Schnepf: A down but hungry Colorado State football program awaits NDSUFARGO — Tim Miles, who has coached basketball at North Dakota State and Colorado State, was being politically correct when asked about this Saturday’s football game between his two former schools.
By: Kevin Schnepf, Forum Communications
FARGO — Tim Miles, who has coached basketball at North Dakota State and Colorado State, was being politically correct when asked about this Saturday’s football game between his two former schools.
“I’m pulling for both of them,” Miles said, referring in part to his texting relationships with NDSU head coach Craig Bohl and CSU head coach Jim McElwain. “And I hope it doesn’t end in a tie.”
Miles, of course, got to know Bohl during his six years as NDSU’s head basketball coach from 2001-2007. Four months after McElwain was hired as CSU’s football coach last December, Miles ended his five-year stint in Fort Collins to take a big-time job at Nebraska.
“McElwain is really impressive,” Miles said of the former offensive coordinator for an Alabama team that won two national championships. “Give him some time, he’s going to do some good things for Colorado State.”
McElwain didn’t need much time to make an impression. Hired to revitalize a program with only one winning season in the last eight years, McElwain coached his underdog Rams to a 22-17 win over rival Colorado on Saturday.
Whether or not that’s an indication of how good McElwain is or how bad Colorado is, the defending FCS national champion Bison will have their hands full in a 44-year-old venue known as Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.
“Sonny Lubick is a legend,” Miles said.
On the same basketball court where Miles advanced his coaching career, Lubick’s football coaching career came to a sad end.
On Nov. 28, 2007, Colorado State held a press conference in Moby Arena to announce Lubick’s firing.
When an expected 3,000-plus NDSU football fans head to the mountains Saturday, they may be surprised to see that Sonny Lubick is still alive and well in Fort Collins.
In addition to a stadium being named after him, Lubick has a downtown steakhouse bearing his name. If Bison fans look hard enough, they may see a plaque from 2008, when the Colorado governor proclaimed Feb. 8 Sonny Lubick Day.
“Sonny Lubick basically outperformed the means of his job,” Miles said. “He did more with less than anybody else around.”
Before Lubick arrived in Fort Collins in 1993, Colorado State was considered a graveyard for college football. Lubick changed all of that with 108 wins, 10 winning seasons and nine bowl appearances.
Colorado State football has since returned to the dumps — at least until last Saturday in Denver.
“I think any community that has been down and has had success in the past is always hungry for a winner,” Miles said. “Fort Collins is a good town. But there are so many cool things to do around there, it’s hard to be the big show in town.”
Up until Saturday’s stunning win over Colorado, the buzz in Fort Collins has been the debate to build a new stadium on campus — replacing Lubick’s stadium that sits four miles west of campus.
That stadium has been described as the “Eyesore near the reservoir” and “a giant, dirty ashtray.”
That’s why newly-hired athletic director Jack Graham is spearheading the “Be Bold CSU” campaign to have a $246 million stadium ready for the 2014 season.
He’s even using Minnesota’s new TCF Bank Stadium to support his case for an on-campus venue.
On the other side of the argument is a group known as “Save our Stadium Hughes,” emphasizing education over athletics.
It’s like the Hatfields vs. the McCoys, according to Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige. The battle only intensified after Saturday’s historic win — one Paige said CSU deserved.
“The Rams had a better defense,” Paige wrote. “Better running backs, a better quarterback, a better pass rush, a better game plan, better special teams and a better kicker.”
Schnepf is the sports editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.
He can be reached at email@example.com.