HOMEBioFilm rights, Screenplays, Representation2021 Commentaries2020 CommentariesOLYMPIC AFFAIR: HITLER'S SIREN AND AMERICA'S HEROTHE WITCH'S SEASONThird Down and a War to GoHORNS, HOGS, AND NIXON COMING'77: DENVER, THE BRONCOS, AND A COMING OF AGEMarch 1939: Before the MadnessPLAYING PIANO IN A BROTHELSave By RoyThey Call Me "Mr. De": The Story of Columbine's Heart, Resilience and RecoveryA Selection of Terry Frei's writing about World War II heroesOlympic Affair Excerpt: Chapter 1, Leni's VisitOlympic Affair Excerpt: Chapter 15, Aren't You Thomas Wolfe?The Witch's Season: Screenplay opening pagesThe Witch's Season Excerpt:Air Force Game, Bitter Protest, a Single ShotThird Down and a War to Go: Screenplay opening pagesThird Down and a War to Go Excerpt: Ohio State vs. WisconsinThird Down and a War to Go genesis: Grateful for the Guard, Jerry FreiThird Down and a War to Go: A Marines' game on GuadalcanalDave Schreiner, Badger and MarineBob Baumann, Badger and MarineLt. Col. John Mosley, Aggie and Tuskegee AirmanHorns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming: Prologue and screenplay opening pagesHorns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming Excerpt: James Street: Wishbone WizardHorns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming Subplot: The day they stopped playing Dixie'77 Excerpt: AFC Title GameMarch 1939 Excerpt: First NCAA Title GameMarch 1939, Excerpt: The StartersPlaying Piano Excerpt: S.F. EarthquakeA Year with Nick Saban before he was Nick SabanTommy Lasorda and the Summer of '70Press CredentialsThe Sporting NewsDenver PostESPN.comThe OregonianGreeley TribuneKids' sports books: The ClassicsJon Hassler, Terry Kay and other favorite novelistsBig Bill Ficke's Big HeartBob Bell's Food For Thought





Feedback: terry@terryfrei.com


Brought to you by:



720-201-9192 Direct
720-528-7846 Fax
800-887-5184 Toll Free

bob@milehiproperty.com ·www.milehiproperty.com


'Where Real Estate is Native'





8242 S. Holly St.

Centennial CO

 And Big Bill's 9-11 Day of Giving for

JoAnn B. Ficke Cancer Foundation




2020 commentaries

2019 commentaries 

2018 commentaries




For 2017, scroll down for...

On the Colorado Scene commentaries

Links to Mile High Sports online commentaries. 



 Mile High Sports, December 30

Semyon Varlamov needs to start stealing games



December 27, 2017

 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 anything

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

to ThunderWolves coach John Wristen, perhaps closing with his

recommendation about 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 succeeded.       

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 anywhere.

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

and business 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

remember 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 while

I have you, let me tell you what I think about Tebow ...," and he

proceeded 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

or underplayed? This would be a niche approach that won't be for everyone.

Even those proclaiming they want more broad-based subject matter on more

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

else, 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 --

perhaps for the entire show. It s not made for getting in and out of the car,

though I believe sampling it during the commute or the run to the store

could work, too. You will not be turning on the radio and hearing the exact

same 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 ...





Mile High Sports, December 25

At Christmas Break, Avalanche a turnaround story





December 24, 2017

A Football Classic on Guadalcanal,

then on to fight in Battle of Okinawa

Tentmates.jpg Mosquito1.jpg

 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 in a

remarkable football game on Guadalcanal on Christmas Eve 1944, then

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,

earned the Bronze Star in the battle. He was teary-eved and spoke softly

when we talked about the battle, including the fact that 12 of the Marines

who played in that football game -- with rosters mostly of former college

stars 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 17

On this (unnamed) line, Landeskog amps it up 




Mile High Sports, December 16

Avalanche rushing the 19-year-olds  




Mile High Sports, December 15

Nathan MacKinnon's breakout



Mile High Sports, December 5

Deja Vu All Over Again





Mile High Sports, December 4

MacKinnon, O'Reilly meet again




December 2, 2017

Rangeview's J.D. Paige

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."


Earlier in 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

goes back two generations in his family. 


