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Mile High Sports, December
Semyon Varlamov needs to start stealing games
Magazine-type sports talk
can work in Denver, too ...
as a change of pace
A couple of years
back, I placed tongue in cheek -- well, mostly -- and
proposed an "Anything But Broncos" sports talk radio show for a general
sports fan audience.
Our subject matter could be free form and eclectic, touching
on the Colorado and national sports scenes except
the Broncos. That would
mean the Nuggets, Avalanche, Rockies, CU,
CSU, DU, Air Force, Rapids,
Mammoth, Outlaws ... and more. Yes,
and more. If CSU Pueblo is in the
Division II national football
playoffs, for example, we'd find a way to talk
coach John Wristen, perhaps closing with his
where to get the best Pueblo slopper or what to
order at the Mill
Stop or Latronica's.
Implicit in all of it would be that you might not be a fan of everything
we talk about, but through guests and discussion, we'll try to make it
interesting, entertaining and educational. Yes, about all of those teams.
There are terrific stories tied to every team in the state. They can be found
and told. And when we're done with a segment, if you say, "I didn't know
that...," or "That was interesting...," or "Mike Bobo sounds like
a good guy,"
or, "That really ticks me off," we've
The callers would be in on it, and they would know that the second they
mentioned anything remotely connected with the NFL team, we'd hang up
on them. It could become part of the routine, with callers intelligently
discussing, say, the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon for four minutes and then
at the end of the call add, "But about Brock Osweiler ....," before the click.
The idea never got
The time might be right now.
Before I go any farther, though, I need to concede this would be a niche
show with a gimmick. At least at the start.
Despite their problems, the Broncos still
are the undisputed kingpins
of the Colorado sports market. They
always will be. Even now, as the
Broncos have "slipped,"
discussion of dysfunction can draw as much
interest, or more, than
picking apart mediocrity. Talking Broncos -- all,
most or any of
the time -- is safe, common denominator radio for ratings
purposes. I get it.
I've done radio work in Denver on several stations, mostly as a weekend
co-host and a fill-in co-host during the week. I have enjoyed
it. I mostly
enjoyed it when we did more
than talk about the Broncos. But I also
the time my co-host and I talked about Tim Tebow for three
hours. Later, a close buddy confronted me, saying he was sick of the
myopic approach, both on the station and on that show, and arguing
we should have talked about other things. Then he added, "But
I have you, let me tell you what
I think about Tebow ...," and he
to talk about Tebow for 10 minutes.
That, to me, is Denver sports talk radio in a nutshell.
I'd love to hear or do that "Anything
But Broncos" show. I'd concede that
the Broncos are No. 1,
but what could we possibly say that hasn't been
covered, and usually
to the point of overkill, elsewhere? And covered to
the point that
so much of the Colorado sports scene has been overlooked
This would be a niche approach that won't be for everyone.
Even those proclaiming they want more broad-based subject matter
stations and shows would have to be willing to
be open-minded. No Broncos.
None at all. That's the gimmick and
the concession: You can get that anywhere
even on the eclectic shows in the market (and there are some). One segment
would be about the Avalanche, the next would be about CU hoops, the third
about the Nuggets ... and so on. If you're interested in one
of those, but not the
other, would you
tune out? Or would you stick with us, agreeing that listening
to discussion about a team you don't passionately follow -- say, DU hockey and
an interview with NCAA championship coach Jim Montgomery -- also can be good
radio? Neither will this join the niche shows of single-sport
and/or team emphasis --
about the Rapids
and soccer, for example. This will not be a haven for fans who
tightly focus on one team or sport only, beyond the Broncos, or get deep into
analytics. This is a magazine-type show for a general audience. About ...
Anything But Broncos.
Absolutely, this kind
of show is more for another age, when listeners
were in the den
or the office, accustomed to staying with a single show --
for the entire show. It s not made for getting in and out of the car,
I believe sampling it during the commute or the run to the store
work, too. You will not be turning on the radio and hearing the exact
things discussed as earlier in the day, even if it was different hosts; or
the day or week before. In other words, don't tell me you've had it up to
here with Broncos talk, then when I toss out the many alternatives, you say,
"Who cares about CU basketball?"
As a two- or three-hour alternative and change of
pace, an Anything About
Broncos, magazine-type show could work.
It could find a niche.
But about Demaryius Thomas ...
December 24, 2017
A Football Classic on Guadalcanal,
then on to fight in Battle of Okinawa
This is a story I'm proud -- and also saddened
-- to have deeply researched and told.
It's about former Denver North High and Colorado A&M star Walter "Bus"
Bergman serving in the Sixth Marine Division in World War II, playing
remarkable football game on Guadalcanal on Christmas Eve 1944,
moving on with his Marine comrades to the Battle of Okinawa
in the spring
of 1945. Bus is at the right above, along with Marine
tentmates and fellow
former college football standouts George Murphy
(Notre Dame) and Dave
Mears (Boston University).
Bus, the long-time
football and baseball coach at Mesa College in later
life and the
father of one-time Colorado lieutenant governor Jane Norton,
the Bronze Star in the battle. He was teary-eved and spoke softly
we talked about the battle, including the fact that 12 of the Marines
played in that football game -- with rosters mostly of former college
and NFL players -- died on Okinawa.
Read the full version here.
Mile High Sports, December 18
Tyson Barrie isn't pictured, but he's still in the picture
Mile High Sports, December
On this (unnamed) line, Landeskog amps it up
Mile High Sports, December 15
Nathan MacKinnon's breakout
December 2, 2017
is a CSU Rams stalwart in
a revolving-door program
J.D. Paige dunks against the Buffaloes, putting CSU up 56-42 with 12:22 to play.
FORT COLLINS -- Four years ago in Aurora, I visited with Rangeview
High junior guard Jeremiah Paige for a major profile.
He had just turned 17 two weeks earlier, was coming off a 40-point
night in an early-round state tournament game, and was attracting
considerable attention as one of the top players in the state. Also,
he already had a handful of offers from major programs, including
Colorado, Colorado State, Denver and Wyoming.
We met again Saturday in the hallway of
Moby Arena, after Paige --
now known as J.D. -- had 16 points to
help CSU knock off previously
unbeaten CU 72-63.
Prentiss Nixon, the
Rams' other junior starting guard (at right), also had 16.
Paige and reserve guard Juan Sabino II, who is from Fountain and didn't
get off the bench Saturday, are the only Colorado products on the CSU
"This was huge," Paige said of wining in the intra-state
rivalry. "It was a
really big win
for us and for me, just to come out and prove a point."
the interview room, he said, "I'm excited. This one meant a
lot. . . We just came off a loss (at Missouri State) and we were just
trying to get on track."
So, no, he
wasn't effusive. That's not Paige. But the CU-CSU rivalry
back two generations in his family.
Larry Paige, played two seasons at CSU before
the Los Angeles Lakers
drafted him in the seventh round in 1978.
Breaking through from
that spot to make an NBA roster was virtually
Paige was no different. But he had game, and he
came away saying
nice things about CSU -- including later to his
For most of Paige's
teammates, CSU-CU is a short-term, once-a-year
matchup with a school
from another league, the Pac-12, and about 40 miles
to the southwest.
Yes, it can be emotional, as it became at times Saturday,
it's move on to the rest of the schedule. The Rocky Mountain
football rivalry is similar in some ways, but consider that the
crowd at Moby Saturday was only 5,217, far short of being full
and there is much less of a circle-the-date feel to this in hoops. Yes, it was
an 11 a.m. start and, yes, it was televised regionally. But otherwise, though
CSU coach Larry Eustachy praised both the size and the fervor of the crowd,
it could have been a matchup with Boise State.
There should be a way to arrange for a home-and-home each season, or even
a three-game series with the third at the Pepsi Center. But that's not going to
happen, and this had to do -- for Paige, the Denver native; plus CU's four in-state
products; and the fans who care on both sides of the rivalry.
Paige spent most of his childhood living with his mother, Amber Jones, in
Denver before they moved to Aurora when he was in elementary school.
He returned to Denver for his eighth-grade year, attending Morey Junior
High and living with his father, Samir Paige, who was at the game Saturday
and reacted emotionally when his son made the emphatic dunk shown in my
picture above. The next year, he rejoined his mother in Aurora and enrolled
at Rangeview, and that turned out to be a serendipitous decision. Eventually
choosing CSU, he redshirted for a year under Eustachy and was a full-time
starter by his sophomore season.
the combustible Eustachy relying on a revolving door cast of transfers,
both from junior colleges and other Division I schools, and also having
players depart in what has become the frequently nomadic NCAA player
pool, Paige is unique in the Rams' program. He's from Colorado
seems destined to play all four
years for Eustachy -- and even be in his
for five years. Nixon might do that too, since the junior came
to CSU from Bolingbrook, Illinois, High, and has stayed the course, too.
"I think I made the right
decision to come here," Paige said. "I liked
guys who were around me earlier." At that point, he mentioned
handful of Rams, including Daniel Bejerano. J.J. Avila and Gian Clavell.
"Those guys took me and really molded me," he said.
But what of the high-turnover nature of the program?
"That doesn't really affect me too much," he said. "You just get the
you've got and just try to make the best of it. Coach Eustachy
is a really
good coach. He believes in me and I believe in him.
My defense wasn't
what it should be when I got here and he's helped
me a lot with that.
So I think him for that."
Eustachy even acknowledged the uniqueness of Paige and Nixon's
status in the program. They began at CSU and they have stayed there.
"This is not just a game for those guys," Eustachy said. "This is Prentiss'
and J.D.'s school. We like to include
J.D. because he's from here and
we recruited him, but we recruited Prestiss just as long, when they
were both sophomores in high school -- ninth-graders, or sophomores
at least. So they take pride in this university and they know that this is
not just a regular non-conference game. It's very important.
I can't say
enough about the two."
For his part, Paige several times said the Rams realized the visiting team
had won the previout games in the rivalry, and that was the basis for some
"All I said was, 'Not here, not this time,'" he said.
The less-than-full house at Moby Arena.
Mile High Sports, November 30
Catching up with Jared Bednar
November 26, 2017
In the final analysis,
seasons of underachievement
Buffaloes and Rams
The most disappointing
part of Colorado's 34-13 season-ending
loss to Utah Saturday night was neither the defeat itself nor the
fact that it kept the Buffaloes short of bowl eligibility.
it was that the Buffs were so outclassed and manhandled
similarly disappointing Pac-12 team in the same situation,
the same theoretical motivation -- needing a win just to finish .500
the regular season, practice for a couple more weeks and play in a
The Buffs looked as if they were dulled, not recharged, by the quirky
late-season bye and two weeks since the November 11 loss to Southern
California in their final home game.
They played as if this was an anticlimax after the Senior Day ceremonies
and emotionalism tied to them.
They gave the impression as if they were fine with being
that sense, it was Colorado's worst and most puzzling showing of
It was worse than the 28-0 loss at Washington State,
since the Cougars
were ranked in the top 20 going into the Apple Cup Saturday.
It was more disappointing than the near-miss, four-point loss
with the Buffs threatening to pull it out in the final
It was more frustrating than the 45-42 loss to Arizona State at home,
with the defense allowing Arizona's then-backup quarterack, Khalil Kent,
to rush for 327 yards.
Pep talks work miracles in movies, but motivation has to come from
within, too, so Mike MacIntyre and his staff and the Buffaloes players
all have to answer for this stunningly flat finale. It was a total team effort.
The chance to extend the final seasons for Phillip Lindsay and Jeromy Irwin
and the other seniors apparently wasn't significant incentive.
The problem is, this
game can be defining. Faced with the chance to salvage
something out of the season in the final game and a bowl, the
were out of it in the first quarter. In a league
in which bowl eligibility is close to
a given, the MacIntyre program
will be at a disadvantage, not having the
that can begin to point to next season.
The Rise was Real. The Rise was Remarkable. But now the Buffs have
gone from First to Worst. As I've said before, regression this season wasn't
shocking, given the Buffaloes attrition from 2016 on the defensive side of
the ball, both on the field and in the offices after Jim Leavitt's departure for
Oregon. Plus, Sefo Lifau's leadership -- more than his play -- was missed.
Unfortunately, MacIntyre's frequent loss of poise and even petulance on
the sideline was memorable, too.
I'm splitting hairs here, but when I say "underachieved," I'm only secondarily
referring to the record. All involved had a chance to restamp this
as a program
on the move -- up -- and that involves everything.
Image, including the football
program's stunning upgrade in facilities.
Swagger. Feistiness. Absolutely, this
should have been a seven-win
team, and that would have been good enough
to avoid completely
wiping out the impression that MacIntyre was building a
capable of challenging for a division title most (not all) seasons. This
could have been a speed bump. It became more than that. And to top it off, the
Buffs went out meekly.
CSU finished the regular season at 7-5 the previous week -- see below -- and
the announcement came Sunday that defensive coordinator Marty English is
retiring from coaching after the Rams' bowl game. I'm sorry to hear that, because
English has been a regional stalwart -- to steal a word from the Rams' fight song
-- as a long-time assistant at Northern Colorado, Wyoming and CSU. The Alameda
High graduate probably can drive to every high school in the region. He was co-
defensive coordinator under Jim McElwain, then linebackers coach for one year
under Mike Bobo before resuming the coordinator role after Tyson Summers left
to become head coach at Georgia Southern. (Summers, caught in a strange situation
involving a transition to the FBS and political battles involving the option game,
also was fired during this season.)
I realize there will be some
glee from those who want to blame English
for at least the three-game
slide that transformed the season to a what-
But I actually went into the season thinking
the Rams' defense
was going to struggle all season, given the voids in personnel,
and its decent play in the first half of 2017 actually was a surprise. I'll concede
that the failure to at least slow down Air Force's option attack was puzzling,
especially since it was a Falcons team destined to be shut out by Army the
Yes, wins over Air Force, Wyoming and Boise State would have led to a 9-2
season. I get that. But the talk that this was a 9-2 team that blew its chance to
win the Mountain Division is overstatement. One of the beauties -- and
frustrations, too -- of college football is looking back to losses in the 50-50
games and sliding all of them over to the win column. But nearly every team
in the country has those woulda coulda shoulda losses, and the trick is to
minimize them. (You also rarely hear a discounting of the wins pulled out
in kismet seasons, as when the Rams won at Boston College in 2014.)
So I'll agree that
7-5 was underachievement for the Rams in Bobo's third
I'm not going to get carried away with what the Rams should
of the backdrops to all of this is that CSU President Tony Frank
considerable political capital and energy in the long battle to
approval from the CSU board of governors for what originally was
Jack Graham's baby, the on-campus stadium and adjacent practice fields.
Frank viewed it as an additional means to sell CSU not just in the state, but
nationally. Anything short of challenging Boise State as the league's showcase
program, at at least being near the front of the line for possible Big 12 expansion,
likely won't be acceptable.
But among Bobo's most admirable traits is that he seems to have
bar high himself, he is self-critical in disappointing
times, and it's not just
because a glittery season or two will make
him a "hot" prospect for Southeastern
(In the weird world of sports, though, McElwain's Florida fiasco
will make SEC programs wary of going after another CSU coach.) Bobo
clearly is steamed by underachievement, doesn't talk in circles to rationalize it and
is more peeved about it than anyone on the New Belgium porch. That's actually
After back-to-back desultory bowl-game showings against Nevada and Idaho
in which the Rams looked as if they didn't really want to be there, CSU is
getting another chance under Bobo. In that sense, depending on where the
Rams end up and who they play, there will be more credibility stake than
there otherwise might have been. A win in a down-the-line bowl isn't going
to make this a triumphant season, but it can lessen the frustration.
And so the Broncos
scapegoat Mike McCoy
to Paxton Lynch
In 2016, as I worked on my annual newspaper draft
assignment -- the quickly done, yet extensive
of the Broncos' top pick -- I snapped this of Gary Kubiak,
Paxton Lynch and John Elway.
I'm not sure exactly when scapegoating assistant coaches became
fashion in college and pro football,
but it did.
In the college game, the head coach often is responding to an athletic
director who has heard from disappointed boosters (i.e., contributors)
calling for, at the very least, staff changes. It demonstrates to the boosters
that they have influence. The head coach will remain on the job, at least
for another year, but an assistant or two will go.
In the pro game, it's
similar, whether the pressure to make changes
comes from above,
or it's a head coach's own attempt to deflect blame.
Or, as often
is the case, both.
The "fairness" of assistant coach ousters, of course, should be considered
individually. I'm not going to be so naive as to say they're always getting
bad deals. There has to be accountability at the staff level,
Yet there's a fine line. If you haven't drafted or signed a decent linebacker
in five years, it's not always fair to blame the linebackers
coach for problems.
(Obviously, that's a generic example, not a specific one.) My objection is
when staff firings are more about dodging blame and buying time
they are sincere decisions made
after considerable evaluation and inevitable
When first-year Broncos coach Vance Joseph this week announced the
firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and the elevation of quarterbacks
coach Bill Musgrave to coordinator, my
first instinct was to label it
and I'm still convinced there's a lot of that in it.
John Elway is neither a happy camper nor a happy executive vice president
of football operations. Firing Joseph, either now or after his first season on the
job, is a ludicrous suggestion for about 20 reasons. That's
not a blind
endorsement for Joseph's
work; it's a concession that as a savvy football man,
Elway had to know first-time head coaches require patience. (See Belichick, Bill.)
Under a previous regime, Josh McDaniels, who got off to a 6-0 start in 2009, lasted
until late in his second season. He
was fired more for Videogate and the general
impression he was out of control than because of the 3-9 record at that point
But during this
type of season, the reflexive response is to say: Do
In this case, the Do Something was to fire Mike McCoy.
Do Something used to mean after the season. Now
it means Now. Even in
November ... or sooner.
McCoy proved his willingness to adapt to the circumstances when
fashioning the Denver offense to Tim Tebow. He did not become an
inflexible idiot overnight. The "per sources" narrative
is that his offense
was too complicated
and his call sheet too extensive, including plays not
practiced during the week. Yet it's interesting the way that virtually came
out of nowhere and wasn't much discussed until this week.
There are two asterisks here.
One is that Joseph
got considerable, um, help from above in assembling
his staff. So he wasn't as strongly tied to McCoy as he otherwise would
have been, and this decision obviously wasn't his alone, either.
The second is that Musgrave -- the former Gold Helmet winner at Grand
Junction High, four-year Oregon starter, former Broncos backup
traveled NFL assistant --
was here to step up and take over the offense. His
previous stop was at Oakland as the coordinator until Jack Del Rio curiously
resented his influence and even his salary as one of the highest-paid assistants
in the league and ousted him after
last season. The Raiders' 2017 offensive
albeit with Derek Carr missing one game with the back injury he
suffered in Denver, has slipped considerably from a year ago.
Musgrave's charge now is to work with and strategize for Paxton
but it's not as if he had to
introduce himself to Lynch as the young quarterback's
six-game audition begins. He would have been working with Lynch regardless.
The strategizing part of that formula is the major difference, with Musgrave at the
top of the offensive staff's hierarchy.
does a quarterback switch involve such overt concessions. Nobody is
being fooled here. This is an assessment period, laying the groundwork for
offseason decisions. A playoff berth is out of the question.
The hope is that
once Lynch is thrown
in, with the lights on and bright, he will at least dispel
the impressions generated by his much-derided and allegedly shaky work
ethic and failure to soak up the playbook.
Osweiler wasn't effective enough to help end the Broncos' skid, and
he'll be gone. If you're talking "fair," it would have been more fair if Osweiler
had a longer trial this time around, or even if Trevor Siemian,
after a hiatus
from the starting lineup,
was allowed the chance to rekindle the early season
competence that not long ago had some folks beating the drums for the
Broncos to tie him up to a long-term extension as soon as it
this isn't about fairness. It's about pragmatism.
If Lynch falls flat on his face or is terrific, of course, the
answers will be
clear. Write off Lynch
as the long-term answer, most likely bringing in a
veteran free-agent signee ticketed to start; or embrace Lynch him as the
No. 1 moving forward.
But the most intriguing and perhaps even most likely scenario
after six weeks, the results
will be ambiguous, the picture fuzzy rather
than clear. That wouldn't preclude keeping Lynch and bringing in that
veteran to be the No. 1, but at this point, the Broncos seem willing and
even committed to consider Siemian the backup moving forward
In 2016, when I did that extensive draft-weekend profile of Lynch (read it
here), tracking down past coaches and others in his life, I was struck by
how well-liked he was, but also that
he was a bit goofy. I don't mean that
a criticism, but an observation. Or even as praise, because it seemed
more endearing than a negative.
But since his signing, that seems to have been transformed into evidence
for coaches and teammates that he still needs to grow up, to
act like a quarterback.
Goofiness and quarterback success are not mutually
exclusive (see Rivers, Philip), but that requires accompanying inspirational
Lynch hasn't inspired anybody yet. This is his chance.
Earlier, Elway and the Broncos drafted Osweiler in significant part
because he played the role, sounding and looking like a quarterback.
As a terrific all-around athlete once on track to play basketball
instread of heading to
Arizona State, his intriguing and potential upside
were as much the selling points as what he had done on the field in limited
time as a Sun Devils starter under Dennis Erickson.
no accident that at least in terms of physical profile, Lynch and Osweiler
are similar. The most striking aspect of that picture above is how Lynch
towers over Elway.
Franchise quarterbacks are rare and elusive. This is Lynch's
show that one development
model and timetable doesn't fit all.
If he fails, the Broncos likely not only will look for
They might need another scapegoat.
Mile High Sports,
Horseman/D-man Erik Johnson
November 19, 2017
Red Miller was a Ring of Fame figure
Here before he was a Ring of Famer
Nan Miller, Red's widow, praises the Denver fans
on Red's behalf during the halftime ceremony.
Behind her are Red's grandchildren and that's Orange Crush
safety Billy Thompson at the left.
I could hear Red Miller saying, "Thata way, Nan."
His widow, Nan, did
a terrific job representing Red and his family
Sunday at the halftime
ceremony inducting the former Broncos coach --
at long last --
into the Ring of Fame. The ceremony by necessity was brief,
it was well done and did Red justice. With Annabel Bowlen, owner Pat
wife; PR man emeritus and unofficial team historian Jim Saccomano;
Tom Jackson, representing Miller's players in his two stints in Denver
first stint as an assistant), also speaking, Nan was up to the challenge of
honoring Red and thanking those he coached, worked with and affected. That
includes the Denver fan constituency that helped make that 1977 season magical
-- both those who lived it and those who cared enough to learn about it ... even
if that meant being regaled by parents, bartenders and scribes who correctly
swear it was a ground-breaking experience for the Denver market that couldn't
Nan and Red were married after Red's coaching career was over, and he was
a successful stockbroker. But Nan gets it, knows what this is all about and --
most of all -- loved Red.
Finishing up her turn at the podium at halftime,
she saluted "the greatest
fans in the NFL. You've been here
since 1960, a lot of you, and Red loved
you. You loved him back."
In the interview room
after the ceremony, Nan expounded on their reaction
the news about the Ring of Fame. "Really, truly we thought it
never happen," she said. "We thought those days were past, you know.
So it was quite a surprise. But it was just kind of quiet and peaceful. . . He has
been appreciated for the last 40 years, really, by this community. And that's
what it's all about, really. It's the little kids that come up and they don't even
know who he is, but their mom and dad say, 'Hey,' and they're just
that he'll sign a football. The neighbor kids, he takes
them to our basement and
says, 'Hey, pick out something,' and that
just means the world to those little
kids. They never forget that.
As we go about or daily business, in and out of
the grocery store and whatever, somebody always stops him
'Thank you for what you did in 1977,' or, 'It was so much fun back
Our family had so much fun.'
"It was wonderful and it was magic. For anybody who was here back in '77,
it was unbelievable. It turned the town on end for sure and put us on the map."
In the time I spent
with Red researching '77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming
of Age and then in our occasional visits in ensuing years, we never once talked
about the Ring of Fame. He attended ceremonies when his former players
were honored, but I never got the impression he was embittered by, or even
concerned with his exclusion. There were understandable lingering feelings
about his early 1981 firing, which was a fluke because the Phipps brothers
sold the team to Edgar Kaiser, and Kaiser wanted the hot, young coaching
prospect of the time -- Cowboys assistant Dan Reeves.
Yes, Reeves did a good job in
his stint here and even was the first Broncos
coach to make the
Ring of Fame, and it certainly was Kaiser's prerogative
a change, but it wasn't "right," either. But Pat Bowlen took over
the team soon after, and Red was in Denver the whole time, working, retiring,
and living with Nan in south Denver.
Red took the head coaching job with the ill-fated Denver Gold
USFL's 1983 inaugural season to be a head coach and stay
in Denver, but
he never got another NFL chance, in part because
he was unwilling to
become an assistant again as an intermediate
step. In particular, if he had
accepted an offer to join the Raiders
staff -- yes, the Raiders -- he might even
able to move up there or better position himself as a possible
hire in the coaching carousel. He feuded with tight-fisted
owner Ron Blanding, who zealously wanted to stick to the new league's
model to the point of ridiculousness, from the start and lasted only
of a season on the job before -- oh, the irony -- Craig Morton replaced him.
(That added to the strain in the Miller-Morton relationship.)
Red's Ring of Fame honor was long overdue,
and it was unfortunate that
it was posthumous. But it was appropriate
and worth celebrating.
Next up should be Otis Armstrong, who isn't on the Ring of Fame despite
winning an NFL rushing title. The catch there is Armstrong's long-ago legal
battles with team doctors over serious neck and spine injuries. But that
shouldn't matter. He's deserving.
This from earlier about Red:
Red Miller, who had suffered a stroke nine
days earlier while watching the
end of the Broncos-Chargers game at
home, passed away in the early
morning hours on September 27, and
his funeral in Greenwood Village
today was a moving experience.
What a terrific man.
At the Thursday service,
Red's son Steve -- who like Red is a gifted pianist --
Red by playing "A Closer Walk With Thee" and "Somewhere Over
the Rainbow," as well as offering memories of Red in a turn at the microphone.
His wife Nan also spoke, as did grandchildren Taylor, McLane, Bobby, Nick and
Cory, and it all was touching. Many members of the '77 Broncos attended and
Billy Thompson represented Red's former Bronco players in a turn at the
The above is Red and Nan when I had breakfast with them on August 23
at New York Deli News. We had an enjoyable conversation, and he already
was looking forward to and excited about his induction into the Broncos'
Ring of Fame at the November 19 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Here's what I call
the Quintessential Red -- Red being Red -- passage
from '77, about the Raiders rivalry.
And this is an additional excerpt, about Red's background, including
growing up in Macomb, Illinois
as the son of a coal miner and scrambling
for everything he had.
proud to have told his story.
Mike Bobo went through
what he put Nick Stevens through ...
and they love each other for it
Haley and Nick Stevens after the CSU quarterback's
stint in the post-game news conference.
FORT COLLINS -- Mike Bobo was benched as Georgia's quarterback and
challenged to win the job back.
He did it.
As a quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator at his alma mater,
he worked with Aaron Murray and Matthew Stafford, among others, as
the prodding perfectionist.
Now as Colorado State's head coach, he remains his own de
offensive coordinator -- minus the
title. And in that role, he has had
up-and-down relationship for three seasons with Nick Stevens,
who at times felt the brunt of the coach thinking that Steven's situation
reminded him a bit of that young Georgia quarterback.
had his seventh 300-yard passing game of 2017 Saturday as
the Rams closed out the regular season at 7-5 with a 42-14 rout of San
Jose State, snapping a deflating losing streak at three. The season was
transformed from what was supposed to be the program's turning
in Bobo's third season to a holding
pattern, but it ended on a day when
and Stevens had an emotional exchange during the pre-game
Senior Day ceremonies.
up to him and said, 'I love you coach,'" Stevens said after
game. "He said, 'I love you, too.'" Stevens added dryly, "A very
intimate relationship. He just said, 'I really appreciate you, I think
you've done a great job,' just shared a little moment there ... It was
just reflecting back on kind of our three years together and..." -- at
that point, he nodded at me, acknowledging an earlier question --
"...like you kind of mentioned, how close we've become."
