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Utah Football: Colorado’s interim head coach has a connection to Utah

It was another season of upheaval for Colorado.

Coach Karl Dorrell was let go five games into the season after the Buffaloes started 5-0.

At this point, Mike Sanford Jr. was promoted from offensive coordinator to interim head coach.

And on Sanford’s debut, Colorado defeated California 20-13 in overtime in Boulder and fans stormed the field.

But since then the Buffs (1-10, 1-7) have lost five straight games, including a 54-7 drubbing against No. 13 Washington on Saturday.

In its regular-season finale Saturday, Colorado hosts No. 14 Utah (2 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Network).

Sanford came to Colorado in the offseason from Minnesota, where he spent the last two seasons as an offensive coordinator. Sanford has also served as Utah State’s offensive coordinator.

Nearly 20 years ago, Sanford’s father, Mike Sanford Sr., was Utah’s offensive coordinator under head coach Urban Meyer from 2003-04. The Utes went 22-2 in those two seasons, including a win at the Fiesta Bowl.

How well does Utah coach Kyle Whittingham know Mike Sanford Jr.?

“I know him. I know his father very well,” he said. “Mike Jr. traveled quite a bit when Mike Sr. was here. He’s a good young soccer coach. He’s a guy who really has a bright future. He has a really good flair for attacking football.”

Currently, Colorado is conducting a search for a new head football coach, leaving Sanford’s future with the Buffaloes uncertain.

This week, 247Sports.com reported that Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders is speaking with both Colorado and South Florida about their job opportunities.

Other alleged candidates to take over the program include former Virginia and BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. In 2012, when he was at the head of BYU, he was considered a head coaching candidate at Colorado.

Other potential candidates include former Texas and Houston coach Tom Herman and former TCU coach Gary Patterson.

Sanford said he is focused on the present, not the future, when it comes to dealing with the situation.

“We live in the present, we’re all about the players,” Sanford told reporters. “But obviously you come down towards the end and suddenly it’s obviously very clear that we’re not in the postseason – there’s no bowl opportunities – and you really have to wake up every day and even as a staff, including me as a head coach, man really needs to stay in the present.”

Sanford signed a three-year deal with Colorado last December. But he could soon be out of a job, along with the rest of the staff.

Sanford said it’s hard not to worry about the future and how decisions might affect their families.

“They’re afraid of the future and we have to be great fathers and great husbands first and foremost,” he said. “But we also have a job that we have to do that eventually should come to work every day, just keep finding joy in the work.”

Meanwhile, some of his players have publicly stated they want Sanford back, a gesture Sanford appreciates.

The reality is his team is struggling mightily. Against Washington, Colorado fell 33-0 at halftime after making numerous errors.

“I would call (the end of the first half) the rock bottom in terms of the emotional toll that losing and frankly, just I think, the feeling of embarrassment takes,” Sanford said. “I think a lot of these players are going through a lot of tough times. Not just this year. … I think it’s a successful season in 15 years. There are a lot of tributes that are taken from the players and the only thing I think they crave is when they feel like they have people in their lives on a daily basis. I think they want that continuity, but we all know it’s a business too.”

In 2013, Mike MacIntyre was hired and stayed for six seasons. He led the Buffs to a Pac-12 South Division title in 2016.

MacIntyre was replaced in 2019 by Mel Tucker, who stayed just one season, a 5-7 campaign, before taking the job at Michigan State.

Dorrell was hired to replace Tucker in 2020 and he posted an 8-15 record before being ousted.

What’s Next for Colorado Football?

All that is known so far is that the Buffaloes will end their miserable 2022 season at Folsom Field on Saturday.


Table of Contents

Utes on the air

No. 14 Utah (8-3, 6-2)

in Colorado (1-7, 1-10)

Saturday 2pm MST

Folsom field

TV: Pac-12 network

Radio: ESPN 700

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