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Intercollegiate Athletics department records

Identifier: COU:2922

Scope and Contents

The Intercollegiate Athletic Department Collection is not the official archive of the Athletic Department rather it consists of publications, game programs, media guides, and ephemera relating to the Athletic Department and University of Colorado sports, from the 1890s to 2010. There are some limited adminstrative related records of the the Intercollegiate Athletics program including correspondence, schedules, expenses and other departmental coordination, especially from the football and soccer programs. It also contains a films and education materials used in women's physical education program in mid 20th century.


  • Creation: 1890 - 2010

Conditions Governing Access

This collection contains or may contain private and personally identifiable information (PPII). Researchers must sign the University Libraries’ Private and Personally Identifiable Information Agreement in advance of access to collection materials. Contact for more information.

Any identified PPII was placed in Series 11 and is restricted from access.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers may not make notes, reproductions (including photographs), or other record of any private and personally identifiable information (PPII) located in this collection and may not publish, publicize, or disclose that PPII to any other party for any purpose. Exclusions may apply to researchers who have obtained authorization from the University of Colorado Institutional Review Board to produce human subject research records in de-identified form. All researchers must sign the University Libraries’ Private and Personally Identifiable Information Agreement indicating their understanding of the use restrictions for PPII found in this collection. Contact

Copyright Statement

The University Libraries may not own the copyright to all materials in this collection. Researchers are responsible for contacting the copyright holder(s) for this material and obtaining permission to publish or broadcast. The University Libraries will not grant permission to publish or broadcast this material and are not responsible for copyright violations resulting from such use.

Biographical / Historical

Athletics began at the University of Colorado began in 1881, when students formed a Baseball team. A football team was created in 1889, and several other sports associations formed in the early 1890s. The Associated Students of the University of Colorado managed the teams to compete in intercollegiate competitions. Baseball, football, and basketball developed first, followed by track, cross country, and an array of other sporting activities. Early schedules included not only other local collegiate teams, but high schools, athletic clubs, and YMCAs. The early teams did not shun African Americans, even though it caused controversy among other Colorado schools. Women competed in intercollegiate basketball in 1898, but due to resistance among both male and female faculty, all women's intercollegiate sports were reduced to intramural status by 1907. Representatives from nearby colleges formed the Colorado Inter-collegiate Athletic Association in 1893, consisting of CU, Colorado College, Denver University, Colorado School of Mines, and the Colorado State Agricultural College (known as Colorado State University today). By 1902 the college had laid out a large athletic field, which was later named "Gamble Field."

Stories about the Colorado Intercollegiate Athletics Association were so popular in regional newspapers that the university administration took over athletics from the student government. In 1902, the students adopted a resolution requesting that the Regents levy an annual athletic assessment of $2.50 from each student. The Regents passed a voluntary fee. The next year, the first athletic policy was established after the Regents established the Department of Physical Training. The Department not only taught gym classes to both men and women, it also hired coaches and managed intercollegiate sports. The members of this new department were faculty of the university and their salaries came from university funds. Subscriptions from Boulder businesses and game gate receipts made the athletic programs sustainable, but many issues, such as league development, the hiring of coaches, player pay, and league rules became matters of contention as early as 1904.

Between 1893 and 1910, the University of Colorado periodically feuded with the other members of the Colorado Intercollegiate Athletic Association over rules and policies, they even withdrew from competition on several occasions. During these departures from the conference, CU began playing colleges and universities in Nebraska, Kansas, and Utah. Between 1910 and 1924, the Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference began bringing in other schools: Utah University, Denver University, Utah Aggies, Montana State College, Brigham Young University, Wyoming, Western State College, and Colorado Teachers College. Associate members of the conference included the University of New Mexico, Regis College, Montezuma College, and Carroll College.

In 1936, the larger schools from the Rocky Mountain Conference left to form the Big Seven Conference which included: CU, Denver University, Colorado Aggies, Utah University, Utah Aggies, and Brigham Young University. By 1946, University athletics had advanced to such a degree, that CU was accepted into the much more influential and competitive Big Six Conference of Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Missouri, which then changed its name to the Big Seven. The Big Seven became the Big Eight after the admission of Oklahoma State.

The football program was very successful in the late 1930s, as well as during the late 1950s to early 1960s, and from 1967 to the mid-1970s. An even more successful run began in 1989 and continued until 1996, with three consecutive conference championships, a national championship, and continuous top 10 ratings. By 1995, University of Colorado Football had emerged as one of the premier programs in the nation. Likewise, the ski team dominated nationally in the 1970s and 1990s. The Cross Country Team and members of the Track Team were continuously successful from the 1970s through the 1990s. In 1980, the Athletic Program dropped wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, and baseball to make itself more fiscally sound, and to better support the recently added women's athletic teams. The Women's Basketball Team was successful in the 1970s, as well as the late 1980s and the early 1990s won three consecutive Big Eight championships.

In the 1990s, intercollegiate conferences destabilized, as new members began to apply to the Big Ten, the SEC, and the Big East. Universities and conferences which had lost TV revenues clamored for new arrangements. The PAC Ten even unsuccessfully courted CU. The University of Colorado continued to compete in the Big Eight Conference until 1996, when the Southwestern Conference broke up, and several of its members; Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor, joined the Big Eight causing it to change its name to the Big XII.


22.5 linear feet (55 boxes)

Language of Materials



Athletics at the University of Colorado began in 1881, when a baseball team was formed. Football began in 1889, followed by basketball, track, and a wide array of other sports. In the 1960s and 1970s Women’s sports also became an important part of CU athletics. The University of Colorado Intercollegiate Athletic Department records consist of publications, game programs, media guides, and ephemera relating to the Athletic Department and University of Colorado sports, from the 1890s to 2010.

Related Materials

At CU Boulder Libraries you may find other material on CU athletics.

For early sports information, see CU Newsclipping Scrapbooks, 1892-1920s; the Silver & Gold, 1890-1953; Colorado Daily, 1953-; and the Coloradan, 1900-1995

For photographs, see the Charles Snow Collection, University of Colorado Photographs, and University of Colorado Scrapbooks

For Big 6, 7, & 8 issues, see the William H. Baughn collection.

For Athletic Department/Faculty/Administration issues, see the President's Office Papers, the Faculty Senate/Faculty Council papers, the Regents Minutes, and the CU History Collection.

Processing Information

This collection was arranged and inventoried in 2021 to incorporate additions. Folder titles reflect folder titles of the creators. Where possible the arrangement reflects the original groupings of materials.

Original arrangement and collection level description by David Hays. 2021 rearrangement and description by Isaiah Armijo, 2021. Encoded by Ashlyn Velte, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States