History of the Rocky Mountain Showdown

Colorado State and CU Boulder face off in the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown. Photo by Hunter Thompson
Colorado State and CU Boulder face off in the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown on Friday, August 29. (Photo credit: Hunter Thompson)

The Rocky Mountain Showdown is the annual in-state contest between rivals University of Colorado and Colorado State held at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. The Showdown first started in 1893 when the Buffaloes dismantled the Rams 76-0 at Hughes Stadium to take home the Centennial Trophy, and since then it has culminated into a 62-21-2 record in favor of the Buffaloes.

Although the first showdown occurred over 120 years ago, there was a period of time when the green and gold and the black and gold did not play each other. From the years of 1959 to 1982, the Rams and Buffs had no Rocky Mountain Showdown. There were no marching bands on the field, no post-game celebrations and no crowd chants to antagonize the opposing fans.


The historic series was restored in 1983, and in 1995 it was cemented as an “annual rivalry,” meaning that CU and CSU would play each other every single season from that point forward.

The showdown is a great opportunity for Ram fans and Buffs fans to watch their teams play at the large and loud Sports Authority Field, where the Denver Broncos NFL team plays. But this was not always the case for eager students and alumni. Historically, the Showdown has always been held at either Folsom Field in Boulder, or at Sunny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins.

The neutral location, Denver, did not come into the picture until 1998. Even though Denver was a suitable place for the showdown to be held, Boulder was still picked as the location for the game in 2009, meaning that the Rams would have the option of playing in Fort Collins in 2020. But if history is bound to repeat itself, then the Rams might just consider opting to play in Denver, where they’ve won five out of 13 games against the Buffs, giving them a 38 percent winning percentage at the neutral site. That’s compared to just a 28 percent winning percentage that the Rams have at their own Hughes Stadium, going 7-24-1 against the Buffs at that location.

When looking at the Rocky Mountain Showdown holistically, it’s easy to see that the Buffs have had the upper hand, winning nearly 73 percent of all contests. But in recent years the CSU Rams have aimed to get rid of their “underdog” title when entering the Showdown. The Rams have won six of the last 15 Showdowns, compared to winning only three of the 15 previous Showdowns before that. It’s clear that the Rams squad is becoming more equally competitive to the CU team that has tripled its athletic funding and resources.

The importance of the Rocky Mountain Showdown, and what it means to all students, athletes and university-affiliates involved, cannot be understated. Every year, the best high school football players in Colorado watch this game, and the results could sway them in one direction or another when recruitment comes around.

This game is important, not just to prove to our rivals that we’re better, but to prove to everyone that we’re better. Parents, coaches and little kids from around the state and around the country will watch two rival teams square off against each other every season, and based on those games they’ll decide if they like the look of green and gold or black and gold.

Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_.