J.D.'s grandfather, 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

unprecedented, and 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,

but then it's move on to the rest of the schedule. The Rocky Mountain

Showdown football rivalry is similar in some ways, but consider that the

announced 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.


With 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 and he

seems destined to play all four years for Eustachy -- and even be in his

program 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

the older guys who were around me earlier." At that point, he mentioned

a 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 team

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

on-court chatter.


"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 




Mile High Sports, November 28

Gabe Landeskog needs to be smarter than that 




November 26, 2017

In the final analysis,

seasons of underachievement

for 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.

Rather, it was that the Buffs were so outclassed and manhandled

by another similarly disappointing Pac-12 team in the same situation,

with the same theoretical motivation -- needing a win just to finish .500

in the regular season, practice for a couple more weeks and play in a

lower-tier bowl. 


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 done.


In that sense, it was Colorado's worst and most puzzling showing of

the season.

It was worse than the 28-0 loss at Washington State, since the Cougars

at least were ranked in the top 20 going into the Apple Cup Saturday.

It was more disappointing than the near-miss, four-point loss at UCLA,

with the Buffs threatening to pull it out in the final seconds.

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 Buffs realistically

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

additional practices 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

program 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-

might-have-been disappointment. 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

next week.


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

season. But I'm not going to get carried away with what the Rams should

have been.

One of the backdrops to all of this is that CSU President Tony Frank

expended considerable political capital and energy in the long battle to

gain 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 set the

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

Conference jobs. (In the weird world of sports, though, McElwain's Florida fiasco

probably 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. 



November 23

And so the Broncos

scapegoat Mike McCoy

and turn to Paxton Lynch




In 2016, as I worked on my annual newspaper draft

assignment -- the quickly done, yet extensive profile

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 the

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, too.

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 than

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

scapegoating, 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

in 2010. 

But during this type of season, the reflexive response is to say: Do something! 

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 and well-

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

production, 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 Lynch,

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. 

Rarely 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. 

Brock 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 was possible.   


But 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 is that

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 here.

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

as 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 mature, 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 at Gonzaga

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. 

It's 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 chance to

show that one development model and timetable doesn't fit all.


If he fails, the Broncos likely not only will look for another quarterback.


They might need another scapegoat.




Mile High Sports, November 22

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,

but it was well done and did Red justice. With Annabel Bowlen, owner Pat

Bowlen's wife; PR man emeritus and unofficial team historian Jim Saccomano;

and Tom Jackson, representing Miller's players in his two stints in Denver

(the 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

be duplicated.


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

when getting the news about the Ring of Fame. "Really, truly we thought it

woud 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 so excited

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

restaurants and the grocery store and whatever, somebody always stops him

and says, 'Thank you for what you did in 1977,' or, 'It was so much fun back

then. 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

to make 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 for the

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

have been able to move up there or better position himself as a possible

second-chance hire in the coaching carousel. He feuded with tight-fisted

Gold owner Ron Blanding, who zealously wanted to stick to the new league's

low-cost model to the point of ridiculousness, from the start and lasted only

half 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: 




 Previous: October 5, 2017


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 --

honored 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. 


I'm proud to have told his story.  





 November 18, 2017

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 facto

offensive coordinator -- minus the title. And in that role, he has had

an 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.

Stevens 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 point

in Bobo's third season to a holding pattern, but it ended on a day when

Bobo and Stevens had an emotional exchange during the pre-game

Senior Day ceremonies.


"I went up to him and said, 'I love you coach,'" Stevens said after

the 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 with

Georgia transfer Faton Bauta as the starter for one game and then

true freshman 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 leash,

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 sophomore.


It has worked out. And the Bobo-Stevens relationship never turned toxic.


So after 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 in everything.

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

when you sit. First thing you want to do is point fingers and it's human

nature to say, 'It's not my fault.' My dad (George) was a high school coach

and 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

Coach 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

depart -- starter Saturday as the Rams' seniors were individually introduced

and 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

tonight or 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.  



Mile High Sports, November 17

This time a year ago, the wheels fell off  



Mile High Sports, November 15

Post-Trade, Avalanche Reboot in High Gear 






November 11, 2017

An emotional Folsom 

finale for Lindsay, Irwin

and the CU seniors 





















BOULDER --Phillip Lindsay and Jeromy Irwin both wear a "C" -- for captain,

not Colorado -- on their jerseys.

