Colorado vs Colorado State
Sunday, September 1,2013
Week 1 :: NCAA College Football Season 2013/2014
CU's live mascot "Ralphie" runs on to the field at the start of the game. The University of Colorado football team takes on Colorado State University for the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)
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BOULDER — Numbers don't lie. People do. However, when it comes to the Rocky Mountain Showdown, people at Colorado and Colorado State say the numbers do lie.
No, the in-state football rivalry is not fading, they maintain.
Attendance figures say otherwise. When the game first went to Denver, in 1998, it drew 76,036 fans. It peaked in 2003 with 76,219. Since then, attendance has steadily declined.
A record low could be set Sunday. As of noon Tuesday, Colorado had sold 29,097 tickets, including 5,302 student tickets, the slowest sales it has ever had for the Showdown. As of Tuesday, CSU had sold 18,700 tickets, 6,400 for students.
That's 47,797 tickets. A major walk-up crowd will be necessary to avoid big empty patches in 76,125-seat Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"With big events, you'd like to fill it," new Colorado athletic director Rick George said. "Full stadiums create atmospheres people get excited in."
George said he'll see how Sunday's game is aesthetically and economically before discussing a move back to a campus venue. The game is contracted for Denver through 2019, and any change George wants, CSU will likely oppose.
Much of the drop in attendance in recent years can be attributed to a drop in the quality of the programs. Colorado is in the throes of a school-record seven consecutive losing seasons, including 1-11 last year. CSU has had one winning record in the last nine.
This isn't exactly Alabama vs. Auburn.
"We need to generate excitement ourselves," second-year CSU coach Jim McElwain said. "That's why I was brought here. I get it. It's my responsibility to build that excitement. That's part of our jobs."
Regardless of the records and how many fans attend the game, this is the players' Iron Bowl. Take Kyle Slavin, Colorado's junior tight end from Chatfield High School. His parents are longtime Colorado season-ticket holders. His grandfather, Jack Anderson, was on
Post Poll - Showdown
Which football team will win the Rocky Mountain Showdown on Sunday?
the board of regents.
"I was always brought up to not like gold and green," Slavin said. "It's a good university, but to me it's complete ends of the spectrum on how a university approaches stuff and the lifestyle.
"Boulder is much more liberal; Fort Collins is more conservative. We're much more metropolitan; they're more rural."
Those aren't exactly fightin' words. But after last year's 22-17 upset loss, the Buffaloes received plenty of bulletin board material from their own fans.
"You hear it from everybody," said Colorado senior safety Parker Orms, a Wheat Ridge High School grad. "Classmates and stuff like that: 'How can we lose to CSU?' "
The traditional theory goes that it's a bigger game for CSU, which plays in the Mountain West, than it is for Colorado from the Pac-12, a major BCS conference. But Colorado is only 7-5 in the 12 games in Denver.
"I've got a newspaper article from last year, and we're all holding up the trophy," said CSU junior tight end Kivon Cartwright, from Pueblo South High. "I really couldn't describe it in words. It felt amazing."
The Buffaloes have felt awful, for an entire year.
"It's been a long one," Slavin said, "but it's about ready to get a lot better."
John Henderson: jhenderson@ denverpost.com or twitter.com/johnhendersondp
Staff writer Tom Kensler contributed to this report.
A look at the attendance figures for games in denver of the rocky mountain showdown.
Year, Attend, Result
1998 —76,036, Colorado 42-14
1999 73,438 CSU 41-14
2000 67,466 CSU 28-24
2001 75,022 Colorado 41-14
2002 75,531 CSU 19-14
2003 76,219 Colorado 42-35
2006 65,701 CSU 14-10
2007 68,133 Colorado 31-28 OT
2008 69,619 Colorado 38-17
2010 60,989 Colorado 24-3
2011 57,186 Colorado 28-14
2012 58,607 CSU 22-17