Each month Mile High Sports Magazine sits down with an important figure (or two) in Colorado sports. For August, Doug Ottewill spoke with the Athletic Directors of both Colorado and Colorado State, Rick George and Joe Parker. Here’s the best of what George and Parker had to say about the Rocky Mountain Showdown, their coaches and their new facilities…
Rick George: We’re pressing hard all the time with all of our sports. We want to be successful. [Success in competition] doesn’t change [the job] much. My job is to try to help [our coaches] with things they need to be successful. We meet with our head coaches once a month and we talk about, “What don’t you have that you need that will allow you to go from here to here, both academically and athletically?” Our first priority is what’s best for the student-athlete. We make our decisions based on that.
Joe Parker: We always hold ourselves to high standards, regardless of what external stakeholder groups or external parties might say in any given year. We always have aspirations for excellence, and that is the expectation when you are a CSU Ram; you want to compete at the highest level. It’s great that others are recognizing what we already know internally. We always aspire to win championships. We always want to compete at a high level within our peer group in the Mountain West.
RG: I think that probably the thing that surprised me the most [once our facilities were complete] was how some of our sports like cross country, track and golf appreciated the locker rooms and the new weight room that we built for them. Everybody focuses on what we did in the Champion Center, but what we did in Dal Ward to upgrade that facility, I think, was very important to a lot of our student-athletes. And that was probably the thing that was gratifying.
There were a lot of challenges to that project. Mortenson and Populous worked with us, and Jason DePaepe, our associate athletic director for facilities and game day operations, and that group did a great job. We basically had to adjust as we were moving because we had deadlines when we wanted things, and for whatever reasons we had a few delays. But, working together, we had a good team that was focused on what we were doing and we were able to get it done. It wasn’t done as early as we would have liked it to have been done, but it’s completed and now we are just thrilled to death.
JP: Playing football on campus provides the largest engagement opportunity for the university six times each year. Alumni who come to football games will be back on campus, walking in the same places they walked as students and showing their families this beautiful campus. The engagement is beneficial for the entire university, and it’s a community-wide celebration.
[With regard to the on-campus stadium project], we have had a really strong team in place from the start with our design partner Populous, our construction partner Mortenson and our owner’s representation with ICON Venue Group – and then all the internal resources on campus. If there were any challenges or difficulties they were almost always anticipated. We did a lot of planning and kept a lot of strong communication throughout the process of construction, so it has been, in my estimation, a nearly flawless execution of a very complex plan. Being on three campuses that have had major renovations of their football stadiums is obviously helpful. Experience means a lot. I didn’t see anything unusual or unanticipated in the process that we went through to arrive at what I believe to be the best stadium in the nation.
RG: We’ve built a great health and wellness center that’s a byproduct of this facility with the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center on the second floor. We’ve got a whole new nutrition department now. Laura Anderson, our sports dietitian for the athletic department, does an amazing job there. What we are doing in our sports medicine and our strength and conditioning, and how we are pulling all of that together, is something we’re really proud of. Those two things are things that people probably don’t see that’s having a real impact on our success.
JP: The mission of our department is to educate, engage and excel. The thing that I’m most proud of, outside of those first and third elements, is the progress that we have made related to engagement. We’ve really worked hard in a very concentrated and team-oriented effort, leveraging all of our external units and all the relationships we’ve built over the last several decades to get a strong fan focus on what we’re about to do on Aug. 26 with the opening of the new stadium. We have engaged more people in the idea of committing to purchasing tickets on a season basis than we ever have in the history of our program.
RG: Mike MacIntyre is a heck of a football coach, and he knows the business. He’s got great character, the parents respect him, the players respect him, they play hard for him and, you know, I think he’s going to have long-term success at Colorado.
JP: The No. 1 thing I like about Mike Bobo is his authenticity and his motivations to be a coach. Mike, with his background and his parents, the household he grew up in stressed the importance of education. His parents were educators and I think that’s what Mike sees himself as in every way. I think he is very committed to creating a great environment for the students who are under his tutelage, and he is also committed to creating a great environment for the staff people that help him form an experience that really is special for the students who have an opportunity to participate in the sport of football here at Colorado State University. Mike has done an extraordinary job as a head coach leading a team through successful regular seasons in each of his first two years, and, as we look toward the third year, that’s what we’re looking to do again.
RG: What makes the Rocky Mountain Showdown big and special is that we live in the same state, and there is that rivalry and both teams want to compete at a very high level in that game. [The student athletes] want to take pride in saying that they were the “State Champions” for lack of a better [term]. But, you know, it makes it a real competitive day. I have a lot of respect for Mike Bobo and what he’s been able to do, and what Joe Parker has done; Joe’s a great guy. With the opening of their new stadium, I’m really happy for them. This rivalry is intense, you know, but it’s also a lot of fun to see the two schools go back and forth.
JP: The Showdown is the largest annual gathering of alumni and fans from two great institutions, who are very passionate and care deeply about their schools. There is great pride among Rams fans, and it is fun to see so many come together to celebrate CSU and cheer on the Rams.