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.             

And they have been through the Colorado program's recovery -- even if

that 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, it is. 

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

carries against the Trojans, Lindsay wasn't brought to the interview room,

but spoke to a small group of us outside the dressing room. I asked him

about 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

a Colorado 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 -- including

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

really good athlete, he's done a lot of great things, but the thing that

separates 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 to wonder

about, or even to assume, but he is not related to brothers Hale Irwin,

who 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, Jeromy

came to Boulder from Cypress Fairbanks High in Cypress, Texas, about

25 miles from Houston.

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 to all. 

"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

the half.

So what did he say?

"I rallied the offense together and just told them, 'I'm not going out like

that.' We were getting beat 20-0 and it takes more heart rather than to go

out 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, screaming about

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, too.

Even the savvy realists willing to be patient with the MacIntyre program

through the rebuilding cycle, including a frustrating 2015 when the Buffs

made 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

purposeful exhortation of his players, not understandable emotion. It is a

coach who in quieter moments away from the field tries to portray an image

of 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,

the 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.

Unless MacIntyre and those around him panic and implode, undoing progress,

the 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

control of their own division destiny after the home loss to Air Force, to

needing everything short of the Cleveland Browns winning out to make

the 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 caustic criticism. 


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

redundant) changed the game, no question, but Wyoming -- with an elite

pro prospect quarterback -- sufficiently adapted to take control. CSU did not. 

Given the opening of the stadium and CSU's burgeoning reputation as a

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 ...





Mile High Sports, November 2

"Why Can't MacKinnon do that every night?" 




Mile High Sports, October 30

Anyone have this Avalanche team figured out?






October 28, 2017

Yes, the Falcons are

a Colorado team, too



 In true Air Force tradition, the Falcons interrupted their celebration of the 45-28 win over

Colorado State to gather at the corner of the field in front of cadets and fans and somberly

join in the singing of the "Air Force Song."


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 Amy (84).   





At left, Falcons celebrate their final

touchdown, which came on Arion

Worthman's 7-yard run with 3:12

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 had

admirals gloating in coversations with generals, but it was Air Force's

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,

rushing for 413 yards, overpowering the Rams up front -- yes, even

in the option game, it was a physical manhandling -- and controlling

the ball 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

on track.

The hardest part of covering the Falcons is getting them to talk in anything

approaching self-congratulatory terms after games. Falcons coach Troy

Calhoun, the former Air Force quarterback and NFL assistant from a blue-collar

background and the Oregon lumber mill town of Roseburg, has credibility

with his players because he has gone through the same spit-shine, hospital-

corners routines and more. He turns every media availability into a filibuster

about 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

coming into this year," he said. "You look, I think we had five starters

back on offense and one starter back on defense. Because you're dealing

with people, and young people, you just can't always say that on April 17,

this is when the blooms are going to occur. And we've got a lot of work

ahead of us. Truthfully, we (lost to) four teams that probably are going

to be bowl teams moving forward, but we're making some progress. And

we've 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

than our 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 new

stadium, and indirectly the other projects either recently completed or

under construction around it. (It's surprising that OSHA hasn't ruled that

all CSU students must wear hardhats on campus.)   

"You know, Terry, I tell you what, I couldn't be more impressed with

Colorado 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."   

If 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,

definitely. This one's been circled for a while. To come up here and get

the 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

three weeks, and that's huge for us, compared to where we were a

little while ago."


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

tiny Simla, 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 of Morris'



Here's the beginning of that Afterword (touched up to avoid repetition): 


In 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 selection committee

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 to

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

grew, 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 proved Morris

presented his tree to CSU president Charles Lory in September 1936. By the 21st century, though,

nobody 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 Don Holst,

the 1968 Olympic men's decathlon coach and an Olympic historian who lives in Chadron, Nebraska.

Holst sought 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 Leni

Riefenstahl and Morris had an affair tied to the making of her acclaimed

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

embarked on a brief, unsuccessful stint in Hollywood, including portraying

Tarzan 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

Tim Buchanan, the city of Fort Collins' forester, also had obtained two

additional oak saplings of the same lineage from Holst seven years ago,

and one had grown into a healthy, if still developing tree. Buchanan

donated 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

I was really getting frustrated because I couldn't find any information

about this tree."


