For the 15th time in as many years, the fields on the west side of campus will play home to the same familiar face. As long as most of this year’s incoming freshmen have been able to walk and talk, Sonny Lubick has been the face of Colorado State football and the man who gave rise to a once-struggling program.
In his time as head coach, Lubick has carved his own legacy through hard work, a commitment to the community and an unparalleled dedication to his players – not to mention numerous victories.
More than one hundred wins in 14 years, nine bowl game appearances, six conference championships and seven seasons with eight or more wins (including four 10-win seasons) are just the surface of what Lubick has brought to the Fort Collins community.
“He’s easy to work for; he just flat out cares for everybody. That’s just him and that’s what he is all about,” said Dan Hammerschmidt, CSU’s offensive coordinator now in his 10th year under coach Lubick.
“I worked for (South Carolina Head Coach) Steve Spurrier, I worked for Jim Wacker at TCU, and it is not even close.”
Lubick’s son, Marc Lubick, is entering his third year as a coach at CSU and said that his father’s true impact on the campus and Fort Collins as a whole is shown through his various civic contributions and involvement in the community.
“As a person, his values and the way that he carries himself, that is what rubs off on the community,” Marc Lubick said.
Still, not all has been right within the corridors of Hughes Stadium and the field named after the 70-year-old coach. Prior to the 2004 season, Lubick’s teams had rattled off 10 consecutive winning seasons and played in eight bowl games.
For the last three years, however, the team has limped their way to a combined 14-21 record and just one Poinsettia Bowl appearance in 2006, which the Rams lost 51-30 to Navy.
For players like senior quarterback Caleb Hanie, the frustration of losing for a coach that has posted a .618 win percentage at CSU has been a source of motivation this summer in training camp.
“It’s not so much that we feel like we have to win or Coach Lubick gets fired,” Hanie said. “But we shouldn’t be playing like that for such a good coach.”
Hanie quarterbacked last year’s team, which finished the season with a seven-game losing streak, the longest of Lubick’s tenure.
Lubick admits there is always pressure to win after a losing season, but that he feels like this year’s team will be able to right the ship.
“I would like to get the team back on track. I would liken it to when you get a couple of D’s in a class and you have to work hard to get back up. That is where we are,” he said.
“The thing is, he’s hungry to get back out there,” Marc Lubick said. “He’s going to go out and do his thing.”
In spite of the rough patch, Fort Collins hasn’t abandoned their coach just yet. Fans still fill the seats of Hughes Stadium every Saturday, donations still pour into the program and Coach Lubick still gets his coffee for free every morning at the local 7-11.
“They haven’t given up on me yet. Whenever I go in there and go to pay, the girl that is working the counter always says ‘you’re all right Coach, you’re all right’,” Lubick said with a smile.
The citizens, students, fans and players of Fort Collins seem to agree.
Sports writer Nick Hubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
1993- Sonny Lubick is hired as head coach of the Rams after spending the previous four years at Montana State. Lubick inherits a program that won just 47 games and went to one bowl game in the previous 11 years.
1994- Lubick turns around the program almost instantly, leading the Rams to a 10-2 season and a birth to the Holiday Bowl in just his second season. Lubick is named Sports Illustrated Coach of the Year.
1995- CSU finishes tied for first in the Western Athletic Conference and DL Brady Smith is named conference player of the year, the first of six Rams to earn the recognition under Lubick.
1997- Lubick leads the Rams to a school-record 11 wins and a Holiday Bowl victory, the second bowl victory in school history.
1999- The Rams finish tied for first in the inaugural year of the Mountain West Conference, starting a run of three MWC titles in the conference’s first four years.
2000- CSU finishes with its third 10-win season under Lubick and the Rams defeat Louisville 22-17 in the Liberty Bowl. Lubick is named MWC Coach of the Year and the Rams are ranked 14th in the final AP Poll, the highest end-of-season ranking in school history.
2002- Lubick leads the Rams to another MWC crown and CSU loses to TCU 17-3 in the Liberty Bowl.
2003- Lubick is recognized as “Father of the Year” by the American Diabetes Association-Colorado Chapter and is one of four national finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of Distinction Award for his work in the community.
2004- The Rams go 4-7 and finish in a tie for fourth in the conference as Lubick fails to coach his team to a bowl game for the first time in six seasons.
2005- CSU appears to be getting back on track and finishes tied for second in the MWC, but the Rams lose to Navy 51-30 in the Poinsettia Bowl.
2006- After a 4-1 start, Lubick’s team loses seven straight games to close out the season and finishes tied for last in the conference.