FAREWELL TO HUGHES

FAREWELL TO HUGHES

48-YEAR-OLD STADIUM PREPARING FOR ITS FINAL SEASON
by Tony Phifer

Dick Morgan gets a little sentimental when he thinks about Hughes Stadium. After all, he caught the Rams’ first touchdown pass when the stadium opened in 1968, and he has been attending games there for nearly five decades.

“Everyone has their 15 minutes of fame, and mine is very quickly fading away,” Morgan said with a laugh.

Morgan was a tight end on that Colorado State University Rams team – the first to play at the shiny, new venue nestled against the foothills west of Fort Collins. He had also played at Colorado Field – CSU’s last on-campus stadium – and, like most of the 38,000 or so residents at the time, was excited about Hughes.

“CSU was still a fairly small school, and when you go from a stadium that seats 12,000 to one that seats 30,000, your eyes get a little big,” said Morgan, a teacher and high school football coach in Fort Collins for nearly 40 years. “Colorado Field was too small, and people had finally faced that reality. Going to Hughes was a whole new ballgame.”

With the last football season at Hughes beginning, it’s easy to understand Morgan’s sentimentality. The stadium has been home to hundreds of CSU games and countless memories for fans and players alike for nearly five decades.

And yet, Hughes has been much more than a place to play football.

For one two-year stretch in the mid-1970s, Hughes was the center of the rock ‘n’ roll universe as it hosted the Rolling Stones and Elton John in one show, and the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan in separate concerts. The shows were deemed too noisy and the crowds too unruly, so the city’s brief reign atop the music world ended almost as quickly as it began.

Prior to that, Olympic legend Jesse Owens gave the keynote address to thousands of youngsters to open the inaugural Explorer Olympics in 1970.

Over the years, Hughes hosted community races, including the Horsetooth Half Marathon and the FireKracker 5, and thousands have donned their warmest clothes in the early spring to witness the sunrise on operations, who played center on that team.

The good times, though, clearly outweighed the bad – especially during the Sonny Lubick era. Lubick took over the program in 1993 and led the Rams to nine bowl games and six conference titles during his 15-year run, helping establish CSU football as a national brand.

Included in that run were three truly glorious seasons.

The 1994 team burst on the scene, winning its first seven games – including a stunning 21-16 triumph over preseason national championship favorite Arizona – to climb into the Top 25 for the first time in school history. The Rams went on to win the Western Athletic Conference title – the school’s first league title in nearly 40 years – and to play in the Holiday Bowl.

The 1997 team started 2-2 before closing the season on a remarkable nine-game winning streak, including a 35-24 win over Missouri in the Holiday Bowl. The Rams climbed to 14th in the final national polls – best in school history – and became the first and only CSU team to win 11 games.

“Everyone talks about the great programs having a good foundation. Well, before Sonny got here, CSU had plenty of cracks and crumbles in its foundation,” said legendary Rams running back Kevin McDougal. “The guys in the ’90s are the ones who repaired the foundation and made it into something other generations could build on, and that’s all because of Sonny. It would not have happened without him.”

The 2000 season included a Mountain West title, 10-2 record, and a win over Louisville in the Liberty Bowl.

And there were lots of great players to watch. For the Rams, guys such as Lawrence McCutcheon, Willie Miller, Mike Bell, Al “Bubba” Baker, Steve Bartalo, Bradlee Van Pelt, and dozens of others became legends. Foes such as “Mean” Joe Green, Steve Young, Ben Roethlisberger, Jim McMahon, and many, many others strutted their stuff before going on to NFL stardom.

Not bad for a stadium that cost all of $2 million to build.

But the venerable facility is showing its age. Its concrete is crumbling and its fan amenities are lacking. So, it’s on to the new in 2017 – the first on-campus stadium CSU has known since old Colorado Field was vacated in 1967.

“It’s kind of bittersweet for me,” McDougal said. “My dad played at Hughes, and so did my two brothers and I. We’ve all bled and sweated and shed tears there, and it will be hard to say goodbye. But CSU is ready for a new stadium, and it’s time to usher in the new. I can’t wait to see it and start a new era.”

HUGHES HIGHLIGHTS

BEACH BOYS & CHICAGO 1975

The Beach Boys and Chicago performed as part of their Beachago Tour on July 6, 1975, the first concert to be held at Hughes Stadium.

ROLLING STONES 1975

Along with special guest Elton John, the Rolling Stones played a memorable concert as part of their Made in the Shade Tour on July 20, 1975.

BOB DYLAN 1976

Bob Dylan played in a steady downpour as part of the Rolling Thunder Revue on May 23, 1976. The concert was recorded and became an album and documentary titled Hard Rain.

GAME-DAY THROWBACKS

Game days will have a vintage feel as well – from video board content to music and more!

Sept. 10 vs. UTSA Hughes Era: 1960s

Also: Military Appreciation Day

Sept. 17 vs. Northern Colorado Hughes Era: 1970s

Also: Ag Day with 4-H, Orange Out

Oct. 1 vs. Wyoming Hughes Era: 1980s

Also: Border War

Oct. 8 vs. Utah State Hughes Era: 1990s

Also: Homecoming and Family Weekend

Nov. 5 vs. Fresno State Hughes Era: 2000s

Also: Take A Kid to the Game, Extra Yard for Teachers

Nov. 19 vs. New Mexico Hughes Era: 2010s

Also: Senior Day

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