Around the Horn, August 14, 2019

Around The Horn” is news feature resurrection from the early days of RamNation.com. We take readers around the college athletics world, as it relates to Colorado State and the Mountain West Conference. This edition of ATH is brought to you by Rams Book Store, a RamNation.com sponsor since we launched in 2000. They’re an annual sponsor/prize provider for our football pick’em contest and basketball pool, and have been a fantastic partner for almost 20 years. If you’re in the market for CSU attire, give Rams Book Store first shot at your business!

Canvas Outpacing. The Colorado State Athletic department presented its 2018-19 financial report to the Board of Governors last week, and some of the highlights included:

  • Revenue increased by almost $1.5 million compared to the opening year, including an additional $1.775 million of revenue due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (which significantly reduces the income tax rate for corporations) causing total Canvas Stadium revenues to exceed Fiscal Year 2018 by more than $3.2 million.
  • Total stadium expenses (exclusive of the bond payment) were reduced by $177,000 to $2.9 million from FY 18. However, total expenses exceed the original projections from 2012 by more than $1.5 million due to significant changes in the landscape of security and fan expectations since initial projections.
  • Game day expenses for the 2018 football season were reduced almost $200,000 through cost-containment steps following an assessment of the 2017 season and despite roughly $70,000 in additional game-day staffing expenses due to installment of metal detectors.
  • Athletics reinvested an extra $1.996 million beyond revenue realized by Hughes Stadium into the department, while returning an additional $200,000 in revenue to the Office of Provost, which will be used for academic purposes.

CSU’s $37.7 million partnership with Canvas Credit Union is driving the healthy numbers, helping pay for a significant portion of the $220 million on-campus stadium.

CSU 3rd in MW in Revenue. USA Today recently compiled a report outlining total revenues and expenses of 230 universities for 2018, and CSU ranks 60th in the country at $54,728,814 in revenue (and expenses totaling $52,159,851). That ranks third in the MW behind No. 56 Air Force’s $60,101,907 ($53,530,468 in expenses) and No. 57 San Diego State’s $55,687,184 ($54,933,032 in expenses). Surprisingly James Madison, of the FCS, ranked No. 61 — just ahead of Fresno State, UNLV, and Boise State, who ranked No. 62-64, respectively. San Jose State brought up the rear in the MW by a long shot at No. 100: $32,035,899 ($32,563,136 in expenses). The Spartans were one of four MW members showing a deficit (along with Fresno State, Utah State, and Nevada, that latter of which posted the biggest deficit at almost $7.1 million). For the full list and methodology behind the numbers, click here

Bobo on Yahoo Hot Seat List. Mike Bobo made Yahoo Sports’ hot seat list, along with two other coaches in the MW. Of Bobo, author Pete Thamel wrote: “This is the best Group of Five job expected to open, as Mike Bobo slipped to 3-9 after three consecutive 7-6 seasons. Colorado State has bigger aspirations, and Bobo needs to establish quickly he’s the guy to help them reach those. The $5.5 million buyout is steep for any MWC school.” 

New Mexico’s Bob Davie and UNLV’s Tony Sanchez also made the list while San Jose State’s Brent Brennan and San Diego State’s Rocky Long were “worth mentioning” (although Long was suggested as a potential retiree at the age of 70). Visit Yahoo Sports for the full story.

Facebook TV. Through a partnership with Stadium, the Mountain West will have seven games air exclusively on Facebook this season, which is the third consecutive year the MW and Stadium have partnered with Facebook. CSU, however, will not be one of those games. For the full list of MW games airing on Facebook, click here

Dozen Telecasts: No need to have your games on Facebook when all 12 are on actual TV. CSU announced yesterday that AT&T SportsNet picked up the final two remaining games on CSU’s schedule — home dates with Western Illinois (Sept. 7) and UNLV (Nov. 2). That means all 12 of the Rams’ games will be televised this season. Click here for the full schedule. AT&T SportsNet picked up a total of nine MW games this season. Aside from the two regional games on AT&T SportsNet, the Rams will also appear on ESPN Networks six times (CU, Toledo, San Diego State, Fresno State, Air Force, and Wyoming), CBS Sports Network three times (Utah State, New Mexico, Boise State), and the SEC Network once (Arkansas). 

Wide Receiver U. Last week’s Around the Horn mentioned the great preseason that Preston Williams is having. But don’t sleep on Bisi Johnson, the former CSU Ram drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He caught two passes for 35 yards and a touchdown in his first preseason game vs. the New Orleans Saints. Sean Borman, managing editor for VikingTerritory.com, noted earlier in camp that Johnson is separating himself from the large group of young wide receivers. He found himself rotating in with the first team in practices leading up to Saturday’s preseason opener. Head coach Mike Zimmer pointed to Johnson as a standout when asked last week about the many young receivers fighting for roster spots behind starters Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. “Olibisi is doing well,” Zimmer told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “He’s playing a multiple number of spots. Catches the ball well. Gets to the right place most of the time.” 