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 Friday's ceremony.                



John Woodruff, second from right during the 800 meters in Berlin,

weaved 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 himself

presented to CSU might never be solved, he now is honored with two

offspring 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.

One 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

Paul 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 just

collected his 600th career NHL point.  

"If 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 see the

hometown team win. If I get booed and we're winning, fine. If we're losing,

then it 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 season,

Stastny led on the Avalanche and general manager Joe Sakic, causing them to

believe that 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

morning 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,

$28-million 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. 

It's 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 season,

poised to make what we all assumed would be a decent playoff run and it trades

Stastny? 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, Peter, had

finished his career -- but since he joined the Blues, he actually has continued

to 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 and then

signed with the Avalanche after his sophomore year.

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 perhaps

that the Avalanche's amazing 112-point season in 2013-14 wasn't a sign

of things to come.

"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 said.

"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,

how 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, but it's

always tough, and you to take the emotion out of it."

But wait. He signed with his hometown team, and he continued to live

in Denver?

"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

movie adaptation).

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 with

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 the Avalanche.     




Mile High Sports, October 18

For this to work, Bernier has to be better 



Mile High Sports, October 16

Jared Bednar's second chance




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

parting shot.

"You'll 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

defender's face, 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

was getting a little frustrated. I said, 'You're going to win the game for us, son.

We're coming to you, you get ready to answer,' and he did. He was communicating.

I 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

"Hollywood," 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 to the

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 me tonight."



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 than

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

multiracial 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, I wasn’t

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

always 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.

“When we played Stephens County, about midyear, a coach came up to

me and said he was the coach at Butler Community College, and I said,

‘Where’s 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 NFL career. 


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.



Mile High Sports, October 13:

Andrighetto speeds into Avs' forefront



Mile High Sports, October 11:

Avalanche leadership is a core issue




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,

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic, Eagles founder Ralph Backstrom, and Eagles President/GM Chris Stewart.

The Eagles were Backstrom's vision and opened play in 2003.



LOVELAND -- 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 the

upgrading of their relationship in 2018-19.


That's when the Eagles will move to the AHL as the Avalanche's top

affiliate, 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

attractions in the burgeoning Northern Colorado corridor.    

I enjoyed being at the Tuesday news conference, which was more celebration

than a media function, and I spoke with, among others, Eagles CEO/owner

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

ownership, while joining the trend in the NHL to have their AHL affiliates

as 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

affiliation last year, the thought of taking it up another step was always

a consideration.

"We talked about leaving it open as a possibility if it was what Martin

wanted to 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

come 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.

The 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 championships

(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,

and 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

more dependent -- in fact, completely dependent -- on the Avalanche to stock

the roster.

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 experience. 


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

(non-playoff bound) 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,

you can 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

that franchise."


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 he'll miss

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

last year, they're very much into seeing us succeed. We understand there

are 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

Interstate 25. 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

minor-league standouts 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.


With the 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

development, too.

At the news conference, I circled back to ask Sakic about the Avalanche's

2-1 start heading into the Wednesday home opener against Boston.

"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

have 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 room. 



















BOULDER -- 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

attitude at time was as important as his play, plus key starters on the

defensive side of the ball; the can't-be-overestimated toll of losing defensive

coordinator Jim Leavitt to Oregon; and, yes, a bit of a letdown in the wake

of 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

Wildcats' backup. 

For his opening statement at his post-game news conference, MacIntyre

began with a plea he had first made to broadcasters after the first half.

"Would 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 said it.

"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

bowl-eligible will be challenging, requiring beating Oregon State in Corvallis,

California in Boulder and pulling out another win against Washington State,

Arizona State, Southern California and Utah. And the additional discouraging

part of that is that bowl eligibility in the wake of the 2016 Pac 12 South title

was supposed to be a given.



It's not.


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

find ways to lose in 2015, to putting together a good-karma season a year

ago 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

we'll eventually 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

West divisional title -- the Buffaloes have been largely unimpressive as a team.      

Lindsay remains one of the right spots.


