He could be drinking Mai-Tais on the beach, coaching blue-chip players and contending for national championships. But CSU head football coach Sonny Lubick is happy getting free mountain microbrews, transforming big-school transfers and walk-ons into great collegiate players and winning Mountain West Conference titles.
Lubick was rewarded for his devotion to CSU in May when a $15.2 million donation from the Bohemian Foundation to the athletic department gave Hughes Stadium a plan for a new look and a new name.
Although the improvements won’t be completed for a couple years, Lubick will coach at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium for the first time Saturday against Weber State.
Louis “Sonny” Lubick, 66, was born in Butte, Mont. He was an assistant coach at CSU from 1981 to 1983. He returned to Fort Collins in 1993 after five years and two national championships as defensive coordinator at Miami. CSU had only gone to two bowl games in 100 years of competition before Lubick’s arrival. He has taken the Rams to seven bowl games in 10 years and won five conference titles. He turned down possible head coaching positions in Miami in 1995 and the Southern California in 2001 to stay at CSU.
The Collegian sat down with Lubick Wednesday to talk about the stadium honor, the decision to stay at CSU, the Bowl Championship Series and the state of CSU’s program.
RMC: On Saturday you are going to coach your first game at Sonny Lubick Field. Have you thought about that at all?
SL: First of all, I’m very indebted to (Bohemian Foundation President) Pat Stryker and (former CSU President) Al Yates. I’m … waiting for when it’s all remodeled. I’m thinking that will be the official (opening). I haven’t thought of (Saturday’s game) that way to be honest.
RMC: With that gift, how have the facilities changed from when you arrived in 1993 to the point when the renovations will be completed?
SL: They’ve changed, if there’s such a thing as 180 or 360 degrees. When I was here as an assistant … and when we got here (in 1993), high schools had better facilities than we do. (The Fum McGraw Athletic Center) is new since that time. We’re still not ahead of anybody in the arms race in college football, which is kind of ridiculous sometimes, but we don’t have to be embarrassed about our equipment and facilities now.
RMC: Are you glad it is not going to be called Louis Lubick Field?
SL: Nobody would know who that is. Growing up, I don’t think anybody likes they’re real name. Of course I don’t deserve (the honor) because, as you know, its all the guys … here that make this team go, I just happen to have head coach after my name.
RMC: When you arrived here, did you ever think something like this would happen 10 years later?
SL: I really never expected things to be as successful as they have been. Usually, in (the past), about every four years there would be a coach in there and they would get rid of one. (CSU Media Relations Director) Gary Ozzello came in here the other day and said, “Could you ever believe when you came here that … here we are with a sold-out stadium at INVESCO (Field at Mile High against CU) even up or the favorite to win?’ It really puts it into perspective to how things have changed around here.
RMC: When you look at Miami’s program, only losing two games in the past three years, or USC (getting) blue-chip recruits and reloading every year, do you ever think, “Man, maybe I should be there?”
SL: Once the decision is made, you’re just happy to be doing what you’re doing. You don’t really have time to assess. But human nature … maybe when I have a chance to daydream sometime, I think, well, I could be there doing that. But I don’t really think about it too much.
RMC: None of the players or students were here in 1995 when Miami was looking at you. How tough a decision was that?
SL: It was a difficult decision. A lot of times when people move on, they’re not really moving to something, they’re moving away from something, and I certainly wasn’t running away from anything here. This would be hard to leave. However, still you have to look at the opportunities and the new challenges out there.
RMC: Why do you stay at CSU and Fort Collins? Why do you like it so much? Is it the players? The people? Is it more laid-back? Is it the outdoors?
SL: Sometimes coaches go to places and it just never works out. This seemed like the right fit all along. There’s no doubt that players here have been as good as anyone would have hoped. When you win, it makes it a little easier. Without the players and coaches you wouldn’t do this 15 hours a day.
RMC: You said before that this year’s team is one of your most talented groups. How much, honestly, did that loss to (Colorado) hurt your players and you?
SL: Every loss hurts you. I guess that fact that … because they’re CU it hurts you a little more. You can’t make winning and losing a life-and-death matter but sometimes you do. It would be just as devastating if we lose this week. During the course of the year, you hope to win more than you lose. Any reasonable person would say that (the CU) game could have gone either way.
RMC: What do you think about the BCS?
SL: I think the BCS is full of BS. I don’t have the answers either … but there is certainly a group of people that try and hold other people down. There are six or seven league commissioners who get behind closed doors and cut these deals. They think they’re the ones that make the money, but they sure need the other schools when it comes time to playing. They don’t give you a chance and they’re cowardly in a lot of ways. They get you backed in a corner and say, “OK we’ll play, but only if you come to our stadium.” If half of (the BCS) teams could do half of what we’ve done, they’d have a 7-4 record. We’ve beat more than we lost to and we go play them on the road all the time. I wish they would break away and have they’re own little 60-team league and play each other all the time. They couldn’t survive doing that.
RMC: If the opportunity arose for CSU to move into (a BCS) conference, should they take it?
SL: I don’t know, I kind of think that’s far-fetched. We’ve got a great conference. We can stack up with any of those guys.
RMC: Do you think more fan support from the community is needed for the program to advance financially?
SL: That’s the biggest problem at Colorado State. I think the students are great. We’ve got a nice community here of 120,000 and the product has been good. You would think that we should sell 15,000 or 20,000 season tickets and that would make all the difference. That’s our own fault. All those other schools have 30,000 season ticket holders and their towns aren’t much bigger than ours. I bet you we’re one of the lowest in our conference for ticket sales.
RMC: Do you have any idea how long how you’re going to continue coaching?
CL: I don’t.
RMC: Do you see any way you wouldn’t end your career here?
CL: I’m sure I will.
RMC: Any chance your son (wide receivers coach) Matt (Lubick) will be the next head coach here?
CL: That’s all speculation. He’s got a lot to learn. He’s been here and done a great job. It’s maybe time for him to maybe expand his horizons. There are a lot of great coaches. The university will do what they think is right.
RMC: You are probably the most known person or celebrity in Fort Collins. How have people treated you over the years? What’s the strangest thing someone has done or said to you?
CL: People have treated me really fairly well. I can’t really think of anything. Once in awhile when I go across campus or I call up somewhere and I say, “This is Sonny Lubick”, and they say, “Who’s that?” I like that because it gets you down to Earth, you’re no better than anybody else. But I go into a restaurant and somebody sends over a beer (to my table).
If Lubick keeps winning at CSU, he will receive free beers for years to come.