CU packs for the Pac-12

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Having spent her entire career at the University of
Colorado — both as a women’s basketball coach and as an administrator in
the Big 12 or Big 8 — University of Colorado Associate Athletic
Director Ceal Barry is looking forward to the school’s move to the
Pac-12 Conference.

“It increases our presence on the West Coast,” Barry says.
“I think that’s going to help us financially, with donations — that’s
important. I think it will help with recruiting new students to come and
future generations of alum to come.”

Colorado moves into the conference that boasts the highest
number of national championships, with 424 titles in 27 sports. The
most challenging leaps will have to be made by many women’s sports to
compete at the highest level in the Pac-12.

“I think it’s very positive [for women’s sports],” Barry
says. “For volleyball, it’s probably one of the best conferences in the
world. For women’s basketball, Stanford is a perennial Final Four team.
Then in soccer, it’s very competitive.”

The decision to switch conference allegiance came in June
2010, a period that also saw Nebraska move to the Big 10. Colorado moves
all of its varsity sports into the conference, with the exception of
skiing, which will continue to compete in the Rocky Mountain
Intercollegiate Ski Association.

For a time, it appeared that there was some uncertainty as
to which conference the Buffs would call their home. As stakes grew
higher, and talk of a potential 16-team “superconference” with the
University of Texas grew louder, other schools tried to lobby their way
in over CU.

While lobbying in June for the University of Baylor to win
a spot in the Pac-12, Baylor Regent Buddy Jones quipped that CU hadn’t
yet taken enough “broadside hits to sink their boat,” but Mike Bohn,
CU’s athletic director, kept his cool and guided the Buffs into their
new home.

“He was very poised,” says Barry. “Poised, and, overall, smart in being patient and just waiting for an invitation.”

One of the many benefits to joining the “Conference of
Champions” is the perk of extra revenue from the Pac-12’s $3 billion TV
deal with Fox and ESPN, masterminded by the conference’s commissioner,
Larry Scott. With the added revenue, many people speculated that
baseball could make a return to the University of Colorado, but Barry
says that money may go another direction.

“The next step [after properly funding current sports] is
to add another women’s sport, so that our ratio or proportion of
participants is more in line with what the overall university is,” says
Barry. “The overall university is about 52.5 percent female to 47.5
percent male.”

Likely to be added at CU is women’s lacrosse, a booming
sport along the Front Range. Women’s lacrosse carries the benefit of
being a spring sport (all of CU’s varsity team sports are in the fall or
winter), and it is a cheaper addition. Colorado would not have to build
new facilities for lacrosse. If CU were to add baseball or softball,
new facilities would have to be constructed.

While the Buffs are enthused about their move westward,
they carry many pleasant memories from their old homes, the Big 12 and
the Big 8. Among these memories are three successive Big 8 football
conference titles spanning from 1989 to 1991, a national championship in
football and 12 NCAA tournament appearances by women’s basketball,
including six Sweet 16 showings and three Elite Eight trips.

“I think [the best memories] are the big wins that you
have,” says Barry. “I think our couple of wins over Stanford in the NCAA
tournament — one was in 1993 and the other in 2002. I remember those
because they were NCAA tournament games in the Sweet 16.”

Despite these positive recollections, there is a palpable
atmosphere of optimism about the future at the Dal Ward center. Barry
says she believes that her former team, now coached by her one-time
pupil, Linda Lappe, can compete in the Pac-12.

“I think that Linda will have a team that will be right
around the middle of the pack,” says Barry. “I think that she will be in
the top six [in the conference], but I think she will be on the lower
end of that top six. But she can compete with Stanford. She did it as a
player, so I think she will not have this fear of playing them.”

Assisting Lappe and her peers, Tad Boyle
and Liz Kritza (men’s basketball and volleyball coaches, respectively),
will be a brand new, state-of-the-art indoor practice facility,
scheduled to open in August. The new $10 million facility will ensure
that volleyball and basketball student-athletes always have a place to
hone their talents. Since the Coors Events/Conference Center is used for
some classes and other events such as graduation, some athletes didn’t
always have a place to play.

With the new upgrades, there will be little room for excuses for failure if the Buffs can’t compete with the best in the Pac-12.

“We’ve upgraded volleyball significantly in the past five
years to feel like they can be a national player,” says Barry. “I think
Linda feels, in women’s basketball, that there is not much else we can
give to be in the top 20 programs in the nation. What do they need to go
out and get the best players in the nation? I think we are moving in
that direction pretty well.”

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