The teams have played annually since 1995. Saturday will be the 17th consecutive game.
Source: CU Athletics Department.
U niversity of Colorado junior Heather Pagnozzi doesn’t need to look for tickets to Saturday’s CU versus Colorado State University football game.
Pagnozzi, a transfer student in her first semester at CU, will watch her first state-rivalry football game in her living room.
The hordes of screaming fans who will be at Mile High Stadium in Denver Saturday seem tame to Pagnozzi, who will be surrounded by CSU fans.
“My stepdad’s family are CSU fans,” Pagnozzi said. “They’ve been giving me a hard time since I got accepted into CU so I’m really looking forward to rubbing it in their faces.”
Pagnozzi said the heckling between family members is in good fun — a concept CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn said is missing from the fan base.
The rivalry with CSU heated up in the mid- ’80s with an increased interest in college football nationwide, Bohn said. It wasn’t until 1995 that the matchup became an annual event.
“Before then, it was an intermittent series,” Bohn said. “We’ve played consecutively since ’95, but in ’99 they whacked us. Then it was on.”
Bohn said the consecutive games and proximity of the teams add to the competitiveness both on and off the field.
But there are still adjustments to be made to the sportsmanship before reaching the level of nationally recognized rivals, like Oregon/Oregon State or Utah/Brigham Young University.
“For this rivalry to grow, it’s important that we treat each other with respect,” Bohn said. “There is a lot of room for improvement from both sides. We need to take some equity in this game… especially because the Front Range is dominated by professional teams, like the Broncos. The rivalry needs to take on a different tone.”
Recent conference switches, including CU joining the Pac-12 this season, have created a rival void with the absence of the annual Nebraska game on Black Friday.
“We’re losing one of our bookends,” Bohn said. “We have the CSU game early in the season and then finished with Nebraska. We’re missing that piece.”
CU senior Evan Esfahani has been to five CU/CSU games, including one as a high school senior.
Esfahani said this weekend’s matchup has been amplified because it remains the only familiar game for Buffs.
“I think a lot of us are excited about this game because we’re embracing CSU as our last rival,” Esfahani said. “It’s not as emotional when we’re playing the Pac-12 teams because it’s new and we don’t know how we’re going to do, but it’s always an exciting game against CSU.”
Bohn said Utah is looking like a competitive game “on paper,” with potential as CU’s new conference rival. But he expects a new rival to appear naturally with an event that will divide the teams.
“It could be a dramatic game, like last week against Cal — but more intense than that,” Bohn said. “It might be big play or a controversial call that triggers the next rivalry.”
While some fans anxiously await a new rival to emerge, CU students — like freshman Siri Lonberg — are more concerned with Saturday’s game rather than the long term.
“I’ve been wearing Colorado stuff all week,” Lonberg said. “I’ve been hearing about this game for a while from a friend of mine who’s a sophomore here so I’m really excited about my first one.”