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CU Buffs penalized for falling short of academic standards -- yet teams still suck

As CU fans were wondering if the school will wind up in an expanded Pac 10 or remain in the Big 12, the NCAA hit the university with sanctions.

Why? The football and basketball programs failed to reach required minimum academic standards -- which is shocking given how mediocre they've been.

Granted, the on-the-court situation has been looking up to some degree for the CU basketball program, which was at least competitive last year, despite registering a 15-16 record. But a lot of credit for the improvement is owed to Jeff Bzdelik, who jumped ship to Wake Forest -- and while Tad Boyle, his successor, is highly regarded thanks to his stint at the University of Northern Colorado, he's not the sort of name likely to easily attract sought-after recruits.

Football-wise, meanwhile, the situation is flat-out catastrophic. Last season went so badly that plenty of us considered coach Dan Hawkins to be a dead man talking by the end of October. CU decided to retain his services in what's been widely interpreted as a cash-motivated move. But his dithering in April about who his starting quarterback will be -- with son Cody Hawkins still part of the mix despite his dismal performances in recent years -- hardly portends a startling turnaround.

Of course, many schools with struggling athletic programs explain away their poor performances by pointing to their challenging academic standards. College, after all, is supposed to be about learning first, sports second -- with "supposed to be" the operative phrase.

But at least Syracuse, the only other power-conference school sanctioned, enjoyed a great season from its basketball team, which also failed to meet academic standards. In contrast, CU basketballers and footballers received lousy report cards in games and in the classroom.

It's the worst of both worlds.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts