Colorado State to the Big 12?

Fans would take their CSU Rams moving up and into any Power 5 conference, bringing the ability to compete for a National Championship, which isn’t so when your school is part of a “Greater 5” conference such as the Mountain West.

The Big 12 is a logical landing place for Colorado State due to location and the number of the conference’s alumni living in the greater Denver area, and with the league expected to be expanding soon, Ram fans want in. Even if they may be a long shot compared some of the other 17 schools who reportedly made a pitch to the conference in recent months.

But, Colorado State isn’t just sitting around and hoping for the Big 12 to invite them, the school’s athletics department is doing everything they can to be considered a first-class organization.

The on-campus stadium recently passed the halfway point of its construction and is both on time and on budget for opening one year from now. Getting the stadium off the ground was the work of President Tony Frank; he was aided by former athletic director Jack Graham who wanted the Rams to embrace the “Bold New Era.”

Graham’s gone, but current AD Joe Parker must be commended for what he’s done to continue to shape and mold Rams athletics into a vastly improved version of itself. A version which everyone hopes means a move up into the Power 5.

One of those important improvements is CSU’s contract extension with Under Armour, which Parker helped broker. That extension, signed in December of last year, starts with the 2016-17 season and goes through 2021. The deal is worth $11 million in equipment, upgrading their “off the rack” jerseys to “custom fit” jerseys while UA will also design alternate looks, building off the “orange out” Ag Day jerseys the school has used since 2011.

Having a competitive look on the field is essential for branding, and going with Under Armour was a huge step forward from the previous supplier, Russell Athletic. That branding, which will undoubtedly be upgraded under the new deal, is key for fans – including their ability to purchase stylish CSU gear – as well as for the recruiting side of things.

And while branding has been key for Parker, maybe even more crucial has been his ability to schedule future non-conference games with Power 5 schools.

Just last week, Colorado State football announced a four-year, home-and-home series against Vanderbilt of the SEC. Those games take place in 2021 and ’26 at Sonny Lubick Field at the on-campus stadium, and in 2020, ’25 in Nashville.

Rewind to April and Parker was busy scheduling Arkansas, also from the SEC, to play his football team (2019, in Arkansas) as well as the men’s basketball team in a home-and-home (2017, ’18) versus the Razorbacks. Two weeks later, CSU football was happy to announce a home-and-home football series against Texas Tech of the Big 12, which is scheduled for 2025 in Fort Collins, 2026 in Lubbock, Texas.

From 2016-26, Colorado State is now scheduled to play 17 opponents from Power 5 conferences. They’re stepping up their level of competition. Playing against the best will only help the program develop into what Parker, head coach Mike Bobo and Ram boosters hope – a Power 5 program.

This year, CSU plays the University of Colorado (Pac-12) and at Minnesota (Big Ten), followed by CU, at Alabama (SEC) and hosting Oregon State (Pac-12) in 2017, CU and at Florida (SEC) in 2018 and so on.

Before 2013, Colorado State regularly only had one Power 5 opponent per year on the football field, Colorado. From 2013 onward, they’re playing at least two Power 5s per season. Parker’s even extended his reach to the basketball court.

The Rams want to move up to the Power 5 and thanks to their athletic director Joe Parker, they’ll have multiple measuring-stick games in the next few years to gauge how far they’ve come.