CSU’s most outstanding coaches from the last 130 years

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Collegian | Lucy Morantz

Colorado State University volleyball head coach Tom Hilbert coaches players from the bench in the second set against San Jose State University Nov. 6, 2021.

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

The Colorado State University Rams aren’t best known for winning national championships in Division I sports — they have none.

However, the history of prominent figures in CSU Athletics is as rich as any other you’d find in the country. From the time Colorado State was founded in 1870, there have been some legendary coaches and athletes who have made Rams athletics what it is today.

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Football

CSU’s roots in football go back to before CSU was CSU and before the Rams were the Rams. In December 1892, 22 years after the then-named Colorado Agricultural College was founded, a football player by the name of F.O. Congdon started a football team with 18 other students. A month later, they played their first-ever game against Longmont Academy, a college and high school hybrid school.

If the name Congdon doesn’t ring a bell, Harry Hughes just might. Hughes was arguably the best coach in CSU’s 130-year football history. When Hughes arrived at the university in 1911, the game was forever changed. 

Coach Harry Hughes with 1936 Olympic decathlon champion Glenn Morris. (Photo Courtesy of Jon Hirn, CSU Athletics)

Hughes briefly coached men’s basketball, baseball and football along with men’s track and field during his tenure and produced a total of 13 conference titles between the four sports from 1911-53. Hughes coached legendary athlete and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Jack Christiansen in track and field, along with national hammer throw champion Ivan Dyekman.

Another bullet point on Hughes’ long list of accomplishments is when he led the Aggies to their first football victory at the University of Colorado Boulder in his second year as head coach.

Hughes died less than a month after his retirement in 1953 and was later honored by the university by naming the former football stadium after him in 1968.

Track and field

Brian Bedard stands next to Doug Max and waves to the crowd. (Photo from the Collegian archives)

One of CSU’s most talented and successful groups of athletes is the track and field team, and their current coach, Brian Bedard, will undoubtedly go down as one of the best coaches to ever lead the Rams.

Bedard has been with the university ever since he was a member of the team from 1983-88. He threw the shot put and the discus, placing in both events at conference championships. After graduating, he went straight into coaching as an assistant, where he coached Rams’ throwers up until 2006.

He became head coach in 2006 and never looked back. The numbers speak for themselves, as Bedard has led the team to win more than a dozen conference championships and has coached more than 90 individuals to NCAA competitions. Additionally, he has won Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year 12 times during his 16 years as head coach.

Volleyball

Head Coach Tom Hilbert receives a commemorative golden volleyball trophy celebrating 800 career wins prior to the Colorado State volleyball match against the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels Sept. 22.
Head coach Tom Hilbert receives a commemorative golden volleyball trophy celebrating 800 career wins prior to the Colorado State University volleyball match against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebels Sept. 22. Of these wins, 628 have come while Hilbert has been the head coach at CSU for the past 25 years of his 36 year head coaching career. The game against the Rebels saw the Rams come out victorious, winning 3-0. (Collegian | Reuel Indurkar)

The Rams women’s volleyball team is another highly successful program, facilitated for the last 25 years by legendary head coach Tom Hilbert. He began his coaching career at the University of Oklahoma in 1984, moved to the University of Idaho for several years and eventually landed at CSU in 1997, where he still coaches today.

When he arrived in 1997, the Rams were already good, but Hilbert made them even better. He improved from a 23-11 record in 1996 to a 27-6 record in his inaugural season. Since then, the Rams have appeared in the NCAA tournament in every season until 2020.

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In Hilbert’s 25 years at CSU, he’s been awarded 12 conference Coach of the Year honors. Additionally, prior to this season, Hilbert ranked ninth among current Division I coaches in winning percentage (.780) — 14th all-time. Hilbert won his 800th career victory this season against the University of Wyoming, then got CSU’s 1,000th volleyball win two days later against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Reach Braidon Nourse at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.