The rivalry between CSU and CU is alive and well, contrary to what some members of the Denver media believe.
Officials from both universities insist that the rivalry is as strong as ever despite questions concerning ticket sales for this Saturday's upcoming Rocky Mountain Showdown, which will be played in Boulder. As of press time, the Showdown had yet to sell out.
"College fans take a while to come around, and get in gear to buy tickets," said CU Sports Information Director David Plati, as an explanation for this year's slow ticket sales. "That's what happened last year, and that's what is happening this year."
Some members of the media feel differently, and are blaming a lack of intensity in the rivalry for this year's slow ticket sales; CSU officials disagree.
"There is no fizzle in the rivalry; in fact, there is a lot of sizzle," said CSU's Assistant Athletic Director Gary Ozzello, referring to a headline in Wednesday's Denver Post. "We have 110 players, 10 coaches and support staff, and you could ask any one of them if the rivalry was fizzling, and their answer would be: 'Absolutely not.'"
Plati echoed Ozzello's sentiments.
"You talk to anyone on our campus, and you will hear that the rivalry is as big as it always has been," Plati said. "It is electrifying."
Yet, this year, Colorado State purchased only 3,500 tickets to sell on campus, compared to last year's 5,000 tickets. Ozzello said CSU purchased fewer tickets this year because the school struggled to sell all 5,000 last year, and did not want to lose money if they failed to sell every ticket this year. The question is, on a campus of more than 25,000, why are 5,000 tickets such a hard sell – especially to the year's biggest rivalry game?
"Seat location has a role in why fans do not buy the tickets," Ozzello said. "I think fans would also like to see the game played at Invesco Field in Denver, or here in Fort Collins."
Regardless of current ticket availability, the game is expected to be sold out at kickoff, the time players feel the rivalry really begins.
"After the first series, you say to yourself: 'This is a little more intense than the other games are," said CSU senior center Albert Bimper. "It is even more intense now, because they look at us like little brothers, and you don't want to be punked by your little brother."
As game time approaches, players feel the intensity building; intensity that has been present since this time last year.
"You hear about the game all year, everywhere. We are so close in proximity (to CU) and you hear about it a lot," said CSU senior linebacker Jahmal Hall. "When you walk onto the field, you know 365 days later you will be walking onto it again. We are playing for year-round bragging rights."
Fans also agree the intensity is as present this year as it has been in the past. John Schmidt, who has not missed a CSU home game or Rocky Mountain Showdown in 31 years, has not noticed any change in the rivalry.
"It is most definitely as intense this year as in the past," said Schmidt, owner of Fort Collins GOJO Sports, a company that provides CSU with football equipment. "I work up close with the athletes and boosters, I see all the elements, and there is a lot of pride at stake in this game."
Some CSU players likened the Showdown to the rivalry games across the nation, including games like Florida- Florida State and Oklahoma-Texas, while others stopped short of the comparison.
"To players, the rivalry is definitely just as big as a game like Oklahoma-Texas, but for fans it is just not as intense," said Ram's senior quarterback Justin Holland. "Colorado is a professional sports state. In Oklahoma, who else do fans have to root for other than the Sooners? Here in Colorado, fans have the Broncos playing the day after us, so for the fans, it is just not the same here."
Schmidt, one of CSU football's most avid fans, agreed with Holland:
" The state does not take college athletics as seriously as other states do, as a religion," Schmidt said. "There are too many other distractions, like pro sports and outdoor activities. Yet, for the people inside the program, the rivalry is taken very seriously."