Cliff Buck was a fixture in what could be called Denver and Colorado’s Golden Era of sports.
Memories of those days long ago filled with the quiet time of retirement for Buck on Colorado’s Western Slope until his death at 88. When he learned of his induction to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, he told a spokesperson, “I’m really pleased and honored.” Word of the induction obviously struck a chord.
As Colorado’s only president ever of the United States Olympic Committee, Buck presented a trim, impressive figure in leading United States teams into Olympic Stadiums in Sapporo, Japan for the Winter Games, and Munich, Germany for the Summer Games.
Buck brought with him a wealth of experience to those shining hours. Besides the time when overseeing a National AAU Men’s Basketball Tournament was monumental duty, Buck filled terms as President of the Colorado AAU as well as the National AAU. He was a prominent figure in attempts to settle a well-publicized feud between the AAU and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Buck conversed many times with the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the assigned arbitrator in the feud. While Buck listed the lack of a settlement in the dispute as one of his main regrets (it had since been settled), his term as USOC president is at the other end of the spectrum.
Buck called the march into Munich’s Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremonies of the 1972 Games “the ultimate” experience of his life.
His term as USOC president was the high point of 30 years in the administration of amateur sports.
The 1972 Summer Games may have presented the toughest challenge ever for any USOC president. The Games were marked by terrorist activity against the Israeli team, as well as a series of extraordinary events that marred the U.S. team.
A loss of the gold medal in basketball to the Soviet Union in a disputed ending of the championship game was the most frustrating. But there also was a disputed ban on the use of a pole vault that hampered Bob Segren of the U.S. and one of the world’s best at the time. Two sprinters failed to show up for their starting time and were disqualified, a U.S. swimmer lost a gold medal because of a cold medicine, a disputed judgment in the shotput cost a medal and Jim Ryun fell in his last chance to win an Olympic medal. Col. Don Miller, then Executive Director of the USOC, called it a “Most difficult time. Cliff gave it his all and he did everything he could in his interest of athletes and the Olympic movement in the United States”. He was also a strong supporter of Denver’s bid to stage the 1976 Winter Games traveling to 80 countries to help win the bid.”
Miller called Buck a devoted force for amateur sports. “He devoted most of his adult life to amateur sports,” Miller said, “there isn’t a man who could have offered more to amateur sports in our country than Cliff Buck.”
There isn’t a man who could have offered more to amateur sports in our country than Cliff Buck.