Sports for Dummies: CSU football history to know before the homecoming game

Ashley Potts

Homecoming can be a little overwhelming if you do not like sports, especially football. Homecoming, to me, is a celebration of the history around Colorado State University, but is also really football heavy. If you are not up to date on your CSU football facts, the whole thing can seem cliquey and weird. 

CSU tight end Dalton Fackrell scores a touchdown against Nevada defensive back Asauni Rufus during the 2017 homecoming game. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)
CSU tight end Dalton Fackrell scores a touchdown against Nevada defensive back Asauni Rufus during the 2017 homecoming game. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

If you do not want to be out of the loop, I did the dirty work for you and compiled some of the highlights of CSU football since its inception in 1893. 

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CSU was created, as many students and alumni might know, in 1870. It was originally Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical University and the mascot was the Aggies. The football program began in 1893 and had a slow start with very few games and even fewer wins. 

Harry W. Hughes took over as head coach and athletic director in 1911. He served as coach until 1941 and stayed on as athletic director until 1953. The team started winning under Hughes, with eight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles.

Hughes helped build the first sod football field in the state, Colorado Field. The team played on Colorado Field through 1967, when the first stadium was built—and dubbed Hughes Stadium—in 1968. 

Sadly, Hughes was demolished recently and the name seems to have gone with it for now.

There were seven coaches between the namesake of the stadium and the namesake of the field within it, Sonny Lubick. In that time, the Colorado A&M Aggies became the Colorado State University Rams and the team experienced heavy fluctuation.  

Thurman “Fum” McGraw was the standout player in that time. He was CSU’s first All-American player and continued on to play for the Detroit Lions before being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He would return to CSU as a staff member and athletic director. His name now resides on the Athletic Center next to Moby Arena, which houses athletics staff, ticket offices and the academic support area for student athletes. 

Thurman “Fum” McGraw stands outside of the McGraw Athletic Center in 1999

The next major era of CSU football came in 1993 when Sonny Lubick took over as head coach. Lubick came in at a time when the team was losing a lot, a trend he turned around rather quickly. There were a lot of standout moments in his coaching career, too many to write in this space. Suffice it to say, he was good at his job. He won National Coach of the Year awards and led the team to titles in the Western Athletic Conference before moving the team to the Mountain West Conference.

This was the era of the true Rocky Mountain Showdown: played in Denver and more competitive than it’s been in the last four years.

Lubick left his legacy on the team and on the field. He won nearly 75 percent of the games he played in Hughes Stadium and ended with a record of 108-74.

His legacy survived the demolition of Hughes as the field in Canvas Stadium is still named the Sonny Lubick field due to his support of the program to this day. 

The next big event in CSU football came more recently. CSU hired Jim McElwain for the 2012 season. He came from Alabama, where he had won two national championships as offensive coordinator. This was the era of Garrett Grayson and Rashad Higgins and is likely what most people remember as the last time CSU football was exceptional. McElwain was also the coach the last time CSU won a Rocky Mountain Showdown in 2014. 

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McElwain left the Rams at the end of the 2014 season to coach at the University of Florida, marking the only time a head coach has left CSU for another school. 

Now we are in the era of Mike Bobo and while many CSU fans have strong feelings about the way the team is going under his leadership, remember that this homecoming weekend is celebrating a lot more than the last three seasons. 

Ashley Potts can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ashleypotts09