This wasn't foreseeable a year ago, when Bobo not only yanked
Stevens in the season-opening loss to Colorado, he then went
Georgia transfer Faton Bauta as the
starter for one game and then
and prized recruit Collin Hill in three games before
Hill suffered a season-ending knee injury against Utah State.
Stevens had the job back -- by default. But he played well from
there, and the most curious aspect of it all was that Bobo showed so little
patience with a quarterback
who had been the Mountain West's second-team
all-league choice as a sophomore. The perfectionist coach clearly was disilllusioned
with Stevens, citing his 12 interceptions in 2015 as one reason he had a short
but it still was eyebrow-raising.
Bobo was, and still is, high on Hill, the
prized recruit from South Carolina,
but he redshirted this season,
healing up, and is set to be the starter next
season as a redshirt
It has worked out. And the Bobo-Stevens relationship never turned toxic.
Stevens was 26-for-32 passing, for 305 yards and three touchdowns
against the Spartans Saturday, I asked both the quarterback and coach about it.
"I get to be a little bit nicer than I was as a position coach," Bobo said. "But I
think he knows how much I appreciate him and what he is about.
I just went
out there to make sure I found
his mother and tell her, 'Y'all did a great job with
your son. You raised a great one.' It's not just the football and him overcoming,
but that kid's made of the right stuff. He's going to be successful
It's extremely proud, you love to coach you love
to see kids go through adversity
and overcome it and come out better
on that back end.
"And Nick Stevens, he's going to be able to handle anything. I really believe that."
I asked Bobo if that's the way Mike Bobo handled it.
"Well, you got support from
not just your coaches, but
your players," he said. "And
your family. These teammates
have been there for Nick and he has
a great wife (Haley), he's got a great
family, and sometimes you
have challenges. I think it's good when you
are faced with challenges
and you're told, 'Hey, you're not good enough,'
you're told you're
not the guy. I was told I was not the guy. It's humbling
sit. First thing you want to do is point fingers and it's human
to say, 'It's not my fault.' My dad (George) was a high school coach
has been a coach all his life, and he wanted to side with me instead of
siding with the coaches. Its like I told Nick, 'Your family loves you and
everybody outside loves you, but you have one coach. You listen to me,
we'll be OK.'"
Part of this is that Stevens didn't sulk after his benching, saying all the
right things -- and seeming to believe them. When Hill went down, he
was ready, and if part of the motivation was to prove his benching wasn't
right or fair in the first place, no coach has a problem with that. Even if the
coach is the guy who went through a demotion himself.
"I think we've built a great
relationship," Stevens said. "I feel real close to
Bobo. I feel like he recruited me (rather than the previous staff, which
did). I've definitely gotten a lot closer to Coach Bobo over the years, and this
entire coaching staff. But I think we have a level of trust and respect and have
a good time, sometimes when we make good plays and he calls a great play
and it gets executed well. He's definitely a great coach and I've become very
close to him. I think we have a very good relationship right now."
It's safe to say it
mended, and Stevens was the entrenched -- and soon to
starter Saturday as the Rams' seniors were individually introduced
trotted out to join their families on the field.
"It never really hit me until we were kind of lined up in the tunnel," Stevens
said. "Then when we went out there, everybody's families were
all there and
it was kind of just trying to find my family. It
went by so quick, it still hasn't
had a chance to settle in and
hit me. I'll let you know when I start crying later
something like that if it hits me."
Haley Stevens and CSU athletic director Joe Parker listen to Haley's husband at the rostrum after the game.
November 11, 2017
An emotional Folsom
finale for Lindsay, Irwin
the CU seniors
BOULDER --Phillip Lindsay and Jeromy Irwin both wear a "C"
-- for captain,
not Colorado -- on their
They both lead and they both battled emotions Saturday when they played
the final games of their CU careers at Folsom Field. Following the 38-24 loss
to Southern California that dropped the Buffs back below .500 and left them
needing to win at Utah on Nov. 25 to be bowl-eligible, they were among the 21
seniors who returned to the field about 15 minutes after the game for an informal
group picture -- and I snapped away, too.
they have been through the Colorado program's recovery -- even if
recovery has hit a speed bump this season.
Irwin, in fact, was part of the nadir year, playing as a true freshman in
CU's embarrassing 1-11 season in 2012 before he missed all of 2013 with
a broken foot and most of 2015 after suffering a torn ACL in the second
game. He received a rare medical hardship redshirt for that season, so
there he was on the Folsom Field screens Saturday night introducing
himself as part of the starting lineup against Southern California,
proclaiming "sixth-year senior" as if it was a badge of honor.
Which, of course,
Lindsay will depart the program as its all-time all-purpose yardage leader,
and that understates his role in the Buffs' progress. (If you wince at "The Rise"
now, or were never buying in, you have to concede there has been progress ...
and the diminutive Lindsay has been an inspirational force in all of it.)
After he rushed for
68 yards, equaling his lowest total of the season, on 20
against the Trojans, Lindsay wasn't brought to the interview room,
spoke to a small group of us outside the dressing room. I asked him
the emotions of the night, starting with carrying flowers to his parents --
including father Troy, a former standout running back at CSU -- in the pregame
Senior Day ceremony and knowing that with or without a CU bowl bid, this
was it for him at Folsom.
"For me, I keep my emotions to a minimum," Lindsay said, unconvincingly.
"It's not about me, it's about my teammates, and I go out
there and I do it for
them. One of these days, I'll be able to
come in this stadium and sit back and
reminisce about all the good
times and stuff like that. But right now, we're
focusing on that
we have one more game left, one more game for me to be
Buffalo, on top of the bowl, so it's going to be exciting."
Then I asked how far the program had come in his five years --
a redshirt year in 2013 after he played in only two games
as a Denver South
senior because of of a torn ACL.
"You guys can
see that better than I can," he said. "I feel like it's come a long
ways. It's college football. You have good years, you have bad years,
you have medium years. You just have to keep rolling with it."
In the interview room, CU coach Mike MacIntyre said Lindsay has "unbelievable
passion for the state of Colorado, for the University of Colorado,
and a passion in
playing for his teammates and his family. His
inner drive is probably the best
I've ever seen or been around.
And it's not just game day. It's every day of
the week. His attitude
and perseverance has got him to this point. He's a
athlete, he's done a lot of great things, but the thing that
him from most people is his perseverance and his positive
Lindsay will go into the Utah game with 1,402 yards rushing on 283
carries, for a 5.0-yard average. He always credits his offensive line,
and Irwin is the anchor of that group.
Irwin hasn't been in the program since the Bush administration ...
it only seems like it. By the way, although this is natural
about, or even to assume, but
he is not related to brothers Hale Irwin,
went on to play a little golf) and his brother Phil, and Phil's son
Heath, a guard who played seven seasons in the NFL. Jeromy is the
youngest of a set of triplets, and his brother, Sean, was a tight end
for the Buffs from 2013-16. Born in North Little Rock, Arkansas,
came to Boulder from Cypress Fairbanks
High in Cypress, Texas, about
He graduated last spring, and he has seen a lot in his six years in the
After coming off the field following the relatively somber senior photo
session, he told me of the emotions of the day: "They're high and they're
rough. It's going to be my last time playing at Folsom and it's over. That's
a tough one to swallow. But that's behind me. It's only been behind me for
five minutes, but but it's behind me now and we have to move on to Utah
after the bye week and we get better and we get rested."
Sean was on the Buffs' sideline
with a field pass, and Irwin's family was in
the stands -- including
in the front row after the game, when Jaromy came
over to say hello
"I just tried to keep the emotions in today," Jaromy told me. "They came
out a little bit in the locker room at halftime. I've done a lot of things --
tears, blood and sweat in this program."
The Buffs were trailing 20-0 and had only
152 yards of total offense at
So what did he say?
"I rallied the
offense together and just told them, 'I'm not going out like
We were getting beat 20-0 and it takes more heart rather than to go
there ane roll over. That's what I told them, 'We have to go out with
our hair on fire and get back in the game. We played a lot better in the
second half. We made too many mistakes early."
Because of his unique situation, Irwin is the only
Buff who played
under Jon Embree in that one-win season before
MacIntyre took over.
"From one win to 10 wins (last year) and now to five, with us hopefully
getting a sixth and make a bowl apearance," Irwin said. "But I've seen a
lot here and I could be a part of bringing the program back to where it
needs to be. There's more to it than wins. Just the culture around this
program is so much better these days. Guys care and guys really leave
it out there on the field. They don't come out there thinking we're just
going to roll over and get beat and go home any more. We're out there
to play and we're going to win.
"But it's coming to and end, which is sad. But I've been
here for six
years, so I've been expecting it. I can't stay any
more. It's still the same
here. Young kids come in and they learn,
either the hard way or through
experiences, and that's just the
way college goes."
As Lindsay spoke in the tunnel outside the dressing room, Irwin was
nearby, by now talking with Mark Johnson on the radio post-game.
He nodded at Irwin.
"He's an old
man," Lindsay said. "He's been here six years. He's a dominant
lineman. I'm looking forward to seeing him on the next level. You know, it's
going to be said to leave these guys, but one door closes, another door opens.
That's the way I look at it."
Wait. I know I should be pounding the table and the keys,
the Buffs' regression.
This wasn't my first visit to Boulder of the season, though,
and I've talked about all of that before in previous pieces. This was the Seniors'
Day, and although they aren't departing after a season that wasn't entirely
unexpected, but also represented underachievement, they have
been part of
building a foundation. The
major upgrade in faciities -- promised to MacIntyre
in his original contract and constructed after the requirement to raise the money
before proceeding was tweaked -- also has been instrumental. But this class
showed up before the recruiting pitches could include claims
-- justified claims,
not delusional wishful
thinking -- that the Buffs were keeping up with both the
Joneses and the Ducks ... and everyone else.
And they leave the program a better place than when they arrived.
November 5, 2017
Booted: Terrible weekend
for Buffs, Rams, Falcons
The Wyoming Cowboys celebrate reclaiming the Bronze Boot.
Let's take stock:
Colorado falls 41-30 at Arizona State and still is one win short of bowl
eligibility -- a modest goal, of course. Perhaps most troubling of all, Mike
MacIntyre seems to be making a habit of losing his poise on the sideline
and setting a horrible example for his team.
-- Colorado State is snowed under 16-13 at Wyoming. After the Rams
were on a roll as recently as two weeks ago, winning the Mountain
Division has become a virtual impossibility ... even if the Rams manage
to knock off Boise State next Saturday. And that would take a major,
perhaps unimaginable turnaround in the next week.
-- Air Force, a week after running wild against CSU, can't get anything
going against Army and loses 21-0. The Falcons drop back under .500
at 4-5 and -- yes, sir, most important to the brass -- finishes 0-2 against
the service academy rivals.
Other than that, everything went well.
I'm on record -- including in a piece below -- that MacIntyre
had CU on
the right track in the on-field sense and that a regression
this season in
the wake of major attrition, especially on the defensive
side of the staff
and the ball, was neither shocking nor worthy
of sounding high-decibel
But there are style points involved,
the savvy realists willing to be patient with the MacIntyre program
the rebuilding cycle, including a frustrating 2015 when the Buffs
an art of being competitive and finding ways to lose, should be troubled
by the vision of MacIntyre repeatedly going ballistic on the sideline. (Count me
among that faction, both as an alum and as an observer.)
A common reaction among coaches? Of course it is.
But this is not an
occasional rant with a point directed at officials, not
exhortation of his players, not understandable emotion. It is a
who in quieter moments away from the field tries to portray an image
calm statesmanship and effective leadership losing control. MacIntyre's
seeming paranoia about officiating also is a contradiction of his "hey, the
calls are the calls" reaction after the Pac 12 officiating crew three times called
offensive pass interference on CSU for, at worst, normal jostling for position
as the ball arrived in the Rocky Mountain Showdown.
Granted, the Buffs played well in the
win over Calfornia at home the previous
week. They've underachieved,
but this never was going to be a team capable of
making the league
championship game for the second season in a row. That said,
loss at ASU was especially troubling, not so much as a road loss in the Pac 12,
but as an unraveling.
CU led by 10 points three times -- and lost. The unraveling included MacIntyre's
puzzling decision to punt in the final four minutes with the Buffs trailing by
four and showing no sign defensively of being able to stop the Sun Devils in
the clutch. Then MacIntyre's rant when his own son, Jay, couldn't get up after
catching a pass across the middle, forcing a clock runoff, was head-scratching,
regardless of how it is explained or justified.
In part because of his lucrative
contract extension, but also through merit,
MacIntyre's job is
safe. CU's investment in first-class facilities has borne fruit.
MacIntyre and those around him panic and implode, undoing progress,
Buffs can mitigate the damages from what almost certainly will go down as
a disappointing season.
Now CU must beat either USC at home or Utah on the road to finish 6-6 and
be bowl-eligible, among other things giving Phillip Lindsay a final game in a
Buffaloes uniform. It's not impossible, especially in the wildly unpredictable
Pac-12, where bizarre "where-did-that-come-from" upsets are common. The
point is, this season doesn't have to wipe out all the progress MacIntyre's
program has made since 2013 -- unless he lets it.
Up the roads at Fort Collins,
the Rams (now 6-4) in two weeks have gone
from undefeated in conference
and riding high amid the euphoria tied to
the stadium opening and
the upgrade in practice facilities, to still being in
their own division destiny after the home loss to Air Force, to
everything short of the Cleveland Browns winning out to make
Mountain West title game.
This isn't a disaster as much as it is a disappointment.
In two weeks, the talk about Mike Bobo has evolved
from speculation of
how long the former Georgia Bulldogs quarterback
and offensive coordinator
will stay and where he might go, to building
Jim McElwain's ouster at Florida gave raise to the comparisons again. The
retroactive trashing of McElwain -- whose staff did a remarkable job in 2014
just as the CSU board of governors was about to take the final stadium vote --
bordered on the comical. He didn't handle his furtive maneuvering and departure
well, and while his assistant coaches deserved more consideration, there were
no guarantees that his staff would stay or move as a bloc, and anyone offended by
that was -- and still is -- naive.
And to wave off what he accomplished as winning
with Steve Fairchild's
players ignores the questions: And there's
something wrong with that?
What's he supposed to do? Run all
those guys off? Lose with them to prove
something? Bringing a hybrid
roster of holdovers and newcomers together
to win is a major challenge,
and McElwain pulled it off.
He was far from faultless, of course. He sometimes seemed to be coaching
and recruiting with short-term goals in mind, at the cost of a long-range
foundation. Where Bobo deserves considerable credit is that while there
are no guarantees he will stay at CSU for 10 years, his staff is coaching and
recruiting -- with surpising and impressive success outside the natural
geographic talent pool -- as if that will be the case.
My point? Just two weeks ago,
the consensus was that while Bobo's
teams hadn't set the world
on fire, with two horrible showings in
bottom-tier bowls in his
first two seasons, he and the Rams were
headed in the right direction
and perhaps in better positioned for
the long run than they might
have been under McElwain. Now the
Rams' struggles against rivals
CU, Air Force and Wyoming increasingly
seem to be considered defining.
The bizarre and unexected
weather conditions at Laramie (I realize that's
the game, no question, but Wyoming -- with an elite
quarterback -- sufficiently adapted to take control. CSU did not.
Given the opening of the stadium and CSU's burgeoning reputation
Group of Five university willing to make major commitments,
both in sports
and on academic fronts, to heighten its national
profile, this season can be a step
forward unless the next three
games are a complete embarrassment.
And Air Force? After the win over CSU, the Falcons were set up to stage a
remarkable recovery after a 1-4 start. The Falcons loss to Army at home
Saturday made CSU look even worse. The Rams were run over and
overpowered -- and that's not supposed to happen against service academies --
the previous week, but Army had no trouble shutting down the Falcons. The
most damaging thing about the losses to Navy and Army is that while the Falcons
and coach Troy Calhoun justifiably are proud of their high standards and the
collective character of their often overachieving roster, Navy and Army face
the same challenges. The Falcons still can get bowl eligible and salvage considerable
pride, but that 0-2 won't go away.
Loosely speaking for
the Colorado schools, there's always next week ...
Yes, the Falcons are
a Colorado team, too
In true Air Force tradition, the Falcons interrupted their celebration of the 45-28 win over
to gather at the corner of the field in front of cadets and fans and somberly
join in the singing of the "Air Force
But once the final note was sounded, the Falcons resumed the post-game revelry. Air Force
players in these two
shots are Alex Norton (55), Ryan Beveridge (64), Ernest McQuade (60),
Neal Bess (65), R.J. Slater (78), and Garrett
At left, Falcons celebrate their final
touchdown, which came on Arion
Worthman's 7-yard run with
remaining. Worthman, holding the
ball, is partially hidden at right.
FORT COLLINS -- Didn't see that one coming.
The contradiction now is that, despite
the Rams' shocking 45-28 loss to
Air Force Saturday, Colorado State
(6-3) still is having the best season
among the state's three
Football Championship Subdivision teams.
Yet the Rams are winless against state rivals, also having lost to
Colorado 17-3 in the weird season-opening Rocky Mountain Showdown.
(There is no truth to the rumor that the Pac 12 officiating crew came to
CSU's Tuesday practice and flagged the Rams three more times for
offensive pass interference.)
The lesson, and one we all should have learned a long time ago,
is to never count out the Falcons. Three weeks ago, they were reeling,
and their especially painful 48-45 loss to rival Navy not only
admirals gloating in coversations with generals, but it was
fourth straight defeat and left the Falcons with an
ugly 1-4 record. It
seemed destined to be a down season on the
heels of the Falcons'
surprising 10-3 record a year ago, and their
first losing season since
a 2-10 pratfall in 2013.
So here they were
Saturday, scoring the final 17 points of the game,
413 yards, overpowering the Rams up front -- yes, even
in the option
game, it was a physical manhandling -- and controlling
for more than 41 minutes.
Although the Rams also played against, and more important, planned
for an option attack the week before against New Mexico, they were a
step short and out of sync in trying to contain Falcons' quarterback Arion
Worthman (25 carries, 117 yards) and the three other AFA backs who
combined for an additional 264 yards on the ground. And defensively,
the Falcons rose to the occasion, especially in the final 26 minutes after
the Rams pulled into a 28-28 tie.
They intercepted Nick Stevens three times,
and linebacker Shaquille
Vereen returned one of them 30 yards for
a second-quarter touchdown.
In most measurable ways, the loss wasn't that costly for the Rams.
They still have their destiny in the own hands in the Mountain Division.
If they win out against Wyoming, Boise State and San Jose State, they'll
be in the Mountain West's championship game. More daunting than the
"1" that now shows in the Rams' loss column in the conference standings
is that the rocky last two weeks against the option teams -- an unimpressive
win over New Mexico, then Saturday's collapse against the Falcons -- seemed
to highlight serious CSU deficiencies that will continue to show up, or be even
more glaring, in the next two crucial games. The fact is, the Rams' defense was
suspect going into the season and was surpsingly decent through the first half
of the season.
The smoke has cleared. The mirrors have broken. This is the defense we
thought the Rams would have -- and it isn't good.
Meanwhile, the Falcons -- the team with
the national constituency, but
one the Denver media has largely
abandoned and treated as if its home
stadium is at Andersen Air
Force Base ... in Guam -- have gotten back
The hardest part of
covering the Falcons is getting them to talk in anything
self-congratulatory terms after games. Falcons coach Troy
the former Air Force quarterback and NFL assistant from a blue-collar
and the Oregon lumber mill town of Roseburg, has credibility
his players because he has gone through the same spit-shine, hospital-
routines and more. He turns every media availability into a filibuster
the mission of the academy and the uniqueness of his roster. We all expect
and get it, and are accustomed to a question about third-down conversions
drawing a response about the team's cumulative GPA in calculus. I'm kidding ...
but it's not that far off. Calhoun's earnest relentlessness in advancing that agenda
and narrative sometimes perturbs other coaches, who point out that their players
go to class, too.
So after the game Saturday, Calhoun politely parried my admittedly slow-pitch
softball questions about his team's resilience after the stumbling start and
what this win on the road against a state rival meant.
"You know, really,
Terry, we just didn't have a lot of guys that played
this year," he said. "You look, I think we had five starters
on offense and one starter back on defense. Because you're dealing
people, and young people, you just can't always say that on April 17,
is when the blooms are going to occur. And we've got a lot of work
of us. Truthfully, we (lost to) four teams that probably are going
be bowl teams moving forward, but we're making some progress. And
made progress as we've moved along this season."
He said that one key to the turnaround was his team's work during the week.
"I've never been
around a group of guys that flat love to practice more
guys do," he said. "I know that's an oddity, but when you have
that and chemistry ... Everybody says 'culture' and the whole bit, but in
anything if I have four people around me who love to work and have the
right enthusiasm, it makes a difference."
When I asked about winning in Fort Collins, he reflected on CSU's
stadium, and indirectly the other projects either recently
under construction around it. (It's surprising that
OSHA hasn't ruled that
all CSU students must wear hardhats on campus.)
know, Terry, I tell you what, I couldn't be more impressed with
State, what they've done as an institution," he said. "Team ball
sports mean something here. If it's men's basketball, if it's volleyball, if it's
football. I think sometimes you can fall into a trap that we get so enamored
with certain sports because they bring in more points in a cup standings or
something like that, you say, 'We'll steer away.' Their approach is that we're
going to be committed to every sport that we have and try to be really, really
good at it. I think when you walk into this facility, it's top-notch."
But the impact of
the win itself?
"I don't want to understate it," he said. "For us, in any of our team ball
sports, it's hard to win. I think if you look at any resource allocation, if
you're going to be good at team-ball sports, it takes a phenomenal commitment.
Maybe in some other sports ... you look at it, and it might not be the same
athletic budget, and that's not to take anything away. If you looked at a top
10 program that Albany has in certain sports, or Johns Hopkins, or Clarkson,
for those kids, it has to be fabulous in hockey or something like that. We have
to keep grinding, keep pounding, keep growing and learning, and we can do that.
But, again, this place is impressive and they should be a Power Five school. Their
commitment in all sports, they deserve it, they've earned it."
that sounds like a coach lobbying for improvements in facilities and other
commitments, it's probably accurate. The Air Force locker room at Falcon
Stadium, which opened in 1962, is scheduled to be doubled in size in offseason
renovations. But lobbying to try to keep up with the Joneses -- and, in this case,
the Rams -- is a necessary part of the job for FBS coaches. You might think it's
not as important for the service academies, but it is. The standards and the
appointment process still are unique, but the Falcons coaches nonetheless still
often find themselves trying to close the deal with prospects also on the lists of
Mountain West opponents and other major programs.
Worthman at least
labeled the Falcons' win on the CSU turf as "huge,
This one's been circled for a while. To come up here and get
win on their, that's a really good win."
Seated next to Worthman, senior linebacker Jack Flor jumped in.
"I think we're
righting our season," he said. "Three and oh the last
weeks, and that's huge for us, compared to where we were a
At 4-4, the Falcons need two more wins -- their remaining games are
against Army, Wyoming, Boise State and Utah State -- to be bowl-eligble.
That's attainable. No matter what, this won't go down as Calhoun's best
season. But with this green team and its potentially demoralizing start, this
still ultimately could be his best job.
October 27, 2017
CSU Fetes Glenn Morris
With Olympic Oak Tree
FORT COLLINS -- This was the Glenn Morris Oak Tree Sequel.
On Friday afternoon,
outside the Iris and Michael Smith Alumni Center
at the northwest
corner of the new stadium, Colorado State planted an
oak tree to
honor Morris, the 1936 Olympic decathlon champion from
49 miles northeast of Colorado Springs.
Before winning gold at Berlin and becoming briefly one of the most
famous athletes in the world, Morris was a football and track star,
plus the student body president, at what then was known as Colorado
The main speaker during the ceremony Friday was CSU's Tony Phifer,
a former Coloradoan sports writer whose self-described "obsession" to
track down the oak tree Morris was presented in Berlin -- to go with the
gold medal -- started a chain of events that, indirectly, led
to me writing
Olympic Affair. It's why I dedicated the book to Phifer and Morris Ververs,
the long-time educator in Simla who in essence was the trustee
Here's the beginning of that Afterword (touched up to avoid repetition):
May 2010, I heard from former newspaperman Tony Phifer, a senior writer for Colorado State
University's Division of External Relations. Tony and I serve together on the
for the Colorado
Sports Hall of Fame. Tony suggested that an upcoming ceremony on the CSU
campus in Fort Collins might be in my wheelhouse for a Denver Post story. CSU was going
plant an oak-tree seedling
to salute Glenn Morris.
Why an oak tree?
Tony explained that the German Organizing Committee officials handed out seedlings
for the gold
medalists to take home and plant, preferably
in their hometowns or at their universities. As the trees
they would be reminders of the Olympic spirit. Less trumpeted was that they also could be
considered links to mythology's Thor and his "Donar Oak." Tony found a picture that
presented his tree to CSU president Charles
Lory in September 1936. By the 21st century, though,
seemed to know where it had been planted, if it had been planted at all, or what happened to
it. Tony wrote stories for university publications on the mystery, and he hooked up with
the 1968 Olympic men's decathlon coach and an
Olympic historian who lives in Chadron, Nebraska.
to trace the few known surviving Berlin trees, produce second- and third-generation
oak seedlings, then plant them at various sites tried to the 1936 Olympians around the country.
In May 2010, it was CSU's turn -- in honor of Morris.
In advance of that 2010 ceremony, I visited Simla, meeting with Ververs and
even holding Morris' gold medal, and did considerable additional research on
Morris. I pre-wrote an extensive feature on Morris that I would touch up while
attending the ceremony for publication in The Denver Post. What I had came
across was fascinating, including that controversial German filmmaker
Riefenstahl and Morris had an affair tied to the making of
documentary, Olympia. Morris told others
about it, including his brother
and A&M booster Sparks Alford,
and Riefenstahl wrote about it in her 1987
autobiography. A half-century
after the affair, she stunningly admitted that
she, a manipulative
woman accustomed to getting her way, was crushed
when Morris declined
to remain in Germany, or return soon, to be with her
and act in
German films. Instead, he soon married his college girlfriend and
on a brief, unsuccessful stint in Hollywood, including portraying
in the dreadul Tarzan's Revenge.
After doing that story, I realized I had just scratched the surface, and
plowed on in the research and writing -- and two years later, Olympic
Affair was published.
Phifer also was instrumental in the CSU decision to rename the field
house on the east side of the campus after Morris.
It seemed only right to find
a way to honor Morris at the new stadium
and that's what Friday
was all about. The tree planted near the field
house seven years
ago is not particularly robust, but it turned out that
the city of Fort Collins' forester, also had obtained two
oak saplings of the same lineage from Holst seven years ago,
one had grown into a healthy, if still developing tree. Buchanan
it to CSU, and the decision was made to plant it at the stadium
in Morris' honor.
Before the ceremonial first shovels and then the replanting of the tree,
Phifer outlined the Morris story in his turn at the microphone, including
the Olympic champion's stay at A&M/CSU. Then he brought up the
oak-tree saplings, pointing out that Morris had remained in Europe
after the Games competing in other meets at the behest of the USOC.
