BOULDER, Colo. – It’s the place all Colorado State fans love to hate. However, many of you haven’t ever attended a game there. Until Saturday, I hadn’t either.
The place I’m talking about is Boulder, and the stadium is Folsom Field.
And while there is likely nothing Ram fans despise more than anything having to do with the University of Colorado, there’s one area where the Buffs outclass CSU, hands down. The gameday experiences are night-and-day different, despite being in very similar communities at very similar colleges.
Yes, Hughes Stadium sits nearly four miles from campus, while Folsom is right in the heart of a truly terrific college town. But there’s more to it than simply being closer to the center of campus.
The atmosphere around the University of Colorado football program, which finished the 2014 season at 2-10, is comparable or even better than that of CSU’s, who finished the regular season the opposite end of the spectrum at 10-2, and is looking forward to its second-consecutive bowl berth.
Sure, Buff fans are frustrated. Winning a grand total of 10 games over the last four years will do that. But despite their continued struggles, including missing the postseason every year since 2007, the feeling of progress can still be felt throughout the program. It sounds a lot like Colorado State two seasons ago, right?
So why is it that a team who is still hoping for success can draw a better fan base than one who is in the midst of its best season in over a decade?
In its season finale Saturday against Utah, the Buffs, who closed the season on an eight-game losing streak, drew 32,000 fans. In six home games in 2014, in which CU finished 1-5, it drew an average of 36,585 fans.
In their own season finale on Nov. 22, the Rams drew just 22,000 people to their 58-20 romp over New Mexico. CSU, who finished an undefeated 6-0 at home, drew 10,000 fewer fans per game than CU, averaging 26,575 per home contest.
Does having an on-campus stadium help the Buffs? Absolutely. Does it make a 10,000-person difference? No.
What Colorado State needs as it likely goes forward with the proposed on-campus stadium project and subsequently hires a new athletic director is exactly what former AD Jack Graham had in mind: a bold new era. However, CSU could do without the in-fighting that occurred in the department that was exemplified by Graham’s progress report, which eventually led to his demise.
If CSU truly wants to be a nationally relevant program, they’ll need to start from the ground up. They must get not only their fans, but also the rest of their athletic department and their university to buy into the idea that CSU football will eventually belong next to names like Utah, Boise State and TCU – all teams who cemented themselves as programs to be reckoned with from outside of the big-money conferences.
Part of that task belongs to the actual on-field product. But some of it also belongs to the marketing, ticket sales and promotion groups. Having a great program will only get you so far in a state like Colorado, where there are a million other Saturday afternoon activities besides going to a college football game. It’s the team’s job to win games. It’s those departments’ job to get people there to watch.
There are dozens of different ways to do it, and I could spend this entire column outlining the ways CSU can improve its gameday experience. However, that job isn’t mine. That task belongs to the people in the Fum McGraw Athletic Center who are being paid to find different ways to put butts in the seats.
Despite selling a product that equates to something you would see on a bad late-night infomercial, the University of Colorado has gotten fans to buy into the idea that they have a football team worth watching.
It is high time Colorado State did, too.
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.