Fans of CSU football will have several opportunities to cheer on the Rams in person this fall.
Six (or even seven) opportunities very near home, to be exact.
CSU Athletic Director Jeffrey Hathaway released the Rams’ schedule Monday for the 2003 season that includes six games at Hughes Stadium — the first time the Rams will have hosted six games since 1996.
The Rams will also be the designated home team for the annual battle with the University of Colorado at Invesco Field in Denver, making 2003 the first season the Rams will have been the designated home team in seven games.
“I’m very pleased with the schedule,” said Head Coach Sonny Lubick. “I’m very excited that we have a chance to play six home games at Hughes Stadium. I think that shows our fans and our players where our program is, and that we’re taking the lead to be able to play six home games.”
The 12-game schedule for the Rams begins over Labor Day weekend against the Buffaloes in Denver.
In all, the Rams will play four games against bowl teams from a year ago — Air Force, Colorado, Fresno State and New Mexico.
Beginning with their first home game Sept. 13 against Weber State, the Rams will play four consecutive games at Hughes Stadium — something that hasn’t happened at CSU since 1994.
The Rams’ marquis non-conference opponents are now Colorado and Pac-10 member California. CSU will travel to Berkeley on Sept. 6 in a meeting Hathaway said came about by chance.
“We were discussing how (the Rams) were going out there in ’07 and how (Cal) was going to play here in ’08 when we started talking about how we both needed a game for ’03,” Hathaway said. “To get a BCS team in California, where our recruiting base is solid and where our second-largest base of alumni reside, it just made sense to play at Cal.”
It had been speculated that the Rams were close to a deal with Big XII power Kansas State, but Hathaway said rumors of the Rams traveling to Manhattan, Kan., were blown out of proportion and CSU had, in fact, been talking with what Hathaway estimated was 15 to 20 schools about possible games as last as Friday afternoon.
While he would not comment directly on why a deal with Kansas State fell through, Hathaway did share part of his scheduling philosophy involving how he “prefers not to play home-and-home series with four to five year gaps in between,” implying such might have been the case with the Wildcats.
The last vacancy in the Rams’ schedule likely went to Miami of Ohio in a deal that was finalized somewhere in the last 10 days, Hathaway said.
Hathaway said his good friendship with Mid-American Conference commissioner Rick Chryst helped pave the way for a home-and-home contract between the Rams and RedHawks that will send CSU to Ohio in 2004.
While some observers might look at the Miami game as a push-over, Hathaway says Miami will bring a good challenge to CSU.
“Last year they beat North Carolina and almost beat Iowa,” Hathaway said of the RedHawks, who fell to the Rose Bowl-bound Hawkeyes by five points in Iowa City. “As Sonny and I were evaluating possible opponents, we both felt good about that game.”
In 2003, the Rams will have only one open date (Oct. 25), and will only play two Thursday night contests, a popular night for Mountain West television broadcasts.
“Thursday night games have been the bread and butter of CSU games as far as national exposure on television,” Hathaway said. “We’re not disappointed to only be having two Thursday night games this season. We’re confident with 12 games scheduled, we’ll still get a tremendous amount of exposure.”