Roots of CSU and CU Rivalry

Sep 152011
Authors: Erin Udell

While there’s no evidence to suggest that rams and buffalo don’t live harmoniously together in nature, when the Rocky Mountain Showdown hits Denver, that’s a different story.

“There’s always been a rivalry,” said Bill Woods, of the annual match-up between CSU and CU-Boulder. “We were the Aggies and they didn’t like us, and we didn’t like them.”

Woods, a longtime advisor for the local chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a fraternity on campus, graduated from CSU in 1958 — the last year both teams played each other before a 25-year hiatus.
“We were a small university and they were always a little bigger,” Woods added. “If we didn’t have a very good season, but still beat them, it was a good year.”

The state rivalry is said to have started as early as 1912, when members of the Sigma Theta Pi fraternity petitioned to get a Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) charter at CSU, according to the chapter’s official website.

One of the earliest petitions failed, however, due to opposition from members of the CU-Boulder chapter, who referred to CSU as a “bunch of farmers who would be better off minding cows and pigs rather than attempting to join a respected organization such as SAE.”

Other accounts say tensions rose in 1983, when CU’s head coach and athletic director failed to attend a media press conference before the teams started playing each other again.

“The SID (Sports Info Director) forgot to remind them,” said David Plati of the CU-Boulder athletics department. “It goes all the way back to then, when we were restarting the series.”

But, while the rivalry tends to reach a boiling point at the annual game, CSU’s Senior Associate Athletic Director Gary Ozzello said it’s all in good fun, adding that both athletic departments have a mutual respect for the other.

“It’s very intense from both ends,” Ozzello said. “It means a great deal to our community, university and our department.”

As a 1978 CSU graduate, Ozzello recalls the games being usually close and always hard fought.
“Most players are from within the state and know one another and may have played with each other, or against each other, in high school,” Ozzello said.

Despite the outcome, Ozzello voiced the importance of coming to the game and cheering on the Rams.

“It’s important they (students) show up and support,” Ozzello said. “It’s also critical that they act accordingly and show why we’re proud to be CSU Rams with our behavior.”

News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at

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