(He also returned to Berlin for supplemental Olympia filming with
"Then he was back on the ship for another week, and so he carried this
seedling with him for all this time, and I started to think, 'Where would
it be at CSU and where would they have planted it?'" Phifer said. "I was
still at the Coloradoan at the time, writing for the newspaper,
so I started
looking for the tree around the Oval, which was really
the only part of
campus that existed back then. I couldn't find
anything that resembled
a tree that would be the right size, the
right type. I looked at every tree
over there ... Then I started
doing some research in other ways. I went
to the Morgan Library
to start looking for old copies of the Collegian and
was really getting frustrated because I couldn't find any information
Then came the discovery.
"Finally, this one day I was just flipping through these pages and I really
wasn't paying attention and, voila ... "
He then pointed at an easel
to his right, where the picture of Morris
presenting the sapling
to President Lory was displayed.
"... that photo appeared on the front page of the Collegian. And I said,
'Oh, my God, the oak tree made it to Fort Collins, made it to campus.'
That me even more crazy about this story. In fact, my wife (Kathy), who
is right over here, one day looked at me and said, 'You know what you
are? You're obsessed. You're obsessed with this story. You're obsessed
with this oak tree,' and I really kind of was. Then I wrote a story and
that story was seen by the foresters at CSU and also Tim Buchanan, the
forester for the City of Fort Collins. They agree with me, there was no
Olympic oak on this campus. That became more and more of a mystery.
What happened to this tree?"
Phifer noted that after he joined the CSU staff
a couple of years later,
he wrote another story on the mystery
for the university's magazine,
and it caught Ververs' attention.
Ververs contacted Phifer and they
talked about Morris, and then
also a CSU alum in Chadron pointed
out the story to Don Holst.
That led to Holst offering an Olympic
oak-tree seedling to CSU,
and giving two more to Buchanan.
And that all led to
John Woodruff, second from right during the 800 meters in Berlin,
though traffic to get to the front and claim the gold medal,
plus an oak tree seedling.
Buchanan also spoke at the ceremony Friday, and he explained that
Holst's seedlings, including the three he gave to CSU and Buchanan,
were third generation in the lineage. The original seedling was the
one given to 800-meter gold medalist John Woodruff and was planted
in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. That tree flourished, and still is alive, and
Holst -- who since has passed away -- took seeds from that tree and
planted them near the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame on the Butler
University campus in Indianapolis. The seedlings brought to Fort Collins
are the offspring of that tree.
So while the mystery of what happened to the seedling Morris
presented to CSU might never be
solved, he now is honored with two
trees from from the Olympic crop on the campus.
Morris' gold medal, transported from Simla to CSU five years ago,
now is in a case inside the Alumni Center, honoring CSU's
Olympians -- also including six-time gold medalist Amy Van Dyken.
part of getting the game-day football experience back to campus
now can be saluting Morris and the tree outside the stadium, and
seeing his gold medal in a tour of the Alumni Center.
Glenn Morris and Leni Riefenstahl.
October 18, 2017
Stastny looks back on
his Decision ... and more
Paul Stastny as an Avalanche. (Jerry Mellman photo.)
When the public address announcer confirmed that Paul Stastny scored
the St. Louis Blues' first goal Thursday night, many in the Pepsi Center
crowd booed. Left unsaid, or at least unannounced, was that he had
collected his 600th career NHL point.
you're a nobody, they don't really care," Stastny, who later added an
assist , told me after the Blues' 4-3 win. "It's just part of it. That's fine.
That's hockey. The fans are so competitive here, they just want to
hometown team win. If I get booed and
we're winning, fine. If we're losing,
sucks. It'a always fun here, it's always tough come back and I think
every game has become easier. I still have friends over there" -- and he
rattled off the nicknames for Matt Duchene, Gabe Landeskog, Tyson Barrie
and Erik Johnson -- "and I'm always going to be close to a lot
of those guys."
I can't speak for all of the booing fans. I assume it was because of the widespread
perception that as the trading deadline approached late in the 2013-14
Stastny led on the Avalanche and general
manager Joe Sakic, causing them to
although they couldn't get Stastny signed to an extension then, they
would have a bona fide chance of doing so in the offseason, either before becoming
an unrestricted free agent, or perhaps even shortly after.
He didn't lead them on. I was on the road trip with the Avalanche
as the trading
deadline approached and passed,
and was with the team when Stastny attended
mass in Detroit, waited, and was told that although he hadn't agreed
to an extension, he wouldn't be traded, either. I talked to him the next day, and
I'm absolutely convinced he wasn't turning his back on the possibility of returning
to the Avalanche.
He was going to see what was out there, and
that turned out to be a four-year,
deal, astounding those -- including me -- who believed that while a
terrific player whose contributions are difficult to quantify, he had been overpaid
for the term of his previous five-year, $33-million deal with Colorado.
great hindsight to say Colorado should have traded him at the deadline to
make sure it got something for him. But it's wrong in this sense: Think of the
context. The Avalanche was coming down the stretch of an amazing
poised to make what we all assumed would
be a decent playoff run and it trades
The uproar would have been immediate and resounding.
The strange thing about all of it is that it seemed he had found a "hometown"
deal -- he was raised in St. Louis, where his Hall of Fame father,
finished his career -- but since he
joined the Blues, he actually has continued
live in the Denver area in the offseason with his wife, Haley. He's been here
since 2004, when he showed up as a University of Denver freshman and played
on the second of the Pioneers' consecutive NCAA championship teams
signed with the Avalanche after his
I asked Stastny if, after three years, he could say more about his mindset
during that stretch, one that in retrospect was the first sign that
that the Avalanche's amazing 112-point
season in 2013-14 wasn't a sign
of things to
"There's a lot of stuff that goes on when you're signing of deciding
where you're going to sign and what you're going to do," he
"Everyone thinks it's just about (money),
but it's not. You have to
take into account where
you're going to play, where you're wanted,
much you're going to play. You want to be on a winning team.
There are a lot of factors. At the end it was down to St. Louis and Colorado,
and the last couple of days it was down to maybe three teams, and then
one of those teams went away and it was down to St. Louis and Colorado.
"You can ask my wife. For us, it was the toughest decision we ever made.
But looking back, it was the best decision. I came (to the Blues) and I
think we both grew as people, and I met some new people I hated playing
against and now they're some of my best friends. It turned out good,
always tough, and you to take the emotion
out of it."
wait. He signed with his hometown team, and he continued to live
"Because I went to school here, as a kid I kind of matured here," he said.
"I lived on my own, and when I met my wife,
I was 22 and she was living
here. A lot of guys
from DU end up living here, and so do a lot of other guys.
They spend their summers here and it's such a good spot."
This all comes against the backdrop of the
amazing Stastny family story,
starting with the
fact that Paul's father, Peter, had 1,239 points in his
NHL career, and Paul's uncles, Anton (636) and Marian (294) also
played in the league, all after coming over from what then was
Czechoslovakia, part of the Soviet-dominated Eastern European bloc.
For Peter and Anton, it was a scene out of a John le Carre novel (or
This was only
six months after the brothers -- proud Slovaks -- played for
Czechoslovakia in the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid, losing 7-3 to the Americans'
"Miracle on Ice" team in group competition and finishing fifth.
While again playing for Czechoslovakia in a tournament in Innsbruck,
Peter and Anton defected, at one point taking a harrowing ride the wrong
way down a one-way street. They made it to North America, signing
the Quebec Nordiques, and older brother
Marian followed them later.
It was a true All-American story when Paul became a regular choice for
United States teams in international competition, including the Olympics.
He's also still a Denver guy -- even though he no longer is with
October 14, 2017
Michael Gallup, CSU's latest
superstar receiver, ran a stop and go
route to get to Fort Collins
Michael Gallup heads to the CSU locker room
FORT COLLINS -- When the game finally ended four minutes after midnight
at Sonny Lubick Field, Nevada junior defensive back Ahki Muhammad sought
out Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup.
Near midfield, Muhammad held his helmet in
one hand and loosely reached
around Gallup with the other, in what became
a mutual embrace.
As they separated, the 5-foot-9 Muhammad looked up and got in a
have a long career," Muhammad told Gallup.
As CSU pulled out a 44-42 win over the Wolfpack on Saturday/Sunday,
Gallup had 13 receptions for 263 yards and three touchdowns -- of 56, 7
and 17 yards. On a chilly night when Nick Stevens threw for 384 yards,
and had a fourth TD pass to Dalton Fackrell, the senior quarterback was
both accurate and trusting, showing faith in Gallup's ability to go get the
ball, to outmaneuver defenders in the air and come down with it.
When it was over, Gallup had
59 receptions for 948 yards and five TDs
for the season, with the Rams
-- who came back from a 42-31 deficit late
in the third quarter -- now
at 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West.
I asked Gallup if that was as good of a game as he could have.
He said he didn't know about that, and then
added: "But we had fun.
We faced adversity pretty well. I
personally don't think it should have
been like that, but it is what
it is and we came out on top. . . I'm very
confident. I like going
up and getting the ball. It's fun. You look at the
and he's kind of looking really sad and stuff like that."
Gallup had eight catches at halftime against the Wolfpack, then "only"
two more in the third quarter. CSU coach Mike Bobo said he noticed Gallup's
frustration when the ball wasn't going in his direction as often.
"I had to tell him not to get frustrated
there a little bit in the third quarter,"
Bobo said. "You
could tell (from) his body language there on the sideline he
a little frustrated. I said, 'You're going to win the game for us, son.
coming to you, you get ready to answer,' and he did. He was communicating.
could tell the way he was coming out of the huddle, he wanted the ball. He's such
a big body that makes tough catches and the way our quarterback is playing right
now, it's hard to cover him."
Said Gallup: "When you're just running past some dude, you just kind of
want them to just throw you the ball. It would be pretty simple. I don't need
to get frustrated like that. I need to keep my head up, keep positive vibes going.
That's bad on me, I just need to keep pushing. That's my fault."
Sound bites in a post-game news
conference doesn't define, but the fun thing
is to notice the difference
between the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Gallup and the
Rams' previous marquee
wide receiver, Rashard Higgins, now with the Cleveland
Browns. The personable
and similarly talented Higgins didn't just name himself
he tattooed it across his back. He not only didn't mind the
He craved it.
Gallup is confident and doesn't hide it, but he is more low key, almost
point where it seems discordant with his flashy game.
"So you guys heard him," said Stevens, who (above) appeared with Gallup
in the interview room. "He has 263 yards and is expecting better of himself.
He definitely has become a guy I can rely on. You can tell that anybody who
has that many yards as a receiver, that's obviously the case. And they weren't
all wide-open catches and throws today. He went up and made a lot of good
plays for me, for this offense. We really relied on him today and he really came
through in the clutch when we needed him to."
Gallup said, "It was business as usual tonight,
but I had some people in the
stands, so I had to make it look good.
I had family that used to watch me in high
school and they have a son
who used to love to watch me in high school, and
they came up to watch
I asked Bobo if Gallup was
starting to remind him or the Cincinnati Bengals'
A.J. Green, Georgia's
star receiver when Bobo was on the Bulldogs' staff.
"A.J. Green's pretty good," Bobo said, laughing. "He is a different player
A.J. because he is so strong and (because of) his ability after
the catch to run
the ball. But as far as a playmaker and a guy at the
receiver position, they can
change a game, and he's very similar to
A.J. Green. A.J. Green could change at
game at the receiver position
and that's hard to do."
Gallup's path to Fort Collins was unlikely. He was raised in small-town Monroe,
Georgia, between Atlanta and Athens. Michael was born in Atlanta
and was adopted
by the Gallup family when he was 10 months old. He was raised among seven
siblings, with five others also adopted.
“It was a small town,” Gallup told me during spring practice. “Everybody
came to the football games. Me being a country dude, a country man,
always hanging out in a city. I was just trying to catch
some fish and ride my
dirt bike, things like that.”
At that point, Gallup corrected
himself. He didn’t try to catch fish. “Oh, I was
catching fish,” he said. “Just like football. I had a friend who had a pond
in his backyard and he only lived about 20 minutes from me, and I used to go
down there just about every day.”
After transferring in from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas,
Gallup had a breakout 2016 season as a junior for the Rams, with 76 receptions
for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns.
This all comes after Gallup was a highly-regarded prospect as
he played for
Monroe Area High and when the Hurricanes
participated in 7-on-7 camps at
Georgia, where Bobo then was an assistant. Gallup ended up earning 16 letters
— four each in football, basketball, baseball and track and field — in high school
and power five conference programs were interested.
“You saw a kid that was a man among boys
playing at his high school,” Bobo
said. “He played wideout,
he played quarterback, and he would run around and
make plays. He didn’t
have those muscles he has now, but he had a big frame.
You saw a guy
who in the moment could make plays.”
Gallup’s grades were fine, but his test scores didn’t pass NCAA muster,
leading him to take an intermediate step to the Division I game.
me and said he was the coach
at Butler Community College, and I said,
that?’ ” Gallup said. “I didn’t have good SAT scores, so that was
really my only option, and I went out there and did what I needed to do
to get here.”
As a freshman at Butler in 2014, he had 44 receptions for 780 yards and
11 touchdowns for the Grizzlies. He played in only three games in 2015
as a sophomore because of an ankle injury, finishing with nine receptions
for 74 yards and one TD. That limited his visibility
and he was part of the
Bobo program’s February
2016 recruiting class.
After a slow start in 2016, Gallup came on, with the highlight a 13-catch,
213-yard receiving game against Air Force, and he was a first team all-Mountain
West choice. And now more and more agreeing with Ahki Muhammad.
He's going to have what these days passes for a long
UPDATE: Gallup Monday
was named the Mountain West Conference's
offensive player of the week.
This was taken late
in the third quarter, with CSU trailing 35-31. The crowd, officially a sellout,
had dwindled ... a bit. Chilly conditions and a late start -- the game eventually ended at 12:04 a.m.
Sunday -- contributed to the fans' flight.
October 10, 2017
Avalanche and Eagles make it official:
Partnership moves to AHL in 2018-19
Posing with an Eagles jersey: Avalanche assistant GM Craig Billington, Eagles owner Martin Lind,
GM Joe Sakic, Eagles founder Ralph Backstrom, and Eagles President/GM Chris Stewart.
