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University of Colorado senior Jack Perkins, center, celebrates a point with other fans during a game against Oregon State at the CU Events Center.
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
University of Colorado senior Jack Perkins, center, celebrates a point with other fans during a game against Oregon State at the CU Events Center.

There’s nothing quite like a college sporting event because there’s nothing quite like college fans. Their passion energizes the team, inspires recruits, and creates a uniquely fun environment for spectators young and old.

In hopes of further developing this culture, University of Colorado students are encouraged to demonstrate their school spirit and loyalty to CU teams by showing up and parking themselves in “the C-Unit” seats in the game’s stands, according to Rachel Ripken, the CU Athletic Department’s director of community outreach.
There, they can cheer loudly for the home team and wear “outrageous costumes” with Buffaloes themes, Ripken said.

CU officials advise that joining the C-Unit is easy and relatively cheap. All students have to do is go find something black or gold to wear and show up to games. Fans wanting to go all out can hit up such C-Unit Facebook pages as for CU basketball or for CU football or follow official Twitter sites such as @CUnitFootball and @CUnitHoops.

University officials have cautioned, however, that getting too spirited can cost CU.

Excited spectators have rushed the field in years past, causing CU to face at least $75,000 in fines under a Pac-12 Conference rule. The first offense for rushing the field in the first minute after a game ends is $25,000, the second is $50,000 and the third is $100,000.

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Ralphie, the University of Colorado’s mascot, runs down the field with her handlers at Bronco Stadium at Mile High.

Once you’ve worn out your banana costume and black-and-gold Mardi Gras beads, you may find yourself craving more. Perhaps you’re ready to become a “Ralphie Handler” — one of the lucky souls who accompany CU’s live 1,200-pound buffalo mascot as she runs in front of a screaming audience of CU fans, leading the football team onto the field on game day.

Tryouts are held each spring and consist of a series of timed runs to determine the would-be handler’s speed. A handler must be a full-time student and have at least one fall semester remaining prior to graduation. Handlers have to be good time managers, too, as they spend hours each week on strength and conditioning, training, events, appearances and practice.

Information about the Ralphie Handler program can be found at The program’s Twitter feed is @CUBuffsRalphie.

Other options range from trying out, next spring, for CU’s cheer team or dance team, both of which are part of the University of Colorado Spirit Program.

Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
University of Colorado mascot Chip gets the crowd pumped up during a game at the CU Events Center.

CU says on its website that “the Spirit Program is an integral part to the Athletic Department and works tirelessly to support all of CU’s athletic teams. You will see the Spirit Squad at all home Football, Volleyball and Basketball games. The squad also travels to support the Buffs at away football games and the Pac-12 basketball tournaments.

The cheer team is split into a co-ed squad with 20 members and an all-female team with 28 members, and the next tryouts will be next spring. Its Twitter handle is @CUBuffsCheer.

The CU Dance Team can be seen the on the sidelines during halftime of athletic events and at appearances in the community. According to the Spirit Program’s website, “They attend the UDA College National Championships in Orlando, Fla. and compete in both the jazz and pom divisions. They placed an impressive top five in both divisions in 2014 and have multiple top 10 finishes in past years.”

The Twitter handle for the dance team is @CUBuffsDance.

If you’re feeling ambitions, try out the next time there’s an opening to be Chip, the costumed CU mascot.
Chip represents CU at numerous university, community and charity events throughout the year, and not just at games. He has had multiple top finishes at the annual Mascot National Championship, with back-to-back wins of that competition in 2009 and 2010.

Chip’s Twitter handle is @ChipTheBuffalo.

Even after graduating, fans can keep up their school spirit by finding fellow Buffs at alumni chapters around the world, including New York City, Beijing, Saudi Arabia and dozens of others.

Graduates can check out the alumni opportunities, events and other information and news at

Follows for fanatics

C-Unit on Facebook: and

C-Unit on Twitter: @CUnitFootball and @CUnitHoops

Ralphie Handler program:

Ralphie on Twitter: @CUBuffsRalphie

CU spirit:

CU Cheer Team on Twitter: @CUBuffsCheer

CU Dance Team on Twitter: @CUBuffsDance

Chip on Twitter: @ChipTheBuffalo

CU alumni information:


John Spina: