Around the Horn, August 21, 2019

Around The Horn” is news feature resurrection from the early days of We take readers around the college athletics world, as it relates to Colorado State and the Mountain West Conference. 

Calling His Shot. With the Rocky Mountain Showdown quickly approaching next week, and a big-time craving for a win, I’m reminded of my first-ever encounter with former Colorado State head football coach Jim McElwain in February 2012. Only on the job for a few weeks at the time, McElwain rubbed elbows with fans at the Cherry Hills Recruiting Roundup in Denver. One of the first things out of his mouth as he chatted with a few of us before he took the stage to introduce his first recruiting class was, “We’re going to beat those guys in Boulder.” And sure enough, that fall, he went out and collected his first of two wins vs. the Buffs in his three-year tenure at CSU.

McElwain knew the games that were important to the fan base. When he lost to Wyoming in his first season, he privately vowed to never let it happen again (and proceeded to beat the Cowboys the next two seasons). Of course, he had his quirks too. That same night at the Recruiting Roundup, he also told us that Ram fans in attendance looked like “a bunch of dead fish”. When we looked at him puzzled, he explained, “Our fans look like all those dead fish you see at the grocery store. That’s the energy in this room right now. We need more Charlie the Tunas.” 

By the way, CSU’s current four-game losing streak matches the longest since the two teams rekindled the rivalry on an annual basis in 1995. The Rams lost four straight from 1995-1998. The longest losing streak in the series is a 12-game streak from 1933-1947, which was snapped by the 1948 Colorado A&M Raisin Bowl team that went 8-3. 

Training Camp MVPs. In case you missed it posted on the Ramblings Message Board this week, ESPN listed training camp MVPs for each NFL team so far this preseason. Both rookie CSU wide receivers — Miami’s Preston Williams and Minnesota’s Bisi Johnson — made the list. Of Williams, the author wrote: “No Dolphins player outside of the quarterbacks has created a louder on-field buzz than Williams this training camp. The 6-foot-5, 218-pound undrafted receiver out of Colorado State has thrilled the fan base with highlight one-handed grabs, consistent big plays on throws from Josh Rosen and a strong feel that he belongs not just on the roster but in the starting lineup.” Of Johnson, the author said: “Johnson has emerged during training camp as a bright spot on offense. As it stands, the seventh-rounder is somewhere between the No. 4 and No. 5 receiver and is furthering his consideration for a spot on the 53-man with his work on special teams.” Click here for the full story

Field on Wheels. When Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas opens next year, the Raiders will play on natural grass, while UNLV will play on a synthetic surface. The Raiders’ field will sit on a retractable field tray while the Rebels’ field will be located on the stadium floor. The grass field will weigh 9,500 tons, and will be rolled through a 14-by-240-foot opening on the stadium’s south end. The process is expected to take 90 minutes to compete and will need 76 motors to get the job done.

CSU, meanwhile will be playing on a brand-new surface this fall, as their original, which was installed in 2017 as part of the opening of the new stadium, did not meet the “required percolation performance specifications.” In other words, it was not draining water properly. The new turf installation was completed earlier this summer and the cost was covered at stadium builder’s own expense. The replacement field, manufactured by Shaw Sports Turf, is the same synthetic “PowerBlade Pro System” as the original field, so it will look the exact same, with exception of the addition of the Canvas Credit Union logos. 

First Peek. Speaking of new stadiums, last weekend at a fan fest, San Diego State unveiled the first artist drawings of their planned 35,000-seat Mission Valley Stadium, with a hopeful open date of 2022. In 2016 voters awarded SDSU the ability to redevelop 132 acres of land where their current digs — SDCCU Stadium — sits. The Aztecs are also hoping to lure a professional soccer team as a joint tenant, as well as to host concerts and major NCAA events. SDSU noted that part of the stadium plan includes potential expansion to 55,000 seats if a National Football League team ever returns to San Diego. Click for a brief video

Loyalty Program. UNLV is implementing a rewards program for its season ticket holders. A new “Rebel Rewards Ticket Scan Program” is designed to reward season ticket holders who use their tickets at football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, and baseball games this coming season. Ticket holders will get rewarded when they attend 60%, 80%, and 100% of eligible events, and attendance still counts even if the the fan gives the ticket to someone else.

For football, prizes include a personalized card from a member of the team or coaching staff (for fans attending 80% of the home games, or five of six games) or a Fertitta Football Complex tour for fans who attend all six games. For men’s baskeball, prizes include an autographed photo signed by Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger (fans attending 60% of games), a basketball facility tour given by MBB staff and student-athletes (fans attending 80% of games), or a postseason shootaround and mini clinic with student-athletes and coaches (for perfect attendance). 