The Eagles were Backstrom's vision
and opened play in 2003.
-- The original heralding news conference at the Budweiser
Events Center, scheduled for October 2, was postponed in response to the
horrific events in Las Vegas, and the Avalanche and Colorado Eagles
instead on Tuesday officially announced and essentially toasted
upgrading of their relationship in
That's when the Eagles
will move to the AHL as the Avalanche's top
stepping up from the second-tier ECHL.
I've written a lot about the Eagles over the years, going as far back
as taking a tour of the under-construction Loveland arena in 2002
with Eagles founder Ralph Backstrom, the former Montreal Canadiens
standout and ex-University of Denver coach. And here's my piece in the
current Mile High Sports Magazine about the Eagles and their phenomenal
success, both on the
ice and in becoming one of the primary entertainment
in the burgeoning Northern Colorado corridor.
I enjoyed being at the Tuesday news conference, which was more
than a media function, and I spoke with, among others,
Martin Lind and Avalanche general manager Joe
Sakic about what went into
the move and the changes it will bring.
I was interested to
find out whether the Avalanche and the Kroenke Sports
while joining the trend in the NHL to have their AHL affiliates
close as possible, and in some cases also owning them, attempted to buy
the Eagles franchise outright and completely operate it themselves.
Their answers: No. And no.
Sakic said that once
the Avalanche and Eagles began their NHL-ECHL
year, the thought of taking it up another step was always
"We talked about
leaving it open as a possibility if it was what Martin
do," Sakic said. "I think over time, he wanted to really expand
hockey in Northern Colorado. He runs an unbelievable organization. They
do it really well here, and he wanted a higher level of hockey. The American
Hockey League is what he wanted to achieve for the marketplace. And for us,
it's a home run to have your minor-league team 50 minutes up the road. It's
perfect for development, more hands-on opportunities with our young players.
Just going up and down the road will be a perfect setup."
Sakic said this will work as
well as if the Avalanche bought the Eagles.
"We have a a great affiliation agreement ... A lot of the NHL teams out west
started the (AHL) West Division, and we wanted to be part of that," Sakic said.
"It think it's 66 games that they'll be playing, so it's less
games, more practice time.
To have your team so close to you, you
don't have to worry about flights, delays
and things like that.
They can drive right to the rink and we'll be able to have guys
up and down more, especially younger guys, to be with us a little bit more."
Lind's success as a developer has been a major part
of Northern Colorado's growth.
He said he wasn't ready to part
with the Eagles, and that there was more to it than
"I don't think
it was the right timing for them or me," he said. "We kind of
grew the Eagles to be Northern Colorado's team, and we do a lot of benevolence
with this. I don't want to lose that. There are a lot of people who benefit from the
giving and the charity work we do. The Avalanche do a great job with that, but
we live here and this is part of our community, too."
The move is not without risk.
dynamic will change, with ticket prices going up about $3 on average.
Since they began play in the Central Hockey League in 2003, the Eagles
for the most part have been a hot ticket, filling the 5,289-seat Budweiser
Events Center on most nights -- while also winning two CHL
(and the Ray Miron President's
Cup) before claiming the ECHL title (and the
Patrick J. Kelly Cup) in June.
Addition of porch/standing areas might
bring the capacity closer to 7,000,
locker rooms and training facilities will undergo renovation, but there
will be no major seating expansion of the 14-year-old building for the arrival
of the AHL.
In 2018-19, after 15 years of essentially lining
up their own talent under a strict
salary cap and limitations on
veteran players on the roster, the Eagles will be
-- in fact, completely dependent -- on the Avalanche to stock
The ECHL salary cap is $12,600 a week and each team can have only four
"veterans," defined as players with 260 or more games of professional
In the ECHL,
an NHL affiliation means accepting, at most, a handful of second-tier
prospects tricking down to the "AA" level, which was serendipitous for the Eagles
in their playoff run last spring when the Avalanche sent down
several players from
San Antonio to get them more games and playoff experience.
(Not coincidentally, at left, Eagles president/GM Chris Stewart presents ECHL
championship rings to Avalanche assistant GM Craig Billington and Sakic.)
"I see this being a harmonious relationship, because we are in the same media
market," Lind said. "Even though there's a gap on I-25 between us, our success
is going to be very important to the Avalanche organization. Their fans are going
to look to the future here now, and their success is going to be
our success. They're
not going to skip paying attention to us.
"The AHL franchises
that are in different time zones from the NHL franchise,
have a disconnect. The fans base might not follow them. But this is going
to be an Uber driver away, or they are literally going to be moving players in a
taxi cab. Our success is going to be super-important for them. The organization
that Joe and Craig are running right now, it looks like they're looking to the future.
And that's good.
"This year, when we were on the second tier, the AHL players the Avalanche
sent here dominated, just dominated. That tells me where they're headed with
Stewart has been a master at working the salary-cap and limited-veteran system
at the "AA" level, both in the CHL and ECHL, and I can't help but think
some of that.
"It's been a big part of the game
for me for a long time," he conceded. "But
this for me
is an opportunity that I'm going to make the best of as it stands
today. . . This is an oppportunity we wanted to follow up on. It was never
Martin's goal to make beaucoup amounts of money in hockey. He's already
a wealthy man, 10 times over. Hockey is just another amentity for Northern
For this season, the Avalanche' AHL affiliate will remain the San Antonio
Rampage before the St. Louis Blues will take over the affiliation next season.
The Eagles will seek a second straight ECHL title.
"I think it will
be good," Stewart said of this season. "From what I saw
year, they're very much into seeing us succeed. We understand there
going to be times we have to help out the (Rampage) with a player or
two. But that's all part of development. You have to develop players, you
have to be able to keep your building full, and the best way to do that is win."
Beginning next season, the Avalanche
will provide and pay the players, and
in that sense, the Eagles
will be at the mercy of the NHL team 50 miles down
There will be less financial risk for the Eagles' ownership and
But will it be as much fun?
That's going to be the tricky part.
It will be better hockey, with players
on both rosters on any given night a
sudden summons away from the
NHL. Yet at the CHL and ECHL level,
the Eagles have made a habit
of recruiting and signing players who are
but haven't been able to stay on AHL rosters, even
if that means
they're better than an NHL organization's prospects. (Yes, there
is politics in hockey, too.) This season, the Eagles still will have standout center
Matt Garbowsky, plus the ECHL's top defenseman in Matt Register, and the
Colorado-raised brother tandem of Collin and Drayson Bowman, both returned
from playing in Europe last season. It will be Collin's second stint with the Eagles.
After this season,
the game changes.
Eagles as their top affiliate, the Avalanche's challenge will be to
provide a product that not only is nurturing of organizational prospects,
but measures up to the Loveland franchise's winning tradition
at the "AA"
level. A good ECHL
team is far more fun to watch than an AHL bottom-feeder,
and the Avalanche can't shrug that off, because a winning culture aids
At the news conference, I circled back to ask Sakic about the
2-1 start heading into the Wednesday home opener against
"We're happy with it," Sakic said. "I liked the energy and i liked the passion.
The third period at Boston, we played a solid third period with the lead. You
take the positives, but we know we have a lot of work to do. We have a young
team." He added that, yes, he is seeing evidence of the offseason overhaul, leading
to the Avalanche getting younger and faster. "But we know
we have to keep going,
keep working, keep getting better as a team.
But, yeah, we're younger, we seem
like we're hungrier, and we're
quicker out there. We want energy, excitement and
we want to win
some games. We have skill to capitalize in mistakes now, and you
to play with passion and excitement, and I think we're going to do that."
The Budweiser Events Center -- outside and inside.
October 7, 2017
Can't somebody tackle No. 14?
Kent runs around and through Buffs
Khalil Tate waits to do a television interview after the game, as Phillip Lindsay, below, heads for the locker
-- Let's get one thing out of the way: The Rise was Real.
To retroactively write off the Colorado Buffaloes' stirring 2016 season,
their fourth under Mike MacIntyre, as an aberrational fluke, is unfair.
What's happening now,
though, is the result of a relative leadership
void in the wake
of the departure of Sefo Liufau, whose inspirational
time was as important as his play, plus key starters on the
side of the ball; the can't-be-overestimated toll of losing defensive
Jim Leavitt to Oregon; and, yes, a bit of a letdown in the wake
a collective exhaling after MacIntyre's tenure was transformed from tenuous
to relatively secure with a long-term contract extension.
The Buffs are 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the Pac 12 after their 45-42 loss to
Arizona Saturday night at Folsom Field. At least it was wildly entertaining,
with elusive Arizona sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate piling up 469 yards
of total offense (142 passing, 327 rushing) and Buffaloes running back Phillip
Lindsay running for 281 as be became the program's all-time leader in career
all-purpose yards, surpassing Rodney Stewart's seven-year-old mark of 4,828
The 327 yards was an NCAA Division I record for rushing by a quarterback,
and the stunning part was that the 18-year-old Tate came into the night as the
For his opening statement at his post-game news conference, MacIntyre
began with a plea he had first made to broadcasters after the first
somebody please tackle 14 for Arizona?" MacIntyre said. "That's
the difference in the football game. He was amazing."
That's italicized because that's the way MacIntyre
"He should be national player of the week," MacIntyre added. "Phenomenal
player, and I think they found their quarterback now. He's a phenomenal player. . .
We had him hemmed up, made him change direction, we'd stop the original play
multiple times and he just outruns us. And we missed him a few times. he made
some great plays. Of course, there's some things we could have done better,
coached better. But we couldn't tackle him."
At that point, MacIntyre said
the closest thing to a similar coaching experience
was when he
was at San Jose State and Colin Kaepernick was at Nevada.
"A couple of times against Kaepernick, but they pulled him early because we
couldn't score against Nevada, they were so good at that time," he said. "That
was when they were like eighth or ninth in the country."
CU has only two home
games remaining and the modest goal of becoming
be challenging, requiring beating Oregon State in Corvallis,
in Boulder and pulling out another win against Washington State,
State, Southern California and Utah. And the additional discouraging
of that is that bowl eligibility in the wake of the 2016 Pac 12 South title
was supposed to be a given.
This also shows how
fragile a turnaround can be, in the sense that this
went from a
program that became competitive, but at times seemed to
to lose in 2015, to putting together a good-karma season a year
when, until the very end, everything seemed to fall into place.
"We've lost two heartbreakers in a row, really,
down to the wire,"
MacIntyre said, bringing up the defeat
in the Rose Bowl to UCLA. "That's
the way Pac 12 games go.
Last year, I think we won five of them like that and
win some more."
The biggest concern should be that this team is underachieving. Yes, despite
the major losses on defense and everything else.
Starting with being outplayed and even
physically beaten for much of the
17-3 Rocky Mountain Showdown
win over Colorado State -- yes, under
third-year coach Mike Bobo,
the Rams are bona fide threats to win a Mountain
title -- the Buffaloes have been largely unimpressive as a team.
Lindsay remains one of the right spots.
Lindsay "for ... what he has done for our program, for the
of Colorado and the way he represents the University of Colorado
the way he represents the state of Colorado. For him to do that, go down
in the history books forever, it'll be hard to break that all-purpose yards (record).
It's stood for a long time. He's got at least seven more games, that's what we hope,
so he could put it far in the area where they could bring him back every year and
say, 'Here's Phillip Lindsay back.' His hair will be gray by then. I'm really happy
for Phillip, how he battled it and how he fought. He was the first
one talking in the
locker room about what we needed to do and how
we need to do it.
"They key now is you don't point fingers. That's what I talked to them about.
You bond together."
For his part, Lindsay passed on talking about individual accomplishments.
"I'd rather not talk about that right now," he said. "At the end of
the day, we
didn't get the win. That's what we wanted. We're going
back to square one
and get stuff rolling again. I'm proud of my
Lindsay bristled a bit when, with a preface about turning the corner in 2016,
I asked if the Buffaloes through they were underachieving.
"You have to understand," he said. "You
have people go, you have people
leave for the NFL," he said.
And he added: "If you guys don't like it, you don't
be here. We're going to be all right."
Wounded in theater shootings,
CSU's Golditch reacts to Las Vegas
Zack Golditch at the Rams' Tuesday practice.
FORT COLLINS -- Colorado State offensive tackle Zack Golditch
Monday and on television spotted
the terrible news.
was very tragic and my heart definitely goes out to those people affected
by it," Golditch said after the Rams' practice Tuesday, when the death toll
in the Las Vegas shootings was at 59.
"I know what those people
are going through and I really feel for them,
in all their situations.
They're going through heartbreak. I don't know if
anyone was affected
the same way I was, so I can't really say much more,
but I know
July 2012, Golditch was a Gateway High senior-to-be when he attended
midnight showings of "The Dark Knight Rises" at a multi-plex theater complex
in Aurora. A deranged shooter opened fire in one theater,
killing 12. Amid the
horror and chaos,
Golditch was among the 70 wounded. He was in the adjacent
theater when shrapnel burst through the wall and struck him in the neck.
Because they were struck by fragments coming from the other
Golditch and two other wounded
were the only victims whose injuries
to lesser-charge guilty pleas of second-degree attempted murder at
the 2015 trial, and the killer was sentenced to 12 life sentences, plus
he later consented to speak about the trial and verdict during
2015 football season, Golditch would only say, "Justice was served."
On Tuesday, as sad but heartening stories of heroism amid the Las Vegas
horrors continued to be discovered and told, Golditch said, "You can
always find some positivity in negative situations. For me, it was seeing
the support from the community around me, the messages of love, people
coming together after what happened."
Five years later, Golditch
now is a redshirt senior for the Rams, and he
and center Jake Bennett -- from Bear Creek -- anchor the CSU line for one
of the most productive offenses in the nation, outside of the 17-3 loss to
Colorado in the opener. Even the 41-23 loss to Alabama looks
better each week,
since the Crimson Tide
allowed a total of three points in subsequent SEC
wins over Mississippi and Vanderbilt.
"Zack has played awesome this year," CSU coach Mike Bobo said Tuesday.
