Oh, how things have changed.
Thirteen years ago, former CSU men’s basketball coach Boyd Grant led his Rams on a journey that resulted in a Western Athletic Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament – a journey that ended with a first-round loss.
Less than two weeks ago, current head coach Dale Layer led his team down a similar path: A Mountain West Conference Tournament championship and a No. 14 seed in the NCAA tournament – a journey that ended March 20 in Salt Lake City when the Rams lost 67-57 to Duke.
The similarities between the two eras, however, seem to end there.
Rams in 1989-90 and Rams in 2002-03
“We had one or two go-to guys in Mike Mitchell and Joel Triblehorn,” said Eric Friehauf, a member of CSU’s 1989-90 tournament team and current Rams’ radio analyst. “Today’s team is a lot more balanced in structure and has more athletes.”
It was during that 1989-90 season that Mitchell, a forward who transferred from Fresno State prior to the beginning of the season, was named WAC Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring with a smooth jump shot and low-post presence.
“Mike was the kind of player who could play at the power forward and small forward positions,” said Friehauf of his former teammate, who is currently playing professionally overseas. “We had a very structured and controlled offense under Boyd Grant and every player had a role. The idea was to get the ball into the hands of Mike and Joel while everyone else played a supporting roles.
In contrast, Friehauf said Layer, with a more talented and athletic group of players, can run a motion-based offense that allows for creativity and more individual movement from the players.
“I’m not saying one style is better than the other,” Friehauf added. “It’s a matter of the coaches doing their best with what is given to them.”
Another Ram to suit up during CSU’s consecutive tournament runs in 1988-89 and 1989-90 was guard Trent Shippen, who currently presides as director of athletics at Brigham Young University-Idaho.
“I played on the ’88-89 team and was a student assistant on the ’89-90 team,” Shippen said. “I remember getting to the second round in ’88-89. We beat Florida and then lost to Syracuse against Derrick Coleman and Sherman Douglas in the second round.”
Shippen said that ’88-89 team also had a central figure in 6-foot-8 forward Pat Durham, who excelled in Grant’s controlled, defense-oriented game plan.
“There are some similarities between our teams then and CSU now,” Shippen said. “We played together as a team, moved the ball around to get good shots. I think we were more of a three-point shooting team than what CSU is now. … We had some guys who could knock down the three.”
CSU 1989-90 and CSU 2002-03
Though team structure is different when comparing then to now, both Shippen and Friehauf said it is not the only thing that separates the two generations.
“We still played in the short-shorts era,” Shippen said. “I think they were starting to get longer, but it hadn’t quiet reached us yet.”
Furthermore, the players and students of the 1989-90 academic year did not have the luxuries that some of today’s students benefit from, Friehauf said.
“When I was playing all the players stayed at Ingersol Hall,” he said. “Now if they aren’t freshman or transfers, they can live off-campus, which is probably a benefit to them.”
Friehauf added that students had to make do with the auxiliary gym at Moby Arena for recreational activities, since what is now the Student Recreation Center was in the process of being built.
Enrollment numbers and tuition have also changed significantly during the past 13 years.
According to CSU records, there were approximately 18,000 undergraduate students enrolled at the university in 1989-90. That number has since increased to a current figure of 20,568 undergraduate students.
As for tuition, the same records revealed that non-Colorado residents paid $6,362 for the 1989-90 academic year. That number has increased about 91 percent over the years, and is now at $12,438.
Colorado residents have also seen an increase in tuition, but to a lesser extent. In 1989-90, residents paid $1,734 whereas they now pay $2,655 – a 51 percent increase.
Apart from growth differences, Friehauf said one of the greatest differences he has seen is in the fan support for the basketball team.
“We had great support during our run and that’s how we became successful,” Friehauf said prior to the current team’s game against Duke on Thursday. “This team has the potential to win a lot, but they need support to do that. The team we are playing in the first round (Duke University) has the highest ranked fan support in the country for men’s basketball. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see CSU there, too?”
Perhaps by ending a 13-year tournament drought the Rams can now bridge that gap.
Comparing CSU and Fort Collins in 1989-90 to 2002-03
Enrollment: approximately 19,500 undergraduates and graduates
Most represented class: seniors (26 percent of undergraduate enrollment)
Most underrepresented class: freshman (22 percent)
Tuition non-resident: $6,362
Tuition resident: $1,734
Minority enrollment (includes graduates): approximately 2,000 (11 percent of total enrollment)
Largest minority: Hispanic (45 percent of minority enrollment)
Fort Collins population: 87,758
Enrollment: 24,735 graduates and undergraduates
Most represented class: freshman (28.8 percent of undergraduate enrollment)
Most underrepresented class: seniors (21 percent)
Tuition non-resident: $12,438
Tuition resident: $2,655
Minority enrollment: 4,671 (11.8 percent total enrollment)
Largest minority: Hispanic (41 percent of minority enrollment)
Fort Collins population: 122,521