CSU doesn’t have such a program, but the Ram Ruckus student group does track members’ attendance via a mobile app, allowing fans to check-in and win prizes for attendance. 

Special Delivery. CSU’s football season tickets were mailed out last week, and the package is impressive to say the least. It’s a far cry from the days of the single sheet of perforated tickets, and a nice perk considering some schools a cross the country are transitioning to digital tickets only. Like the past few years, this year’s tickets come as part of a spiral-bound book, and each home game ticket features creatively designed segments of the Ram Fight Song. Also, a new this year was the addition of an email indicating that the tickets had been mailed, along with a corresponding tracking number, so that fans could know exactly when the prized envelope would arrive. 

Boise State had its own unique way of delivering tickets this year: Football players hand-delivered season tickets to members of the Broncos Athletic Association — Boise State’s primary fundraising arm for the athletic department (much like the Ram Club). 

Ticket Lag. Over the last 10 years, the University of Wyoming has impressively brought in several marquee non-conference opponents to Laramie, including such foes as Washington State, Oregon, Nebraska, and Texas. This year’s draw is the SEC’s Missouri Tigers. However, as of Tuesday night, Wyoming had sold just over 20,000 tickets for the game — the team’s home opener — according to the Casper Star Tribune. That number factors in the average number of Wyoming students that usually attend home games, as well as roughly 1,900 tickets from Missouri’s allotment, plus another 1,000 or so tickets that Tiger fans who have bought through Wyoming’s ticket office. War Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 28,937. While the scheduling is admirable, fans may be tiring of the beatdown the Cowboys have suffered in each of the games. The ‘Pokes have lost the four marquee games by an average of four touchdowns. Hopefully this year breaks the trend. 

Winning Cures… There’s been a lot of discussion on the message boards about declining ticket sales at Canvas Stadium. Most people agree that winning will help cure that problem. CSU is 24-27 in the last four years, and hasn’t competed for a conference championship since 2014 (when the Rams finished just behind Boise State) or won a championship since 2002. One needs to look no further than Central Florida, where a mere four years ago, the Knights drew around 26,000 fans/game during an 0-12 season. In former head coach Scott Frost’s first season in 2016, UCF went 6-7 and attendance spiked to 32,000. In 2017, during an undefeated season, UCF drew about 40,000 fans/game, and last year during a 12-1 Peach Bowl campaign drew 44,000-plus. UCF’s athletic department recently announced they’ve sold out of season tickets for the 2019 season for a stadium that holds 44,206. CSU has a beautiful stadium in a beautiful setting and has created a spectacular game-day experience, but the Rams have got to start winning. And, they’ve got to put on a better show at home. The .500 home record (6-6) in two seasons at the new stadium is not inspiring. 

Not So Rosy Palm. The Denver Post recently conducted a Q&A with CBS playoff guru Jerry Palm, and his projections for CSU in 2019 are not pretty.  Palm cited CSU’s difficult schedule and predicted only three wins on the season. “They are in the better division of the Mountain West Conference to begin with, then draw Fresno State and San Diego State from the other division. On top of that, any non-conference win over an FBS opponent would be considered an upset. There isn’t one swing game, but I think the Rams have to beat Toledo in Week 4 to have any hope at all.” Palm also predicted CU would miss the postseason, with only Air Force in his preseason bowl outlook. Click for the full Q&A.

Grad Honors. Beginning this year, the Mountain West will honor student athletes who already hold a degree (but have remaining eligibility) with a special patch that incorporates both the MW mark and the word “graduate.” In football, CSU has three current graduates on the roster — Troy transfer Tron Folsom, Arizona State transfer Jalen Bates, and College of San Mateo transfer Andre Neal.  

Finicky Frog. TCU head coach Gary Patterson, who was always one of the more entertaining coaches when part of the Mountain West, recently was asked about his “never happy” mentality as a head coach. He replied: “How many coaches have been a head coach over 10 years? It’s frickin’ hard. It’s like staying married. It’s no sane, natural thing to do. You guys know that, right?”

Patterson has been the head coach at TCU since 2000, marking the second longest current coaching tenure at the same school in college football, behind only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (1998). Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and Ohio coach Frank Solich are next behind, having coached 15 seasons at their respective schools. For some perspective, that matches Sonny Lubick’s tenure at CSU from 1993-2007. Here’s a full list of tenures as of 2019

Post of the Week. This one comes courtesy of Big Horned Sheep, posted  on the Ram Club Message Board (if you’re a donor, you just need to email us to be set up with access to that board). BHS broke down the position-by-position analysis for the Rocky Mountain Showdown, ultimately arriving at a final score prediction of  CU 34, CSU 27. Queue the Price is Right loser’s horn. Still a good breakdown and thought-provoking post leading into the opener! Click here for the post

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