BOULDER — When Colorado Athletic Director Rick George arrived in Boulder in 2013, one of the first major strategies he employed was the implementation of a three-year CU Athletics Strategic Plan that began in 2014.

Now more than a decade into the job, George and the Colorado Buffaloes are unveiling the most recent strategic plan for the three year period from 2024-26, the fourth plan in George’s tenure as athletic director.

This latest three-year plan, which will retain common threads from the first three: aspirational but achievable competitive goals for each sport; continued fiscal responsibility throughout the department; and, most importantly, a continued commitment to providing a world-class experience for Buffs student athletes.

“College athletics is at a crossroads,” George said. “This is the moment in time where we need to set ourselves up for a prosperous future.  Much as the last plan was crucial toward guiding us through a pandemic and one of the most unstable eras in college athletics history, this plan will be a guiding force to best set us up for immediate and future success on and off the playing field.”

This is the second plan that also features a dedicated concept that CU officials believe will continue to enhance every aspect of the student-athlete experience: the Crawford Family WHOLE (Wellness, Health, Optimal Life Experience) student-athlete.

“Student-athletes are always at the forefront of our decision making,” George said. “Dr. Theresa Hernández and her team have done an excellent job establishing the Crawford Family WHOLE Student-Athlete Program to enhance the lives of our student-athletes and it needs to remain a focal point of our overall strategic plan.”

This latest plan does change the mission of the athletic department to further embrace the WHOLE student athlete concept, stating “CU Athletics will win championships and develop WHOLE Student-Athletes by growing revenue, making strategic investments, and building a world-class infrastructure.”

Developed in large part by CU Arts and Sciences Associate Dean for Research Dr. Theresa Hernández, a professor of behavioral neuroscience, the WHOLE athlete’s goal is to improve every student-athlete program in order to make each athlete’s experience at CU as beneficial as possible.  This involves several programs including CU’s Herbst Academic Center, Diversity and Inclusive Excellence programs, the Scripps Leadership and Career Development Program and health and wellness programs.

One of the big changes with this plan was the re-defining of the core values.  The core values of Respect, Accountability, Passion, Integrity and Dedication (RAPID) remain constant, but definitions of each have changed to better fit our culture in today’s landscape.

  • Respect: The willingness to honor and embrace the diverse perspectives and inherent worth of individuals through listening and empathy.
  • Accountability: Being responsible for agreed upon standards, decisions, actions and results that impact CU Athletics.
  • Passion: Personal motivation, shared energy, and action for student-athlete and department success.
  • Integrity: To act in alignment with shared expectations in an honest and transparent manner.
  • Dedication: The commitment and perseverance to find the best ethical solutions and practices to achieve our vision and mission.

Those definitions came about after asking every staff member in the department for feedback and George read every single response and that feedback was implemented into the new definitions.

One constant through each Strategic Plan has been the CU Athletic Department’s vision: “To be nationally recognized as a premier athletics department, by providing a world-class and holistic Student-Athlete experience, operating in a fiscally responsible manner, while consistently competing for and winning championships.”

Along with a commitment to the WHOLE athlete concept, the plan also includes five major constructs that have been identified, Nationally Recognized, Winning Championships, Operating in a Fiscally Responsible Manner, Developing WHOLE Student-Athletes and Building a world class infrastructure.

Those five constructs were organized into three strategic intents:

  1. Utilize our resources to win championships at the University of Colorado Boulder
  2. Significantly improve development of the WHOLE Student-Athlete by building a culture and programs that create a world-class infrastructure in CU Athletics at the University of Colorado Boulder
  3. Significantly improve the revenue and strategic investments of CU Athletics at the University of Colorado Boulder

Each of the three strategic intents consist of strategic and tactical objectives, with the strategic objectives having specific focal point goals for the next three years and the tactical objectives detailing check points with similar goals.

These focal points and check points first raised eyebrows when initially implemented in the first strategic plan because it clearly defined high goals for each CU sport. Some of those goals include winning at least one Pac-12 championship in football, men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and lacrosse between 2024-25. Other sports have even higher targets, with men’s and women’s cross country and skiing aiming for NCAA championships.

“When we started this, everybody was surprised that we would put those goals out publicly,'” George said. “But I think you have to put your goals out there for people to see and then communicate where you are in the process. Our coaches were engaged in developing what those metrics look like and that’s important. Everybody has to have buy-in as to where we’re headed.”

All of CU’s student-athlete initiatives are aided by support from donors. For more information on how to donate through the CU Buff Club, go to


Story by Curtis Snyder, Interim Associate AD/Athletic Communications and Content courtesy of the University of Colorado at Boulder.