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CSU vs. CU: A history of our extensive rivalry

Empower+Field+at+Mile+High+in+Denver%2C+Colorado.
Collegian | Michael Marquardt
Empower Field at Mile High in Denver Sept. 4.

The Rocky Mountain Showdown is returning this weekend for the first time since 2019, and with that comes a heightened sense of community among Colorado State University students, faculty and alumni. However, this also means reaching a boiling point in the rivalry between CSU and University of Colorado Boulder students.

As the Rocky Mountain Showdown approaches, it is important for everyone to remember to stay safe while at the game. This 130-year-old football rivalry dates back to when Colorado State University was still Colorado Agricultural College and the University of Colorado Boulder’s nickname was the Colorado Silver and Gold, and the bad blood runs deep.

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When it comes to football, rivalry can be a fun but dangerous game. All too quickly, lines can be blurred between light-hearted banter and violence. In the history of the Rocky Mountain Showdown, there have been many instances when things have gotten out of hand with no warning.

The rivalry between the two schools goes much deeper than just football. One of the most well-known rumors is that CU fans poisoned the 1913-18 CSU school mascot, Peanuts the bulldog. This, among other things, such as CU referring to CSU as its “little brother” despite being established years later than CSU, only kindles the flames in the hearts of loyal fans on both sides who will defend their favorite team to the end.

The appearance of either green and gold or black and gold on any opposing turf is bound to spark up some sharp verbal jabs and a gracious amount of heckling. As CSU fans know, anyone spotted in Buffalo gear can hardly make it two steps within Canvas Stadium without feeling the glares of thousands of students preparing to rain down heckling.

The Rocky Mountain Showdown is no stranger to housing high tensions, but prior years have sparked more rowdiness than others.

The 1999 Rocky Mountain Showdown game turned into a riot as CSU beat No. 14 ranked CU, which caused many CU fans to grow agitated at their home team. 

“The Rams had just won against the Buffs, and CU fans weren’t happy about the fact that we beat their ranked team,” said Daniel McAllister, a CSU student and historian. “So they began a bit of a riot, throwing cups (and) beer and attacking police and the Colorado sideline.”

CSU fans also partook in the taunting, leading police to get more officers to the stadium to keep fans from storming the field, said Virginia Lopez, the Denver Police spokeswoman in 1999 in The Denver Post. It escalated to a point where the game has been referred to as “the tear gas game” as police began unleashing tear gas down on the crowd to get them to settle, which only caused more harm and injuries to those who were innocent bystanders.

Game day can be a time of celebration of a favorite team — the excitement is palpable and electric — but it can quickly become unruly.

Sports Illustrated’s 2017 study “College Football Gameday Safety” notes that “the average total number of police incidents on campus on gamedays was 139.4 incidents.” This report was done on 33 of the biggest colleges across the nation but still is a caution to those who intend to attend the Rocky Mountain Showdown this coming Saturday.

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This statistic should be kept in mind considering the Rocky Mountain Showdown’s relocation this year.

Moving from Empower Field at Mile High to CU Boulder’s own Folsom Field may mean some pushback from the Buffs, but continue representing the green and gold and show our team love. With the tensions brewing between both CU and CSU as we near Saturday, to those who plan to go to the game, keep safety in mind while cheering on the Rams.

“I have seen many Rocky Mountain Showdowns in Denver and in Boulder,” McAllister said. “The game brings out energy and passion from both fan bases, and that energy definitely brings out some bad and ugly moments, but that’s the spirit of rivalry.”

Reach Christian Arndt and Ayla Sanchez at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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About the Contributors
Christian Arndt
Christian Arndt, Life & Culture Editor
Christian Arndt is this year's editor for the life and culture desk at The Collegian. Arndt joined The Collegian in the winter of 2023, when he started as an arts and entertainment writer, primarily focusing on movie reviews, local art installations and music-curated lists. Arndt is the second life and culture editor and is proud to step into this position. He is focusing on providing the best local coverage in the Fort Collins area with a focus on unique business profiles, important cultural events and fun local happenings. Arndt comes from Silverthorne, Colorado, and came to Colorado State University in the fall of 2021. He is a third-year and is majoring in journalism and media communication with a minor in English. He found his passion for writing during his English classes in high school, and eventually with the style he chose to pursue, he ended up finding a passion within journalism. Because he had no prior experience with journalism, he was adamant to join The Collegian and build up his experience and reputation there. Aside from writing for the paper, you can find him at the cinema, watching basketball, playing video games with friends, walking his adorable dog Penny Lane, snowboarding and listening to plenty of music. Arndt finds his role as an editor thrilling and looks forward to providing the utmost care and consistency with the content that comes out for the life and culture desk.
Ayla “AJ” Sanchez is an editor for the news desk at The Collegian starting the fall semester of 2023. She hopes to bring accurate and positive news to The Collegian and get coverage on the things that matter to Colorado State University and Fort Collins as a whole. Sanchez is new to CSU and The Collegian, having no experience in news writing before joining. A transfer from the Community College of Denver, Sanchez hopes to learn more about university life and the traditions surrounding CSU. Her goal is to thrive in this new environment and make a new start for herself. Sanchez is a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in history. Her goal is to become a representative of Colorado to bring change within the state and the country as a whole. She hopes to gain experience while at CSU that will help her reach her goal. Outside of work and school, Sanchez loves to hike, visit various bodies of water — City Park’s lake being her favorite — and walk to 7-Eleven for a nice cold Slurpee. She's excited for the winter since building snowmen and snowball fights are her favorite activities. Sanchez is excited for the kick-off of the new school year and to be one of this year's news editors.

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