White: ‘State Pride’ needs to extend outside of football and basketball

Austin White

There is no doubting that the “State Pride” uniform sets for the Colorado State football and men’s and women’s basketball teams are a piece of art. They incorporate the Colorado flag eloquently to show off the features of the flag and display what makes Colorado so colorful.

Stevens yelling
CSU senior quarterback Nick Stevens (7) celebrates after a long drive that led to a CSU touchdown during the first half of the Rams’ game against Boise State. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

This inclusion into the fashion parade has been limited to only three of the university’s teams, though, when it appears that expanding it to all of the programs would be a simple move.

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The first question would be the affordability and I believe this is an easy move to make for the athletics department. With tuition and attendance rising, the money from student fees and tuition has only increased, meaning there should be some money left to pay for some simple sets of uniforms.

Production of blue or white uniforms for teams like women’s tennis, track & field, cross country and the golf teams would only require production of shirts for tennis, polos for golf and tank tops for the runners and field participants. These kinds of items are already made for fans and several are given away for free so making the extra bunch for the actual athletes does not seem like a stretch.

Women’s swim and dive might require a little bit of extra cash to make their specialized swim suits, but they still have a corporate backer in Under Armour who should be willing to help expand their “State Pride” product to all kinds of sporting outfits.

The only potential large cost could come from making jerseys for women’s soccer, softball and volleyball as these uniforms are each unique to their sport and could potentially require names and numbers printed on the back.

That cost should not be too much of a scare considering that all three of these sports have pink and orange alternates already in their closets to go along with the green and gold theme of the standard uniforms.

Creating the look and debuting it with football was partially inspired by CSU football having the largest percentage of in-state players on their roster compared to other major Colorado universities.

Applying that same logic to only CSU sports, football comes in toward the middle of the pack.

Women’s cross country boasts the largest percentage of Colorado natives as 71 percent of their roster is from around the state. Second place goes to women’s track & field at 66 percent with women’s soccer, men’s track & field and volleyball rounding out the top five. Football has around 40 percent, seventh among CSU athletics.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams feature some of the lowest percentages at CSU with the men’s roster having 15 percent Coloradoans and the women’s having 20 percent.

However, judging a decision based on how many true Coloradoans are on each roster seems like a very divisive strategy. All of these athletes have come to play in Colorado and are therefore taking on representation of the state and should be seen with the same kind of respect.

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Playing a popular sport like football or basketball should not mean receiving the best benefits, though, since there are plenty of other sports at CSU who have had even more success.

The Rams’ volleyball team did not receive a “State Pride” set despite being the most successful sports program currently at the university. They have made the NCAA tournament 23 consecutive times and have won the Mountain West 14 out of the 18 years volleyball has been in the conference. The volleyball team also continually has one of the highest attended programs in the country, ranking 12th in 2017 with an average of just over 2,500.

a player runs toward the basket, ready to jump, with an opponent trying to block her
Grace Colaivalu drives to the basket, defended by a University of New Mexico player, during the State Pride game on Saturday, Jan. 27. The Rams beat the Lobos 74-71 in overtime. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

The men’s basketball team has won their conference three times, the most recent being in 2003 when they won the Mountain West Conference tournament. Women’s basketball struggles to reach 1,500 fans per game while volleyball makes that easily almost every match.

The men’s and women’s track & field teams both won indoor MW titles last year and the men’s cross country team finished No. 9 in the entire country this season. Men’s golf was also one shot away from taking home the MW title last season.

CSU football has seven conference championships since Harry Hughes stopped coaching in 1946. The most recent trophy came in 2002 at the end of the Sonny Lubick era which brought six of those seven titles to Fort Collins.

In defense of football and basketball, they do bring in the most money of the programs at CSU. They get the TV contracts that help fund the athletic program as a whole, along with receiving the most in donations from alumni and others.

The argument could be made that since they bring in the money, giving them the threads makes the most sense. The status of their sport allows them to benefit its popularity and new jerseys are just part of being in the sport. Why else would you go to Oregon other than to play in a new Nike jersey every game?

However, sports are a meritocracy. One’s ability will get them what is worthy of their skills. The athletes themselves know that because reaching college athletics means beating out top competition. They won out because they proved that their talents were more worthy of a scholarship.

Now at the collegiate level, though, athletics have become a popularity contest when the idea behind the “State Pride” was to unify all of the people who call Colorado their home and to give athletes something to be proud of when competing for Colorado State.

The only way for a tennis player or cross country runner to join in on the state pride is to buy an overpriced t-shirt at the bookstore.

Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44