- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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You know what's annoying? When fans of a longtime national power invade your home arena or stadium.
Plenty of schools have this problem, and it's always at least slightly embarrassing. An example: When I was a budding student reporter at Indiana a few years back, the running joke about the bi-annual Ohio State home game was its status as the program's unofficial football "Picture Day." As in, it was the only day Indiana football could fill its home stands with enough red to snap an aerial media guide cover photo. The tradeoff, of course, was a full afternoon of "O-H-I-O" chants loud enough to drown out the home pep band. And you wonder why Gunner Kiel chose Notre Dame instead. (Just kidding! No one has ever wondered that.)
Colorado coach Tad Boyle feels that pain. The Buffaloes are hardly a historical hoops powerhouse, and there are few jobs more difficult than building a middling high-major program into a consistent contender, but Boyle has already lifted the program considerably in his two seasons at the helm. His combined record is 48-25, and in 2012 the Buffaloes snuck into the NCAA tournament (thanks, historically horrid Pac-12!) for the first time since 2003. Attendance at the Coors Events Center is spiking, enthusiasm is as high as ever, and altogether things are going pretty well.
But as you'd expect, Boyle is hardly satisfied, and he's set a new near-term barometer for his program: By the time former Big 12 rival Kansas comes to the Coors Events Center in 2013 -- part of a home-and-home series signed with the Jayhawks this year -- Boyle doesn't want to hear any of that infernal rock-chalking typical of those pesky Kansas die-hards. From the Boulder Daily Camera:
"My challenge to the fans is we have to keep them out," Boyle said. "And we have to expand our season ticket base. I've been saying it since I became the coach here two years ago, until the Coors Events Center is sold out each and every home basketball game, we've got work to do."
"To me it will be a great challenge and a great test to see where Colorado basketball is two years from now," Boyle said. "We'll see how many Buff fans are in the gym versus how many Jayhawk fans are in the gym. Everybody knows in years past there have been more KU people than there should be."
The Buffaloes are, at least for the moment, well on their way. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, no Division I program has seen a higher home attendance gain (from an average of 4,637 fans during the 2008-09 season to the 7,804 that came in 2012) than Colorado. Meanwhile, according to the Camera, the athletic department saw a 26 percent increase in season tickets sold last season. These are all very positive signs, a reward for the winning trajectory Boyle has established quickly during his tenure.
Can Colorado keep it up? The Buffaloes will be young but increasingly talented in 2012, led by junior forward Andre Roberson, rising (and quietly efficient) sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie, and a six-player recruiting class that counts two top-100 players -- something the Buffaloes haven't said often in the past decade -- among its assets.
So, yes, things continue to look up. But when Kansas and its horde of Rock Chalkers come calling in December of 2013, Boyle will have as good a barometer as any for the long-term construction project he inherited in Boulder. Now, if the Buffs could just find a taker for that old basketball court ...