"We've talked about him a lot the last couple of weeks. He's an unselfish
he's moved around. He's played right
tackle, left tackle, he's played guard.
playing at a high level for us. He's got really good technique. He's got
a little bit tougher. He's always had toughness, so maybe the word
is that he's a little bit nastier in trying to finish
here in ballgames."
said the offensive line "definitely has room to improve. It seems like
we're breaking in a shoe this year. It's like you kind of wear a shoe a couple of
days and it feels good, but it's not really broken in. We're
starting to understand
the big picture
of things, we're starting to bring guys along.
"That's not just on
the offensive line, it's on the backfield, Nick (Stevens), the
receivers, defense. The defense is definitely stepping up big this season. I think
our upside is what we want to make it. I think we have the potential to do great
things in this conference. I think we have the potential
to play our best, every
And after all, it's just football.
up with the Finns:
DU's Henrik Borgstrom
Avalanche's Mikko Rantanen
Henrik Borgstrom (5) and his Pioneer teammates before the team picture was taken Tuesday.
September 26, 2017
After ruling out "one and done,"
Borgstrom is back with Pioneers
There were times last season, during the University of Denver's NCAA title
run, when I'd catch myself wondering: How did Pioneers freshman
Henrik Borgstrom ever last until
the Florida Panthers claimed him with the
choice of the 2016 NHL draft?
And not only that, how did he go unclaimed the year before, his first year
of draft eligibility?
Even on a team with eventual Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher
and World Junior Championships American hero Troy Terry, plus other
players that helped make the Pioneers a terrific blend of talent,
grit and chemistry, Borgstrom often took over games.
He was only 19 and
looked young enough to be counting down the days
to the driver's
license test. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 185, he was lanky and in
of being locked in the weight room.
He was playing thousands
of miles from home, something European
players become accustomed
to, but only after that year of two of coping
with the culture
shock and their second languages as everyday communication,
testing when that also includes university classrooms.
After piling up 22 goals and 43 points in 37 games as a freshman, Borgstrom
is back for a second season with the Pioneers, ruling out a one-and-done
scenario that would have been similar to Tyson Jost, the No. 10 pick last
year, signing with the Avalanche after his freshman season at North Dakota
and joining Colorado for the stretch run. It wasn't shocking, given that his
physical immaturity was obvious, including to the Panthers. But Borgstrom
returning still is a huge boost to the Pioneers' chances of repeating.
"I don't think
I was ever too close," Borgstrom said Tuesday at Magness
"In my mind, I had a clear picture of this year and in my opinion,
I just needed a year of two more. . . I even talked with Florida, but I kind
of knew I wanted to come back and I don't think I'm ready to go there yet.
I want to be confident about myself."
The intriguing complication was that Montgomery, the ex-NHL journeyman
forward who won't move on to coach in the NHL unless it's on his terms and
in the right spot, interviewed for the Panthers' head-coaching opening that
eventually went to former Avalanche defenseman Bob Boughner, an assistant
with the San Jose Sharks last season.
"At first, the
team was waiting for him to make his move," Borgstrom said.
he has built this program and I feel like he's so smart, he knows so
about hockey, it was scary if he would have left. We're so happy
he came back, too."
Borgstrom added he "would have considered" signing with Florida if
Montgomery had taken the Panthers' job, but it's worth noting that even
as an NHL coach, Montgomery likely would have considered it best for
Borgstrom -- and his NHL organization -- in the long run to play at least
one more season of NCAA hockey.
"It would have changed a lot," Borgstrom
said of a possible Montgomery
departure. "Monty was the guy
who recruited me here, with (assistant)
David Carle. I kind of
thought who would be the next coach and stuff
like that. You have
to go over all that stuff and it was kind of scary."
On Tuesday, Montgomery noted of Borgstrom: "It's amazing how
much strength he's put on. I think the biggest thing is for him to gain
that professional consistency, coming every day to get better. It's scary
what he can be if he attains that simple goal, I don't think he really can
A recent bout with mononucleosis after his return to Denver
temporarily derailed Borgstrom's
offseason conditioning program.
"I actually put
on 10 pounds in the summer, but I lost it. Once I got back
I got sick and I wasnt able to eat or anything," he said. "I'm trying to
get that weight back. I felt strong. I still feel stronger than last year, for sure,
but I want to get that rate back. I feel better right now."
So now the quest is
for a repeat, a daunting task in any sport -- and any level.
"Our goal is to win another 'natty,' and that's the first thing in my mind,"
Borgstrom said. "That's why a lot of players, guys like (Evan)
Troy (Terry), they decided to come back, too, to accomplish
the same thing.
Personally what I want to do is be a better hockey
player this season, more
consistent all the time and be at my best
level every night. I know that's
possible. I just have to get a
focus a lot better in certain games."
There probably was more of a chance that Terry, the Highlands Ranch
product who was Anaheim's fifth-round choice in 2015, would sign over
the summer, but he also is back and a candidate to play for the U.S. Olympic
team in South Korea early next year.
"He had a great season last year and this season
obviously we have a
special team again here at the university,"
Borgstrom said. "It's a great
opportunity for him to represent
his country again. I don't know if he
can be more of a hero (than
in the WJC last season) after last year, but
hopefully he can do
Rantanen hoping to build on
solid rookie season for Avalanche
When Mikko Rantanen scored six goals in his final eight games
horrible 2016-17 season,
the Avalanche at least avoided the additional
embarrassment of not having a single 20-goal scorer.
Goals at Dallas and St. Louis on the season-ending road trip left Rantanen
with 20 on the nose, and I talked with him about it in the visiting locker room
at the Scottrade Center after the final game. There was a certain symmetry to
the accomplishment, too, since the Finnish rookie was -- and still is -- only 20.
it's a good milestone," Rantanen said. "But it's such a tough
season for the team, it's tough to be too happy. I'll try to do it more often
Rantanen managed to reach 20 goals despite suffering an ankle injury
suffered in a rookie showcase game against San Jose, missing training
camp and then starting the season at San Antonio on what amounted
to a four-game rehab and conditioning assignment. He also missed two
of Colorado's final 10 games with a lower body injury before returning
for that final two-game road trip.
If the young Finn is the Avalanche's leading goal-scorer
again this season,
that won't be a good sign. That's got little
to do with Rantanen himself, but
more to do with the expectations
and necessity for Nathan MacKinnon, Matt
Duchene (if he isn't traded)
and Gabe Landeskog to greatly improve on their
production in mostly
horrific and underachieving years. As the 10th overall
the 2015 draft who spent most of his first pro year going through
to the North American game in the AHL at San Antonio, Rantanen
on track to perhaps threaten the 30-goal barrier this season.
He had his first goal of the exhibition season Sunday night in
a 5-1 win over
the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center.
"It's hard to
say," Rantanen said after the game. "I never try to say how
goals I'm going to score. I just want to play hard and if it comes,
Last season, Ratanen's emergence was one of the few positives in what
was the NHL's worst single-season performance since the 1999-2000 Atlanta
Thrashers stumbled to 39 points ... as a first-year expansion franchise.
"The sky's the limit
for Mikko," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said after
of the Wild. "I have high expectations for him. He's not going to
up on anybody now. So he's going to get the other team's best
every night, which he did for the most part last year as well.
going to play a lot of minutes and we want to use him properly.
me, I think he can become more consistent. We've got to make sure
pushing the pace for our team on a nightly basis, for every period
Rantanen is playing on a MacKinnon-centered line, and that seems
likely to remain the case when the Avalanche opens the regular-season
with a three-game trip to face the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils
and Boston Bruins.
"I want to get better all-around, defensively, too," Rantanen said. "I
to be more effective in the O-zone, too, to help the team
and try to get more
possession time. That's what we need as a group
and if you are on the power
play, that needs to be better, too.
We're younger and we're faster, too, and the
game is going that
way, where you need a lot of fast guys to build on. We
have that and it's going to be an exciting season."
As general manager Joe Sakic promised last season, the Avalanche
jettisoned marginal -- or worse --
veteran talent and gotten both younger
faster. What that will translate to in the standings is far from certain,
but Rantanen more is among contemporaries this season than he was
when he was the "kid" in 2016-17.
"I don't think I'm
going to be playing a lot different," he said. "I'll be
smarter, only because I know the league better. I know what
expect, so it will be easier this year. Everybody knows what last
was, so we have to forget it and go forward. I think everybody's
hungry to win this year and get some crowds back."
September 1, 2017
Buffs likely would have won, anyway,
officials ruined the Showdown
Buffs Phillip Lindsay and Shay Fields as defensive back Evan Worthington holds the Centennial
Mike Bobo was not a happy man coming off the field after the game -- and it wasn't (just)
about his team's play.
Late in the third quarter of the Rocky Mountain Showdown Friday night at Mile
High Stadium, after an offensive pass interference call on Colorado State wide
receiver Michael Gallup wiped out his catch and a 33-yard gain to the Colorado
15, the Rams called timeout.
Clearly, the major
reason was to provide Rams coach Mike Bobo a chance to
Pac 12 officiating crew know that this was getting ridiculous.
It was the third offensive pass interefence call on the Rams, and the earlier
ones negated CSU gains of 17 yards to the CU 9 in the first quarter and 27
yards for an apparent score two plays earlier in the third. Those Nick Stevens
completions went to Olabisi Johnson and Detrich Clark, respectively, who
drew the interference calls. And to add to the frustration for CSU, an apparent
Stevens 40-yard TD pass to Johnson two plays after the interference call on
Clark also was negated because of a CSU personal foul on guard Jeff Taylor
for illegal hands to the face.
The interference penalties
ranged from marginal to, well, head-scratching
perplexing in what
turned out to be the Buffs' 17-3 win.
None of them should
have been called.
I'm not sure I've ever written this before
because I usually disdain this approach,
whether from media, fans,
players or coaches.
The officials took over the game and ruined
It's most common in basketball, but aggravating in any sport.
After the Buffaloes won, their celebration after collecting the Centennial Cup -- curiously,
sans any significant ceremony -- was surprisingly low-key. Yes, the Buffs celebrated.
Yes, they probably are the better team. Yes, they likely would
have won without those
calls, and even if, say, Johnson's catch
had stood up to get the Rams to within 17-10, the
have changed and with more of a sense of urgency, CU might have
But that TD suddenly would have made it more interesting.
After the scoreless second half, CSU ended
up outgaining the Buffs 397-345 on a night
when the announced attendance
of 73,932 -- given the many obvious blocks of empty
seats in the
stadium that seats 76, 125 -- led to raised eyebrows, too. When the game ended,
contrary to what I wrote in the piece between this one, Bobo and CU's Mike MacIntyre's
handshake was perfunctory at best. Bobo was peeved. Not at MacIntyre, but peeved.
To be fair, and to be clear, this was not just about the officiating, but it entered
And when Bobo opened the floor for questions in his post-game
news conference, I
noted that he had used that timeout to express
his opinion to the officials, then asked
him what he said and what
he thought of the officiating.
"It's like, Terry, like I just told our football team," he said. "We talk about
standard, and our standard is edge ... and excuse-free.
We don't make excuses. We let
other people make them for us. We
didn't win the ballgame, so we didn't do what we
came here to do."
got around to praising the CSU defense and highly respected
coordinator Marty English, but he didn't exactly jump on the chance to say,
hey, that was a pretty good football team the Buffs had just beaten. That doesn't offend
me and I mention it only because it was so noticeable and a departure from what I
expected to hear. Yes, this is an in-state rivalry and sharp-edged, but I wondered
Bobo's brusqueness after the game entered into it. And to MacIntyre's
credit, he didn't
try to sell any malarkey about the calls being
"The calls go either way all the time," MacIntyre said. "We all watch it on film and calls
always can go either way. There is no doubt about it. You never complain about the
officiating. We have a quote at CU: No excuses, no regrets."
It was CU's opener,
and it showed. But now the Buffs have a couple of walkovers
up -- against Texas State and Northern Colorado -- before the conference
opener against Washington in Boulder on Sept. 23.
Bobo wasn't grinning about this, but he noted that after the 44-7 loss to the Buffs
a year ago, he wasn't sure what kind of team he had -- and set
about finding out
in throwing-against-air practices as he challenged
the Rams. Now, CSU has gone
1-1 against Pac 12 teams in the first
two weeks and this has done nothing to diminish
the Rams -- with a favorable conference schedule and a down
-- will contend for the Mountain West's Mountain Division title.
August 31, 2017
They could carpool to banquets:
The Rival(ry's) coaches
Part of the week's obligations: Mike MacIntyre does a radio interview after his Tuesday news conference.
In Fort Collins Tueday, Rams quarterback Nick Stevens throws in the early part of practice
with Mike Bobo
standing by with the practice plan in hand.
-- Several times a year, Colorado's Mike MacIntyre and Colorado
Mike Bobo end up at the same banquets, luncheons or other functions.
It is not often enough to cultivate a friendship, nor are the circumstances conducive
to encouraging it.
And now on Friday night, they will shake hands and
make small talk on the field
at Mile High Stadium before the game,
and then after it's over, again briefly wish
each other the best
of the luck the rest of the season before one heads to the dressing
and the other prepares to accept the rivalry trophy with his raucous team
gathered around him.
This week, I asked both coaches on Tuesday -- one in Boulder, one in Fort
Collins -- their feeling for the state of the rivalry.
"I've said for a long time,
it's a 365-day-a-year rivalry," MacIntyre said. "I saw
guy the other night at the thing I had to speak at, he showed me a picture of an
outfit he had to wear to work (when CSU won). He said, 'Coach, I don't want to have
to wear this outfit again.' ... You have little things like, little ribbins. I even had one
person who said they lived in Fort Collins znd every time CSU beats CU, they get
letters about going to a funeral. It's just one of those things, it reverberates throughout
the state. You have little side things like that all the time that
make it more of a rivalry.
I think it's pretty cool, pretty fun."
In Bobo's case,
it involves seeking to a checkmark, since the Rams are 0-2 in the
under him. (The Buffs are 3-1 against CSU under MacIntyre.)
