All things considered, in his first year as athletic director
and long-time Ram, Mark Driscoll has plenty to be excited about. In
only his fifth month on the job, Driscoll commands an athletic
department any aspiring AD would envy. In the near future
Driscoll’s program will have a renovated and expanded stadium, a
national title contender in Women’s volleyball, a strong football
program and, arguably, one of the most well-rounded and complete
athletic departments in the nation. Goals have been set, plans are
underway and changes are being made.
“This is a great school with great fans, best in the Mountain
West hands down. The athletes are top of the line and we hope to
put CSU into the national spotlight and showcase this fine
university,” said Driscoll at a recent news conference.
Changes on the way
Driscoll’s hope is to create a closer relationship between the
university’s athletic programs and the Fort Collins community. One
idea proposed by Driscoll was the “Game Day” proposal, which is a
campaign to bring more community awareness of home football
“I want people in this area to know that on Saturday the place
to be is at Hughes Stadium watching the Rams play football,”
Driscoll said. “We need to create that kind of ‘Big Game’
environment in this community and get people excited about our
The plan is to make Saturday home football games the premier
event in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado. To do so, Driscoll
proposed some ideas like making home games more accessible for Fort
Collins residents and students, making connections with downtown
businesses for game day specials, decorating Fort Collins on game
days and hosting week-long events leading up to the football
Other excitement surrounding the football team is the premier
non-conference scheduling that has head coach Sonny Lubick’s team
playing defending co-national champion Southern California in
Pasadena, Calif., one week after facing the Colorado Buffaloes in
Boulder. There has been a lot of speculation on future scheduling,
specifically for the season opening game at the renovated Sonny
Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium.
“We definitely want to attract a big-name team for that game,”
Driscoll said. “It has the potential to be a huge day in the
history of CSU football and we want to make sure people are fired
up to cheer on the Rams.”
Driscoll inherited a program on the rise, one that in the past
decade has begun to gain national recognition in both recruiting
and overall athletic performance. Since the revival of the football
program, the CSU athletic department has seen many changes; changes
that will likely continue in the Driscoll era.
Three keys to success
In the world of collegiate athletics three things can measure a
NCAA Division I-A athletic program. First, is the football program.
Successful athletic programs and winning football teams are
synonymous. Certainly, some schools translate that to basketball,
but in Driscoll’s case the top priority is a winning football
program. Driscoll inherits a team with, perhaps, one of the nations
top coaching staffs, great recruiting, high caliber student
athletes and a recent history of winning in a burgeoning and
competitive conference. The program is clean and has gotten to the
level of becoming a perennial Mountain West champion contender.
Secondly, an athletic program needs a strong financial backbone.
This is where Driscoll will be challenged the most in his tenure.
Along with the universities financial woes, the athletic program
lacks the necessary funding to make the move to a national
powerhouse. In-state rival CU has far better funding and community
support and belongs to the renowned Big 12 conference, which
guarantees big bucks. One figure indicates that CU holds roughly
about 35,000 season ticket holders at Folsom Field, while there are
only 11,000 season ticket holders at Hughes, financially this puts
CSU at a huge disadvantage when scheduling with the Buffaloes.
Finally, an athletic program must have strong community support.
Right now a huge concern of the department is how to gain interest
in CSU’s teams.
The basketball dilemma
Aside from football, Driscoll plans to market basketball as a
premier sporting event and hopes to give Moby some actual
“Our basketball teams are a lot of fun to watch,” Driscoll said.
“They play good teams and Moby Arena is a great place to watch a
game. It’s important to get the students more involved with the
games and get people excited about CSU basketball again.”
One immediate solution brought up at a recent question and
answer forum with Driscoll was to rezone the student sections at
home basketball games and put the students front and center rather
than the current arrangement leaving the students stowed away in
the crevasses and corners of the gym. The problem, however, lies in
the universities split devotion to its season ticket holders and
the student body.
“I would love to have the students closer to the court,” said
men’s basketball coach Dale Layer. “However we cannot overlook the
support from our season ticket holders; it’s a very tough issue.
Our goal is to make everybody happy and better the atmosphere at
Attendance at men’s basketball games is down and, despite being
the defending Mountain West Conference champions; fan support is
scarce as is knowledge of home games among students.
“You know about the Wyoming game and maybe Utah or BYU, but
that’s about it,” said CSU sophomore Brett Myers. “You see teams
like the (Duke) Blue Devils or the (North Carolina) Tar Heels and
that type of excitement just isn’t’ here.”
Driscoll’s mettle will be tested in the coming years when he
puts his plans into action and results follow. As for now, Driscoll
has received enthusiastic praise from his peers early into his
“Mark has brought a whole new perspective to this department”
Layer said. “He was a student here, a player, a coach and he really
has a unique vision and relationship with the university.”
Driscoll’s staff is motivated and full of ideas to take Ram
athletics to the next level. Many roadblocks and obstacles lie in
the way of these propositions, mainly the severe lack of funding.
However, the right people are in place and the motivation is
Driscoll said his personal goal, as AD is to place in the Top 20
for the Sears Cup annually. The Sears Cup is an annual award that
recognizes total achievement for athletic programs and is typically
laden with household names like Michigan, Texas, UCLA and Stanford.
Perhaps in the coming years CSU will become one of those household
names. If so fans can be sure it will have Driscoll’s fingerprints
all over it.