Do you think of the Colorado State Rams as a major player in college athletics? Maybe we don't, but they do. And that's what matters.
Being in exile here for 16 years now, I have a lot of friends who went to CSU. They are really good people, so I've developed a certain affinity for the CSU Rams. CSU produces great vets, and Fort Collins makes great beer. But I don't think I'm stepping on many toes by saying there is not much comparison between Colorado State University and U.C.L.A.
I wish there were more of a comparison, in one sense, though. Acting on a push from Jack Graham, their new AD, CSU is studying the possibility of building a new football stadium on campus.
CSU officials have said that putting a stadium in the middle of the Fort Collins campus would boost the university's profile and attract more recruits and donors.
CSU currently plays their home games in 35,000 seat Hughes Stadium, which is just a mere 2 miles from campus. But that's not good enough for the folks who run things at CSU.
It's key that the CSU Athletic Director has big dreams and high standards for his school, and that those ideals are backed by the CSU president.
"We have the same expectations for excellence in our sports program that we have for all areas of the university," [CSU President Tony] Frank said.
Can anyone imagine our Chancellor making a statement like that?
It's no reach to say that CSU lacks the same heritage and legacy as U.C.L.A. From the number of championships, to the academic rankings, to the notable alumni, to the breadth of research, U.C.L.A. is worlds ahead of CSU.
Yet despite being a upper-middle of the road Mountain West program, CSU has made commitments to athletics that our fans can only dream of, but that our admin apparently can't even conceive. In December, after 3 consecutive disappointing football seasons, CSU President Frank fired the old athletic director and promptly hired Graham as the new athletic director, and he in turn promptly fired the old football coach and then promptly hired the new football coach (from the SEC, at that). And then he started working on plans for an on-campus stadium. While some places look at the obstacles and assume it's the end of the road, CSU is looking at the obstacles and is working on how to get around them. And they are going to do it with private funds and not compromise the University's commitment to academics. That's positive. Sometimes, the smaller fish aim to be bigger fish.
Oh, and CSU made the NCAA Tournament, too.
A quote from AD Graham says it all (bold is mine):
"Athletics play a critical role at CSU," Graham said. "Our teams can and should be leaders in defining our university's traditions, and they can be catalysts that unite our students and community. I...believe our success in athletics can and will send a signal about the overall quality of CSU's leadership, our standards and our talent."
Can anyone imagine our AD making a statement like that?
So why is a school like U.C.L.A. getting shown how to do things by little Colorado State?
We all know the answer. Dan Guerrero and Gene Block.