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Want CSU to be relevant? Build the on-campus stadium

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CSU AD Jack Graham is a visionary to lead his effort to build a new on-campus stadium in Fort Collins.

If two teams play and no one watches, was there really a game?

Colorado State and the University of Colorado faced off in the 2012 Rocky Mountain Showdown and it was as if no one cared.

Sure, Peyton Manning is in town, but he wasn't scheduled to play for another week. The only football in the state last weekend was the Showdown, yet, there was no buzz, no hype, no fandom.

Of course, each team stank worse than the original site of Mile High Stadium—the Denver dump—last year, as CSU went 3-9 and CU was worse at 3-10.

The Rams, who have regained some excitement due to the hire of ex-Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, eventually won the ugly game 22-17 and started their season 1-0.

Though CU lost, they got the most attention in the Denver media—like always—before and after the game.

McElwain did appear on Dave Krieger's radio program, among others, giving the Rams a small spike in coverage in the Centennial State.

Yet, when people think of collegiate athletics in the state of Colorado, they think of the Democratic Republic of Boulder, not Fort Fun. 

The trustafarians that take the streets in rage following a Buffaloes loss—those idiots that got drinking banned at their home Folsom Field and during every Showdown—have always had an egotistical “big brother” attitude regarding their neighbors to the north at Colorado State. It's not all about athletic dominance, though it centers around that. 

In the all-time series, Colorado leads 61-21-2 though they only lead 7-5 over the last dozen years. CU recently moved up, from the Big 12 to the Pac-12, while CSU is still stuck in the floundering Mountain West. CU's budget is bigger and their facilities—Folsom Field and Coors Arena—are better than CSU's. 

But Colorado State kicked off their “Bold New Era” when Jack Graham was named the Director of Athletics in December, and he's trying to revolutionize Rams athletics.

By all accounts, Graham is a visionary; his plan of a brand new on-campus stadium has rejuvenated Rams support.

And while it's still all talk, he's already taken the university to new levels, hiring men like McElwain and Larry Eustachy—to lead CSU Men's Basketball—coaches that seemed too good to consider Colorado State.

Of course, putting the right men in charge was the first step, but Graham realizes it's a much bigger overhaul than just hiring new coaches.

Graham sees an on-campus stadium in CSU's future, and not the distant future, but 2015.

He's cited multiple downfalls of the outdated Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium; it's not fan friendly, there's a lack of tradition, and most of all, it's four miles off campus.

Graham believes athletics can be the “front door” to the university, a way of showing off the academic achievements and classrooms is by putting your football team on national TV while competing for national bowl games.

They simply aren't in a position to do that now, and “Captain Jack” believes a new on-campus stadium will remedy some of what ails the barely breathing athletic department.

Colorado State's athletic budget was $25 million in 2010, the sixth of six public universities in the Mountain West that year. It's pennies on the dollar of what bigger institutions are allowed to spend.

Graham sees his stadium as a money maker. Some estimate it can bring in hundreds of millions of dollars from corporate naming rights and season ticket licensing rights. While a new team store—coupled with a likely coming partnership with a bigger merchandise provider than Russell Athletic—would boost their miniscule $2.1 million in merchandise sales in 2010.

But it's more than money.

A new stadium on campus brings people back to the beautiful epicenter of the city of Fort Collins, showing off the ever evolving campus that has changed mightily in just the last decade. It would bring alumni back, with their families, to share stories of college. It would also provide a wonderful atmosphere for pregame tailgating, creating that much-needed tradition he speaks of.

The on-campus stadium would also work as a recruiting tool, helping Colorado State land bigger and better players—paired with the great coaching McElwain provides—leading the team to be increasingly better.

On top of that, bringing the fans to campus means bringing them closer to the city's shopping, restaurants and bars, likely leading to a boost in the local economy as well.

As for now though, everything is on hold.

CSU President Tony Frank has already pushed back the date to decide yay or nay on Graham's stadium twice—from May to August to now October 4th—and some, like Terry Frei of the Denver Post, believe it's due to money.

Estimates say the stadium will cost $246 million to build, and another $51 million to relocate the current giant greenhouse and parking lots where the stadium would be built on the south end of CSU's campus. Frei thinks Frank hasn't yet said yes because he's not sure the school can get all the funding to keep it completely privately funded, and that's likely the case.

Building a new on-campus stadium with donors' and corporate money is a win-win situation for everyone in Fort Collins, as their taxes won't go up, and neither will the strain on students' tuition. But if they have to ask the public for help, or even dip into the University General Fund to pay for the stadium, Frank will have to say no to the stadium.

But for the future of Colorado State athletics, it has to happen.

In order to keep the Rams relevant, possibly boost them to a new and bigger conference while creating better college football in Colorado, the stadium must be built.

I have a strong feeling it will be.

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