Williams, by the way, had a phenomenal preseason opener also, catching four passes (including a couple jaw-droppers) for 97 yards, leading the team. Second-year WR Michael Gallup is slated as a Dallas Cowboys starter opposite of Amari Cooper, according to OurLads.com’s latest depth chart. Third-year player Rashard Higgins is the Cleveland Browns’ leading receiver after one preseason game thus far, catching five balls for 98 yards and a touchdown vs. the Redskins. He’s listed as a second-teamer behind Jarvis Landry. 

More PW Praise. The NFL.com’s Greg Rosenthal had some pretty entertaining praise for Williams following his preseason debut: “On one hand, I’ve learned not to get too excited about an undrafted rookie wideout blowing up the first week of the preseason. On the other hand, DID YOU SEE WHAT PRESTON WILLIAMS DID TO THE POOR FALCONS?”

He continued: “He’s 6-foot-5, 218 pounds and made more eye-opening plays in one game than some recent first-round receivers (John Ross, Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman) have made in their entire careers. He fought for contested passes, showed great footwork on a sideline toe-tap and displayed serious juice on a one-handed grab down the sideline.”

Seriously, nobody spent a draft pick on this guy? Where you at Denver Broncos?

Next-Level Rams. CSU currently has 11 players on NFL rosters. Aside from the aforementioned four wideouts, here’s an update on the rest: 

  • LB Shaquil Barrett — Currently listed as second-team outside linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Was listed as the team’s “biggest sleeper” heading into training camp, according to Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report.
  • RB Dalyn Dawkins — Dawkins is currently buried on the depth chart in Tennessee, but had a team-high 10 rushing attempts (for 35 yards) and two pass catches in the team’s first preseason game against the Eagles. He’ll see plenty of work this preseason as he fights for a spot on the 53-man roster.
  • OL Zack Golditch — Fighting for a guard spot as part of a deep offensive line unit in Kansas City. It’s still early in the preseason, but Nick Jacobs of KSHB news network in Kansas City listed Golditch as a likely cut. Golditch signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent last year and has spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, and Arizona Cardinals, where he made his NFL debut last November against the Los Angeles Chargers. He was waived in May before being picked up by the Chiefs. 
  • OL Weston Richburg — The highest-paid former Ram currently in the NFL, entering his sixth NFL season and second year with the 49ers after spending his first four seasons with the New York Giants. He has started all but one game in his pro career, but had knee/quad surgery following the 2018 season after suffering an injury in Week 4. He missed just one of the remaining 12 games, though he wasn’t nearly as effective as the 49ers would have hoped after signing him to a five-year, $47.5 million contract the previous spring. He is expected back in action prior to the season opener. 
  • OL Ty Sambrailo — Competing with rookie first-round draft choice Kaleb McGary for the Atlanta Falcons’ right tackle spot. But McGary underwent a procedure last week to address an irregular heartbeat, and Sambrailo was listed on the Falcons official depth chart as the starter heading into the first preseason game. Sambrailo was a second-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2015 and was traded to the Falcons in 2017, playing in 32 games in two seasons in Atlanta. He signed a three-year contract extension with the Falcons earlier this year. 
  • LS Trent Sieg — Was signed by the Oakland Raiders last fall to fill in for injured veteran long snapper Andrew DePaola. Sieg is trying to keep his job by unseating a now-healthy DePaola.  The team will only carry one long snapper on the roster when regular-season action gets underway September 9. 
  • LB Josh Watson — An undrafted free agent signee of the Denver Broncos this year, Watson is the team’s leading tackler through two preseason games thus far, collecting 15 tackles. He’s been trusted to call the defense for the starters due to injuries to Todd Davis and Josey Jewell. Earlier in camp, veteran linebackers like Von Miller and Joe Jones sang Watson’s praises. “The man wants to hit constantly,” Jones told the Denver Post. “I think he’s got a lot of potential. Once he gets the mental game down and his body under control a little bit, he’ll be great.”

Running back Kapri Bibbs was released by the Green Bay Packers in June, and is currently a free agent. QB Garrett Grayson spent some time on the Denver Broncos practice squad before being released, and was recently called by the Atlanta Falcons to compete for a roster spot, but Grayson decided to step away from football.

Further Separation? Over the years, we’ve seen the gap continue to widen between the so-called Power 5 schools and Group of 5 Schools. Lately, there’s been chatter about Power 5 schools unifying schedules with more games vs. fellow Power 5 schools. Alabama’s Nick Saban was the latest to suggest it, telling ESPN last week that he would like to see schools from P5 conferences play at least 10 games a year against P5 foes and/or Notre Dame in the regular season, and he said his program is working to make that happen on future schedules.

“I’ve always said, ‘Let’s play all Power 5 games,'” Saban said. “I was in the NFL where we played all the games against NFL teams. But let’s play at least 10 Power 5 games. It would be better for the players, better for the fans, and I think you wouldn’t have to worry that if you lost a game that you wouldn’t have as much of a chance to still be in [the College Football Playoff]. They talk about strength of schedule now, but how do you really evaluate that?”