MacIntyre saluted Lindsay "for ... what he has done for our program, for the

University of Colorado and the way he represents the University of Colorado

and 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 teammates."

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

have to be here. We're going to be all right."     





October 3, 2017

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 awakened

Monday and on television spotted the terrible news. 


"It 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 they're struggling."


In 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 theater,

Golditch and two other wounded were the only victims whose injuries

led to lesser-charge guilty pleas of second-degree attempted murder at

the 2015 trial, and the killer was sentenced to 12 life sentences, plus

3,318 years.


When he later consented to speak about the trial and verdict during

the 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 guy,

he's moved around. He's played right tackle, left tackle, he's played guard.

He's 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 I'm looking

is that he's a little bit nastier in trying to finish here in ballgames."


 Golditch 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

Saturday. Everybody."

And after all, it's just football. 



Catching 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 center

Henrik Borgstrom ever last until the Florida Panthers claimed him with the

23rd 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, character,

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

need 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,

especially 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

Arena. "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.

"But he has built this program and I feel like he's so smart, he knows so

much 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

be stopped."


A recent bout with mononucleosis after his return to Denver in August

temporarily derailed Borgstrom's offseason conditioning program.

"I actually put on 10 pounds in the summer, but I lost it. Once I got back

here, 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) Jansen and

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 it."



September 24

Rantanen hoping to build on

solid rookie season for Avalanche 


When Mikko Rantanen scored six goals in his final eight games of Colorado's

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. 


 "Of course, 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

choice of the 2015 draft who spent most of his first pro year going through

indoctrination to the North American game in the AHL at San Antonio, Rantanen

is 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

many goals I'm going to score. I just want to play hard and if it comes,

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

the rout of the Wild. "I have high expectations for him. He's not going to

sneak up on anybody now. So he's going to get the other team's best

defenders every night, which he did for the most part last year as well.

He's going to play a lot of minutes and we want to use him properly.

For me, I think he can become more consistent. We've got to make sure

he's pushing the pace for our team on a nightly basis, for every period

and every shift."

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 want

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 has

jettisoned marginal -- or worse -- veteran talent and gotten both younger

and 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

playing smarter, only because I know the league better. I know what

to expect, so it will be easier this year. Everybody knows what last

season 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,

but officials ruined the Showdown


Buffs Phillip Lindsay and Shay Fields as defensive back Evan Worthington holds the Centennial

Trophy postgame.   



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

let the 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.



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

dynamic would have changed and with more of a sense of urgency, CU might have

responded offensively.     

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 into it.

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 having a

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." 


MacIntyre eventually got around to praising the CSU defense and highly respected

defensive 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 if

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 justified.

"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

coming 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

expectations that the Rams -- with a favorable conference schedule and a down

division -- 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. 


FORT COLLINS -- Several times a year, Colorado's Mike MacIntyre and Colorado

State's 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

room 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

a 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

rivalry 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.

But it's 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 both

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 more shoot-from-the-hip

and spontaneous in his conversations with the media, but the switch from more informal

standing post-practice availabilities in the hallway in the Moby Arena complex to the stage

and 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 the

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 for many

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

selling 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

don't 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.  


August 27, 2017 


FORT 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

years 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

State, at least until the naming rights are sold.)  


A few weeks before my talk with Frank, prominent alumnus, former quarterback

and booster 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,

this Moby 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

lead the effort to raise the funds to build an on-campus stadium.’ So we talked about

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 looking for.’


“So I went back and met with him the next week … I said, ‘The on-campus stadium 

is great, 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

thinking 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.

And, ‘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 if

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 game day

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

could see 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, the people

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 hard.”


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

throwing 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 first game.


"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

cool. 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

through the 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 contributions that

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 to

gain approval.


And 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.    


The 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

under construction.


Long-term, 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

it already has come into play as a selling point.


Unfortunately, in the college football arms race, nothing is stagnant. Oregon's

showcase facilities 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,

including adjacent 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.

Ryan 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.






August 2017

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 "add-on"

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

were 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. 


Maneuver through that labyrinth and then have the Rams continue to practice on

inadequate fields next to Moby Arena, or perhaps other nearby areas on campus,

and 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 show.   


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

defense, you 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 like.

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

on 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

and 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.