepped up and logged a 95%-plus vaccination rate before the academic year even began.
- Inspiring change. When racial injustice gripped our country during the height of the pandemic, our student-athletes inspired the launch of CUnited, an effort focused on taking action for racial and social equity through educational opportunities for our department and other events like hosting a voter registration drive last fall.
- Success on the fields of play. Across every program, our student-athletes turned in achievements in their athletic endeavors that gave Buffs everywhere reasons to cheer, even if we couldn’t be together.
I also want to recognize the efforts of our CU Athletics staff over the past 18 months. Like our student-athletes, our staff went above and beyond to ensure that when we emerged from the pandemic we would do so as a stronger department that continues to enhance the world-class experience we provide our student-athletes. Our department is unequivocally committed to the campus priorities of student success and diversity, equity and inclusion. That’s why we hired our first associate athletic director for diversity, equity and inclusion. And it’s why we’ve continued to drive forward our Crawford Family WHOLE Student-Athlete Program, which aims to set up our student-athletes for success well beyond their playing days by nurturing their physical, psychological, academic and career health in a holistic way.
There was pain over the past 18 months to be sure. Yet I could not be more proud of the way our student-athletes and staff persevered and continued to thrive.
As we near the halfway point of the fall sports season, we’ve seen our women’s and men’s cross-country teams take first and third, respectively, at the Cowboy Jamboree in Oklahoma, our soccer team start the season with three shutouts, our volleyball team go 9-0 in non-conference play and upset No. 15 Utah, and a new Ralphie lead our football team onto the field.
I know each of these moments contribute to a campus experience that so many of us across the university missed over the past year and a half. And I’m so incredibly grateful that these experiences are once again bringing together our student body and campus community.