This is not a good development for schools in the G5 like CSU.

Dope Lids. Sports Illustrated came out with a list of the top 10 helmets in college football history, and it was a veritable who’s who list of college football blue bloods. And many of the selections were highly debatable, as the biases continue to run deep in college football, with no representative choices outside the Power 5 conferences. So, here are Around the Horn’s rankings of the best helmets (current main helmet, not factoring in alternates) in the Mountain West:

  1. CSU – May be biased, but the dark green helmet and metallic gold horn are tough to beat. I still consider this the main helmet, even though the white bone helmets were worn more often last season. Either version still rates No. 1 in the league. (The alternate green helmet with pumpkin orange horns is OK, but comes together when worn with the orange Aggie jerseys.)
  2. Air Force – The simplistic white helmet with blue lightning bolt is iconic, unique, and sharp. The Falcons also wore a blue helmet with white bolt, which was equally sharp. (The Falcons have worn 10 different helmets in the last four years, and a few of their many alternate helmets are among the best in the country.)
  3. Wyoming – Maybe it’s blasphemy, but let’s face it, Steamboat the bucking horse is an awesome logo on a helmet. 
  4. Hawaii – The H logo on the right side is ok, but the image of the Hawaiian islands on the left is what makes helmet awesome.
  5. San Diego State – The subtle Aztec calendar embossed on a metallic scarlet(ish) helmet is unlike any other in football.
  6. San Jose State – It’s tough to screw up a cool Spartan logo, and San Jose State’s isn’t bad. Last year, the Spartans primarily wore a blue helmet with yellow Spartan logo, while occasionally mixing in a yellow helmet. This year, they will primarily wear a white helmet, which looks sharp. 
  7. Boise State – It’s tough to rank Boise State’s helmets because they wore five different helmets last year. But they’re all similar variations of each other, with the large Bronco head on one side and numeral on the other side. Boise used the same style in blue, white, and orange throughout the 2018 season. Their large Bronco image on the right side of the helmet is in your face, just like their football team. 
  8. Utah State – The Aggies mix in a couple different versions of their helmet — both the same design — just in different colors. One is a matte navy blue with block U-State logo, another is the same, but in white. Each are decent, but uninspiring.  
  9. Fresno State – The scripted “Bulldogs” helmet was their primary version last year, and is “ho hum”. Fresno State occasionally wears the white Bulldog helmet (twice last year), which if was their more commonly worn helmet, would be ranked higher on this list.   
  10. UNLV – Only thing going for it is the color scheme. UNLV actually wears three variations of the helmet throughout the year, just in different colors (silver version, scarlet version, and black version). In general though, the simple UNLV arch letter logo does not seem in line with big Vegas style.
  11. Nevada – The scripted “Pack” lettering is unimaginative (with the numeral on the other side). The team also wore a gray version of the same design a couple of times last year, as well as a secondary gray design. (Their best helmet is an alternate with the “Battle Borne” logo on the left and numerals enclosed within an outline of the state of Nevada on the right. But that doesn’t count in these rankings.) 
  12. New Mexico – The Lobos logo adorning their helmets looks like it belongs on letter head rather than a football helmet. Their main helmet is white with the Lobos logo on the side, and they also donned a similar gray version a few times last year. (Their alternate New Mexico flag icon helmet though should be their full-time helmet!)

For full history behind each team’s helmets, check out the Helmet Project. It’s a fascinating site. 

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Flag Bearer. Speaking of helmets, this is a cool idea by Iowa State. They’re placing stickers of each player’s home flag on the back of his helmet. If CSU were to do this, they’d need flags from Colorado (36), California (15), Georgia (11), Florida (9), Texas (8), Louisiana (7), South Carolina (3), Maryland (2), Minnesota (2), Ohio (2), Alabama (1), Arizona (1), Illinois (1), Michigan (1), North Carolina (1), Pennsylvania (1), Washington (1), and two from the country of Germany (Hamburg and Frankfurt).

In-and-Out! Former MW member TCU recently announced beer would be available at Amon G. Carter Stadium this fall, but also announced that its popular re-entry policy was being scrapped, much to the chagrin of fans. Got me wondering if allowing CSU fans to re-enter Canvas Stadium would have any positive impact on keeping students around in the second half. As long as they still have their same ticket and a stamped hand (and are re-screened through security), I don’t see a downside to it. CSU students are notorious early departers, and if this helps give them a chance to return to their seats, why not. CSU will tell you that due to alcohol sales at the stadium CSU, they won’t allow fans to leave and return because of safety and liability reasons.

OOHRAH! In case you missed it Monday, take the time to read Mike Brohard’s story about junior safety Joshua Griffin on csurams.com. The 2019 walk-on is 32 years old — the oldest player currently on a college football roster — and is still on active duty in the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as the Night Stalkers specialized helicopter unit. Griffin says he could be called back to service at any time while he is attending CSU as part of the Army’s Green to Gold Program (which allows qualified, enlisted soldiers to return to college to receive their baccalaureate degree). Thanks, my man, for your service!

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