Beyond the game: Q&A With Chris Ferris of CSU Athletics

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Collegian | Falyn Sebastian

(Graphic illustration by Falyn Sebastian | The Collegian)

Kaden Porter, Guest Author

Athletics, even at the collegiate level, is a business. Like a business, an athletic organization has a variety of important jobs behind the scenes that keep it moving forward. At Colorado State University, one of those important people is Chris Ferris, Colorado State’s senior associate athletic director for sales, marketing and communications. According to his CSU staff profile, Ferris has been at CSU since July 2016 and oversees the financial world of CSU Athletics, from ticket sales to branding and digital media. Over email, Ferris discussed his job, Colorado State’s role within the Fort Collins community and more.

A portrait of Senior Associate Athletic Director Chris Ferris. (Photo courtesy of Colorado State University Athletics)

Q: I saw that you came to CSU in 2016 from the University of Pittsburgh. Even though it’s been a while, can you remember some of your first impressions of Fort Collins and CSU?

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A: The people in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado are very kind and welcoming. It goes without saying that this is a beautiful part of the world. However, what we have found to be extremely special is the ambition that community, people and organizations have. This community wants to make a real difference in the world, and that is great place to live and grow each day.

Q: What would you say is your favorite part of working at CSU?

A: Serving students. This includes student-athletes, student fans and the many students who work in the department.

Q: Is there anything that is challenging or frustrating about your job?

A: Some might view the journey challenging, but I try to focus on the opportunity in front of us. Colorado State University is a powerhouse. High-achieving students, world-class education, world-class research, world-class people. We are working each day to be a world-class athletic program. Like all areas, this is not easy. It requires great people, resources and a lot more to maximize the learning opportunities that intercollegiate athletics provide.

Some may view athletics as simply games; however, it is so much more. Colorado State Athletics has arguably one of the most diverse student and staff populations, working together in teams to compliment the great experiences they have in the classroom. The narrative around how athletics serves students and this community sometimes shifts based on the how many wins and losses teams earn during a given year, and this is too bad.

For clarity purposes, it is important to note that our goals are to win championships; however, it is important to recognize the courage and power that exists in the journey.  The experiences Colorado State athletics provide students, staff and this community are powerful.

Q: How important is community engagement? Does it become easier when a team is seeing success, such as men’s basketball currently?

A: Community engagement is critical. It is absolutely a major focus to have great attendance at home events, and we have seen that this year, especially with selling out the last five men’s basketball home games. Some may define community engagement as just attendance and ticket sales, but it is so much more. Winning teams certainly capture more attention in the media, but Colorado State Athletics is deeply embedded in this great community.

Q: What are some examples of engagement within the community?

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A: Less public examples of this include working with the Special Olympics (Colorado) and hosting flag football as well as the (Rams Read) program where Ram student-athletes go into our local elementary schools and read to students. Another example is collaborating with UCHealth each year to host a Cancer Warriors game where our basketball student-athletes wear the name of a cancer warrior on the back of their jersey instead of their own name for a game.

Other examples include Rams Against Hunger — a food collection (organization) in collaboration with Republic Services prior to football and basketball games — and recently a money and goods collection at home basketball games in support of the Marshall Fire victims.

Q: Lastly, is there anything else that might surprise people about athletics at CSU?

A: I am not sure it is a surprise, but it is a reminder: Student-athletes are students first. It takes a lot of courage to perform in such public spaces and have fans go on social media and judge that performance. They practice, travel and compete all while being subject to the same academic rigor that all students face at Colorado State.

It is not unlike other students juggling their internships or job.  Every student on this campus has an opportunity to have a truly comprehensive experience; that makes Colorado State special.  These comprehensive experiences are not always easy, but it is not designed to be easy.  Life is not easy.  The opportunities at Colorado State, and especially those within athletics are great preparation and usually, those who are well prepared find success.

Reach Kaden Porter at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @kqporter5.