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Know your enemy: Colorado State edition


Boise State will play their first game as a member of the Mountain West Conference on Saturday against Colorado State in Fort Collins. Colorado State is coming off a bye week that preceded a loss to San José State and the Broncos are coming off a bye week where they played Fresno State. Boom roasted. It should be exciting to see a new conference opponent for a change and Colorado State, as you'll find out below, has a pretty colorful history Of course, this won't help them once the game starts...but it'll be fun to learn anyway, right? Right?

It's time again to know your enemy.

Ten things Bronco fans might not know about the Rams or their Rocky Mountain residence

10) You'd have probably never guessed, but Fort Collins—the home of Colorado State University—was indeed once a fort. Founded in 1864 when soldiers from the 9th Kansas Cavalry were dispatched from nearby Fort Laramie to guard the Overland Stage Line. The post was named "Camp Collins" in honor of Colonel William Oliver Collins (Tom's brother...Joan's uncle), but was destroyed by a flood a few months later. Looking for a new site, the commanders consulted a local farmer named Joseph "Perry" Mason, who showed them a sweet little tract of land on the Cache La Poudre river (Spanish for "it breaks Poudre") where they could move their little fort. Within a few more months, the site was ready for occupation and the order book referred to the location as "Fort Collins" rather than "Camp Collins" and well, I guess the rest is history. Fact is, the "camp" moniker was probably a better fit since the outpost had no walls, meaning that basically it was just some cabins and tents in a field. Even child engineers know to put walls on a fort, and furthermore know that you want couch cushions to be your load-bearing walls.


William Wall-less

9) In 1872 the town of Fort Collins experienced its first population boom thanks in part to the establishment of an agricultural colony. The cosmopolitan pursuits of rock quarrying, sugar beet farming, and sheep slaughter really put the berg on the map and by 1900 the surplus of beet tops and sheep led the metropolis to become known as the "lamb feeding capital of the world". I have a sneaking suspicion that in the early 1900s towns that did stuff that was too boring or unprofitable for other towns to do often labeled themselves as "____ capital of the world"—besides, it looked better on the town population sign than "Beets and Sheep, 4 for a dollar".

8) Colorado State University was founded as the Agricultural College of Colorado in 1870, fully six years before Colorado achieved statehood. The school got its start thanks to the oft-mentioned Morrill Land Grant College act and was penciled out on a 30-acre land parcel that stood vacant until the first building "the Claim Shanty" was erected in 1874. I know what you're thinking...4 years to build one building? Well, they didn't have teamsters back then, otherwise it might have taken 6! /rimshot. All jokes aside (but not too far aside), the school had to jump through all the regular bureaucratic hoops and funds had to be raised and allocated before the Beets 'n Sheep institution could get off the ground...which it eventually did when the first students arrived in 1879. The university's first president, Elijah "Easy E" Edwards, had been a civil war chaplain and bore an uncanny resemblance to David Crosby.



7) Colorado State played their first football game in 1890 but had no coach, and presumably no arms and legs and saw their 2 game season end winless against the likes of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines. Of course, you can't fault them too much, as Colorado at the time had a live buffalo playing center and the School of Mines were allowed to utilize the tools of their trade—pickaxes and dynamite. By 1903, CSU finally produced a winning season under head coach Matt Rothwell. Rothwell had enough sense to leave Fort Collins after one season, and history rewarded him for it by making him the CSU coach with the highest win percentage ever (.833). Sadly, it took the Rams another 12 years before recording another winning season—this time under Harry Hughes, who is both the winningest, losingest, tyingest, and longest-tenured coach in the school's history. Hughes had 19 winning seasons in his 32 years at the helm. In the 64 years since Hughes' last game, the Rams have had just 27 winning seasons...setting them up for a Bad News Bears-esque title run in 2034.

6) My favorite CSU football coach of all-time is Sark Arslanian, who coached the Rams from 1973 to 1981 and whose name was voted "most stereotypical" by Armenian Coaching Today. Arslanian is still coaching to this day, albeit eighth graders in St. George, Utah...making him the oldest active coach football coach in the U.S.—and I'm using the term "active" very lightly—he's 87.


Sark Week.

5) Picking the best player in Colorado State history is a largely subjective undertaking, but I'd say that Thurman "Fum" McGraw has a pretty strong case. Fum—who had brothers named Fee, Fie, and Fo—enrolled at CSU (then known as Colorado A&M) in 1946 after serving a stint with the Marines in WWII and quickly became a dominant defensive end for the Rams (then known as the Aggies). Fum's boxing and wrestling background and 6'5" frame helped him become the school's first consensus All-American in 1948...a feat he repeated in 1949. After graduating, Fum was drafted by the Detroit Lions and was selected Rookie of the Year and an All-Pro in his first season. Fum only played 5 seasons in the NFL, but was good enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981. A CSU booster till his death in 2000, Fum would inspire often visit the locker room and recite what is now known as "Fum's Song", a harmless ditty that denigrates their rival institutions. Of course, since this is the 21st century, and no one can be offended or the least bit put out, ever, the school was asked to halt the playing of a video of McGraw singing "Fum's Song" on the stadium jumbotron prior to the 2006 season. I've embedded the video of ole Fum belting out his tune below...but I warn you, it's so objectionable you might just get the vapors.

'Better than Cornell'? You sir, have highly offended one Andrew "Nard Dog" Bernard!

4) CSU employs (he works for sugar beets) a Rambouillet Bighorn Sheep named CAM as their live mascot for football games. The Ram, now in it's 21st iteration, takes the field before games and at halftime and will give a hearty "BAA" when asked about this year's CSU squad. The mascot(s) got the name CAM in 1946 when a acronymically gifted alumnus suggested the name to stand for Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College...wait, that's CAMC! What are you playing at?! At any rate, the 22nd CAM is supposed to be "unveiled" this season—man, I hope it's at the BSU game this weekend, I've been dying to see the passing of the horn ceremony!

Rock on!

3) The Rams play their home football games at Hughes Stadium (capacity 34,400) and have since 1968. The stadium bears the name of coach Harry Hughes, who as you learned before was the Joe Paterno of CSU football. The field surface is named after another legendary Ram coach, Sonny Lubick, who led the team for 15 years only retiring in 2007 after it seemed he'd lost his touch. The first ever game at Hughes Stadium took place in September of '68, and the Rams fell to a Mean Joe Greene-led North Texas State squad. After the game however, in a show of respect and admiration, Greene presented CSU coach Mike Lude with a game-worn jersey in exchange for a bottle of Coca-Cola.

2) While CU-Boulder is a natural in-state rival—the oldest (and some say, bitterest) rival for CSU is the University of Wyoming. CSU and Wyoming have played 102 times dating back to 1899, with CSU having won 55 of the contests to date. Since 1968, the winner of the "border war" has received the Bronze Boot trophy, which is (gasp) a bronzed boot that was worn by CSU ROTC instructor Capt. Dan Romero in Vietnam. How he managed to sneak up on the Vietcong with that thing on is beyond me.


Boot-e-full (I apologize).

1) In 1977, NFL films director Phil Tuckett wrote and produced what amounts to a recruiting film for Colorado State called "Rocky Mountain Seasons". The film features bell bottoms, big hair, Sark Arslanian in short shorts, and the vocal stylings of the late John Denver. To put it simply, it is the greatest film about CSU football ever produced and likely the only one. Grab some popcorn and enjoy.