Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs College football in Colorado has been tough to watch.
It doesn’t much matter where people’s allegiance lies, because Colorado football has been a disgrace for years now.
Outside of the Air Force Academy, which under Troy Calhoun has been about the only decent team the past few years, Saturday football in our great state generally has been a huge embarrassing failure.
Massive losses, coaching blunders, undisciplined play and a general disregard by administrations across the state have all contributed.
But don’t fret. There is a great college football story happening here in Colorado. A really great one, in fact.
Colorado State University-Pueblo is 8-0, on top of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and ranked No. 8 in Division II.
The story has started to gain steam nationally.
To understand what a great story it is, it’s pretty easy to look at the history.
CSU-Pueblo dropped its program in 1984 but in 2007 got approval to bring football back.
The team played its first season in 2008 and went 4-6 under coach John Wristen, a ThunderWolves quarterback in the early 1980s. The team went 7-4 and 9-2 in the past two seasons, before embarking on this year’s undefeated campaign.
There are many reasons CSU-Pueblo has had success. Wristen, as an alumnus, obviously cares about the program. He’s recruiting in Colorado, getting athletes that are overlooked by the so-called bigger programs.
An example would be this past recruiting cycle where Hayden’s Treyben Letlow went to CSU-Pueblo.
The most important thing, however, has been the support from a dedicated community and administration.
What CSU-Pueblo understood when it brought back football was what an opportunity football can be for a community and a school.
An initial fundraising drive came up with $11.6 million for construction of a 7,000-seat stadium called the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl.
It features a nine-lane all-weather track and a 27,000-square-foot field house.
The facilities in Pueblo essentially dwarf anything any other team has in the conference. Hearing from people in the know in the RMAC, there aren’t many schools at the Division II level that are able to match what the ThunderWolves are doing.
That’s something CSU-Pueblo realized. In the great arms race of facilities in college football, the ThunderWolves are ahead of most schools in Division II and other programs in Colorado.
So while the University of Colorado was embarrassing itself Saturday at home and Colorado State University continually has bumbled for years, there is a program worth watching.
Down south, CSU-Pueblo is carrying the torch for college football in Colorado.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com