Steve Fairchild played quarterback at CSU from 1978 to 1980 where he was a team captain and was named second-team all-conference in his final season. Fairchild came back to CSU to serve as an assistant coach under Sonny Lubick from 1993 to 2000.
Fairchild then left the college game to serve as an assistant in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams, until 2008 when he came back to Fort Collins to replace Lubick as CSUâ€™s head coach.
What pulled you back to CSU?
Fairchild: I always wanted to coach in the NFL, and I always wanted to be a head football coach. Iâ€™ve been fortunate to have both opportunities. When the head coaching job came open and it happened to be where I went to school, that made it extra special.
Q: What has Sonny Lubick meant to you?
F: Probably as influential a person as thereâ€™s been in my life. As good a football coach as he was, heâ€™s an even better person. Just spending those years with him and watching him lead people was really beneficial for me.
Q: Whatâ€™s the biggest difference between coaching in the NFL and coaching in college?
F: Thereâ€™s a lot of similarities in coaching. Whether youâ€™re coaching sixth-grade girlsâ€™ basketball, or an NFL football team thereâ€™s a lot of things that are still the same, but I think that the fact that in college thereâ€™s probably more of a makeup to your team that exists over five years. You recruit these guys and they come into your program and are here for four or five years. Whereas the NFL has a little more of a revolving door with your roster.
Q: Did you have to change your approach from the business-like mentality of the NFL?
F: Coming from (the NFL), I probably ran this a little bit much like that. We had a task at hand, and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re going to do. At the end of the day I donâ€™t even want to be doing this if Iâ€™m not having fun. I think we did take a little better approach this year and our staff and our players are having a little more fun.
Q: What makes the rivalry with CU so special?
F: Both schools being in state is probably the crux of it. A lot of their Colorado kids and our Colorado kids played on the same team or played against each other. Our staff has some real deep CSU ties, and their staff as well is tied to their school.
The other thing thatâ€™s really cool about this game is the setting. When you go into Mile High Stadium and see it half-and-half in the crowd, I remember the first time I saw it I thought it was one of the better settings in college football. The first time I saw it I thought, â€œThis is a great college football setting.â€ And I think our players appreciate that.
Q: Whatâ€™s your favorite Showdown memory?
F: My last two years here as an assistant. We beat them in â€™99 in the â€œtear gas gameâ€ (CSU won 41-14 and in the final moments of the game police tear-gassed sections of fans due to unruly behavior). Thatâ€™s a vivid memory. Then coming back in 2000 and Matt Newton throwing a touchdown down the middle in the fourth quarter to win that game. Those are good memories.
Q: What do you tell new players about the history of the game?
F: Itâ€™s part of our job as coaches to educate our team. Last week we spent time talking about what Ag Day is and why is it so important and the heritage of Colorado A & M. We do it with Air Force, Wyoming and CU. Just a bit of background, because I think as a new player, you should know about that and why so many people care about the game.
Q: How is it different having the Showdown as the third game of the season rather than the first?
F: Buzz-wise, I think Iâ€™d like to have it as the first game because I think then the whole state can be talking the whole month of August about the game. Having it the third game this year is probably an advantage for us because we get to see what they do with a new coaching staff.
Q: What is it about the Showdown that creates a state-wide buzz?
F: The fact that itâ€™s in Denver. That generates interest all across the state. Itâ€™s just a good game and Iâ€™m glad that the powers that be decided to do it long term. Putting this thing in Denver is the best thing we did. Thereâ€™s something about that neutral-site and that stadium that makes it really good.
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.