Hi-Topper Legendary Teams are a breed apart. They possess more than just a winning attitude for winning’s sake. No Hi-Topper Legends win WITH attitude. Some like the 1990 Reds have a cast of memorable characters achieving the seemingly impossible. Others like the Wristband King may never have won the Big One but their style alone made them worth remembering.
And then there’s the story of the 1989 Colorado Buffaloes.
Sal Aunese, Buffaloes starting QB, led CU to an 8-3 record and a Freedom Bowl appearance in 1988. During the Bowl game Aunese appeared ill, sluggish, not his normal self. In the months after the end of the season Aunese was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Inoperable stomach cancer. At age 21 he was given six months to live. Complicating matters even further, Aunese was secretly in a relationship with Kristy McCartney, the daughter of Colorado’s Head Coach Bill McCartney. And she was pregnant.
Their son was born in April 1989.
Sal Aunese died on September 23, 1989.
In the midst of this tragedy the 1989 Colorado team went on an undefeated 11-0 Championship run through the then Big 8 Conference.
Taking over for the fallen Aunese was Darian Hagen, a spark plug option QB who both ran for AND passed for more than 1000 yards in the 89 season.
In the backfield with Hagan creating a vicious one-two punch was do-everything back Eric Bieniemy:
Sadly the Dream season ended in defeat to a resurgent Notre Dame Team led by Rocket Ismail and Tony Rice.
The Buffaloes did get their revenge the following season defeating the Irish and winning a co-National Championship title.
But it was the 1989 Buffaloes who captured the hearts of sports fans across America.