"We need to win it to make it a rivalry," Bobo said.
"Since I've been here, we haven't
won. That would help, to
go out and perform well and find a way to win a ballgame.
definitely a rivalry, it's Colorado-Colorado State, it's the two schools in state,
and we play it in Mile High Stadium and there's going to be 70,000-plus people there,
and that tells you the importance of the game. There's passion for both sides, for
those fan bases. As the head football coach when you're addressing
your football team,
you want them to play well, for yourself, your
university and your fan base."
None of that moved the needle, and as both coaches tended to the media details
in the shortened week, the themes remained consistent, not quite as scripted as if
being read off a teleprompter, but close to it. Bobo tends to be
and spontaneous in his conversations with
the media, but the switch from more informal
availabilities in the hallway in the Moby Arena complex to the stage
table in the new stadium's home team interview room has led to him slightly toning
down that approach. But both were being careful this week, diplomatic, complimentary.
As as coaches, yes, MacIntyre and Bobo know what the other is going through, about
commonality of the experience, and that in this case has led
to mutual respect.
The rivalry is scheduled for three more meetings -- in 2018 and 2019 in Denver and 2020
in Fort Collins -- before shutting down for at least two seasons. I've been on record
years that the game belongs on the campuses, not in Denver,
and now that CSU based its
stadium campaign on extolling the on-campus
gameday experience, the staging in Denver
makes even less sense.
However, if this week's game is a terrific show, on every level, the
of this game as a bit like -- not exactly like, but like -- Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville
or Texas-Oklahoma in Dallas again is more credible.
There is room on the non-conference schedules
for a home-and-home series in 2023
and 2024, and a gentlemen's
agreement is in place on that, if not signatures. Also, I
rule out something happening to reconfigure the 2019 Colorado schedule,
with the Buffs' "home" game against the Rams moving from Denver to Boulder,
and the Sept. 7 game against Nebraska -- the second in the home-and-home against
the Cornhuskers in the revival of that rivalry -- moving from Boulder to Denver.
August 27, 2017
And nearly six years later ...
Colorado State opens its stadium
The final seconds roll off the clock.
COLLINS -- As the Oregon State-Colorado State kickoff approached Saturday
at the Rams' new on-campus stadium, I found the story online and thought back
to my chat with school president Tony Frank in his office
in December 2011.
(An aside: From here on, until CSU sells the naming rights
to the stadium, I'm
just going to call it Sonny
Lubick Field. The $20-million contribution over 30
to transfer the Sonny Lubick Field designation from Hughes Stadium to
the new facility was roughly what CSU hoped to get for naming rights, anyway,
helping explain why the school is willing to wait for the right offer for the stadium
name. Folsom Field works for Colorado. Sonny
Lubick Field can work for Colorado
least until the naming rights are sold.)
A few weeks before my talk with Frank,
prominent alumnus, former quarterback
Jack Graham had reacted to athletic director Paul Kowalczyk’s pitch
to him to contribute to upgrading the Hall of Fame room at Moby Arena by saying
that wasn’t a difference maker.
A difference-maker, Graham said, would be … get this … an on-campus football
stadium. Soon, he was extolling
the project to Frank.
This is part of the transcript of my conversation with Frank a month later.
FRANK: “When Jack came to me [in mid-November] and was
saying, ‘You know,
idea that I’ve been pitched to contribute to is interesting, but I don’t think
it changes the game. I think what would change the game is an on-campus stadium.’
And he started talking about the big view for athletics and some of his experiences
that he’d had and what had led him to talking about
this…He said, ‘I would like to
the effort to raise the funds to build an on-campus stadium.’ So we
that for a while and
I said, ‘Let me think about that a little bit.’ And the more I thought
about it, the more I thought, ‘This is exactly the sort of thing I’m
“So I went back and met with him the next week
… I said, ‘The on-campus stadium
I think it’s a great project, but I don’t think it’s a game-changer. The game-changer
is a cultural change in athletics and that starts from
the athletic director down. I’m
of making a change there and are you interested?’”
FREI: Can we anticipate an on-campus stadium?
FRANK: “Well, I think we’ll
try hard to get there. Immediately, when you say
something like that, people say, ‘Where are you going to get the money?’ We
don’t know. We haven’t raised a penny for
it. There’s not been a cent committed.
‘Where will you put it?’ At this point, I have people in Facilities going, ‘Really?
An on-campus stadium?
OK…and what exactly can we tear down?’ So we’re going to
have to figure out a place to make that work and what that looks like. I don’t know
we’ll get there or not.
I think we’ll try hard, because I do think that would be a big factor.
One of the things I do think about that is the idea of recreating that college
atmosphere where your alumni
are coming back, bringing their kids, and people are
coming to your campus. You can get somebody out of Denver, with a high school kid,
and they can say, ‘Hey, let’s go up and watch the CSU game, and while
they’re here, they
this campus.’ We have this great campus and what a great way to get people
on it. Even if we were successful and start really packing people in at Hughes,
who aren’t from
CSU are never going to connect to this campus, never are going to see that.
So I don’t know if we’re going to get there or not. We’re going to try
CSU pulled it off.
Six years later, Sonny Lubick Field opened.
Wedging it in among other coverage duties at the newspaper, I extensively covered
and opined through the process, much of the time from 2015
on finding ways to schedule
myself for CSU coverage
around Avalanche coverage. I wrote about the stadium process
through forums, board of governors meetings, controversies, steps forward, steps back,
and the ultimate green-lighting of the project on December 6, 2014, and then the construction.
And Saturday, the first game.
The Rams were impressive in the
58-27 pummeling of Oregon State, with Nick Stevens
for 334 yards and three touchdowns -- quite a contrast to the disastrous
season-opening performance against Colorado a year that led to him being pulled
and losing the starting job until freshman Collin Hill suffered
a season-ending knee
injury against Utah State
on Oct. 8. CSU has elite talent at wide receiver, most notably
Michael Gallup, and the problem won't be scoring points. The defense gave up
333 yards to Oregon State in the first half before playing well in the second, coming
up with Tre Thomas' game-breaking 44-yard interception
return for a touchdown to
open up a 34-20 lead.
I asked both Stevens and senior center Jake Bennett what that first=game experience
was like, especially considering that if they keep coming back, they can still be bragging
in their 50s that they played in the stadium's
"It was incredible," Stevens said. "Like you said, there's only one
first game here,
so you're a part of history
of the stadium forever. Haley (Nick's wife) bought me
a brick on my birthday last year so our names are on the stadium forever. That's a
real cool deal when you can have something that's going to be here forever. We're
obviously not going to build another one of these in five years,
so you're legacy is
going to be here for awhile.
So it was really, really an awesome atmosphere, and I'm
glad it turned out the way it did."
Said Bennett, from Lakewood's Bear Creek High
School: "Right now, I think it's damn
I played in the last game at Hughes, the first one here and I can also say that we
won both. It's just something special for me and something I'll be able to tell in my glory
years later down the road."
Graham, the proud parent, was there. Fact is, as bitter as their parting was -- and it
was, and still is, more bitter than publicly disclosed -- the stadium would not have
been built without the combined efforts of these
two men. Shepherding the project
labyrinth approval process couldn't have been pulled off by anyone but
Frank, with his deep reservoir of credibility and record of success at CSU, and if he had
accepted another job before the green lighting, the 2017 opener
might have been at
Hughes Stadium Saturday.
Graham's idea and energy were indispensable, of course, and John Morris -- first
Graham's deputy, then his interim successor -- made crucial
helped keep the project from
unraveling. And even Jim McElwain -- yes, Jim McElwain --
had a hand in it, since without that remarkable 10-2 season in 2014 as the Board of Governors
were about to decide the fate of the stadium proposal, it would have been much harder
late Saturday afternoon, McElwain's successor -- Mike Bobo -- looked out at the
assembled media in the home team interview room at field level and appropriately
opened with: "First of all, I just wanted to say how excited
I am for this university,
this community, the
Fort Collins community, our fan base. It was an awesome day
to be a Ram."
Oregon State is going to have a hard time avoiding the Pac
12 North cellar, but the
Beavers were a major
test of legitimacy for the Rams. If they weren't good enough
to beat the Beavers on this emotional opening day, they would have had no shot at
beating the Buffaloes in the Rocky Mountain Showdown Friday night and a painful
1-3 start would have been looming. Now, with CU playing its
opener and the Rams
having a game in the book,
this shapes up even more as a competitive, fun night at
Mile High Stadium (yes, that too) -- regardless of which team wins.
stadium? There still are a few bugs in the system, and the major one was that
concession lines were intimidatingly long. That can be taken care of, though.
Traffic was no worse than conventional football game-day traffic, and in fact, the
drive from Denver to the stadium -- albeit with the plan to
arrive at least two hours
before the game --
actually took less time than it does on a business or school weekday,
given Fort Collins' growth, weekday traffic and the fact that the entire city seems to be
the Rams' hope to get to the Big 12 or otherwise break into a Power 5
league, or to become the powerhouse of the Mountain West, took a huge step forward
Saturday. Attaining the latter might lead to the former. The stadium was in progress
when league officials interviewed CSU and other
possible expansion candidates, so
has come into play as a selling point.
Unfortunately, in the college football arms race,
nothing is stagnant. Oregon's
not long ago were the gold standard. But the Ducks two years
ago opened up a new football operations building connected to Autzen Stadium.
So many other schools, including CU, have upgraded existing stadiums and built
new facilities to go with them. New gets old fast. Now, with
CSU's football facilities,
practice fields, concentrated at the stadium, the trick is going to be
to stay on top of things.
The Beavers are about to run the first play from scrimmage in the new stadium.
Nall (34) ran for one yard.
From the field late in the game. As CU has known for years, and CSU discovered Saturday,
one of the perils of putting the stadium next to the library
is that when the games get
out of hand, students rush off to study. (That's the story and we're sticking to it.)
Mike Bobo post-game
Front row of the new press box
Wide receivers Detrich Clark and Michael
Gallup in the interview room.
Scoreboard shot of Sonny Lubick, as in Sonny Lubick Field, with Tony Frank.
Checking in with the Rams:
We're talking about practice ... fields
The new practice fields, against the backdrop of the west side of the stadium.
FORT COLLINS -- With the days counting down before the Multipurpose
Stadium's first game, against Oregon State on August 26, I
attended a Colorado
State practice on
the artificial turf fields just west of the stadium.
With the stadium understandably getting much of the attention,
this has been
underplayed: These are the practice fields that,
at least in theory, might not have been.
They weren't locked in as part of the original plan, and CSU hoped to keep the
project within spending constraints that would enable the practice fields to be an
while keeping the bonded indebtedness within
the original budgeted amount.
Here's what athletic director Joe Parker told me in May in advance of president
Tony Frank's updating report to the CSU board of governors: "We bought some
things off our 'add-alternate' list with
contingency dollars, including the practice
fields on the west
side and a couple of other pieces. The practice fields never
in the project to begin with, and that was the one thing we wanted to make
sure we could add, if we managed the project well. It's an almost $3 million
Let's be realistic: After going through all of this, CSU would have searched for
virtually any way possible to get the practice fields into the stadium project.
that labyrinth and then have the Rams continue to practice on
fields next to Moby Arena, or perhaps other nearby areas on campus,
not next to the stadium? I'm assuming the Rams still would have dressed for
practice and been headquartered in the plush new quarters at the stadium, but the
walk would have been, well, a pain.
To the public, it would have been no more an eyebrow-raising
curiosity, and it certainly
wouldn't have diluted the enthusiasm
over the stadium, but to the Rams program itself,
it would have
been a slight asterisk amid the euphoria. A plush new house with a carport
instead of a garage. A nice new car with a stupid donut spare tire. (Oh ... they all come that
way?) "Hamilton" tickets for the night after Lin-Manuel Miranda left his
Because of the geography around
the stadium -- with Lake Avenue near the southern
side and Pitkin
Avenue at the northern side -- there wasn't unlimited space for the new
practice fields, and Mike Bobo will have to make do with what amounts to a field and
a half of artificial turf, as opposed to roughly twice as much space on the grass and
artificial turf fields next to Moby.
I asked Bobo whether the lesser practice space
affected anything he and his staff
could try to do.
"It does a little
bit," he said. "But I actually like the closeness of everybody, on
the practice fields. We had a lot of space, but parts of the practice fields were so
far away, sometimes we weren't as crisp when we changed between periods or
(when) we changed drills. We're able to fly around a little bit more. We're always
going to be moving at practice. I felt more energy. And the biggest
reason is I like
the surface. The surface is 10 times better, many
times better than the surface there.
It was hard for our guys to
go fast and keep their feet. So this surface helps us a lot."
Senior tackle Zack Golditch, from Aurora's Gateway
High, noted: "I don't feel we
need tons of space. We have
our field and another field next to it. Offense and
only really need two fields. The turf is amazing, the facilities are amazing,
and I think it will change the program. It's something we even saw this first day of
practice. And now, when you think about the vidoes and the graphics years ago about
what this place was going to look like, it looks exactly what it was supposed to look
I don't think it's teally hit me yet, but it's incredible.
And to be able to practice right there
and to visualize ourselves
playing in there August 26, it's pretty cool. To be from Colorado
and to be able to open the stadium, I think that will be a life-long memory."
So, no, it isn't just the stadium
on game day. But building this place is a huge step forward
the overall facilities front, too.
"I think that you can build team chemistry a lot faster when you have a facility
where guys aren't here just to lift and are then going straight
home," said quarterback
Nick Stevens. "There's guys around
everywhere, the new locker room, the new players'
lounge, and I
see guys going into the weight room a lot more motivated to do extra work
and stay around because the facilities are so nice, they kind of want to get the most use
out of it. It helps chemistry-wise, that's for sure."
Within the past
two years, I've toured the upgraded football facilities at both Oregon
Colorado as part of existing stadiums, and CSU's new digs in the new stadium
itself are in the same league -- figuratively, not literally. Including the practice fields.
Everything's in one place.