Moderator Jim Arthur brought up the point that the upcoming football series between Air Force and Colorado will be one of the few to feature teams with live-performing mascots.
He was talking, of course, about the Air Force Falcon and Ralphie, CU's buffalo.
"That's exactly what I was thinking," Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said, bringing laughter from the crowd.
It was largely that kind of lighthearted atmosphere once again as the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. hosted coaches from the state's top football schools Wednesday, giving them the chance to talk about the upcoming season over lunch at the DoubleTree by Hilton.
Arthur, Air Force's radio play-by-play announcer, asked questions about topics ranging from offseason away-from-football activities to facilities improvements to specific on-field positions.
Colorado's MacIntyre talked about quarterback Sefo Liufau's recovery from a foot injury and the excitement over new facilities. Colorado State offensive coordinator Will Friend, there in place of coach Mike Bobo, reflected on a strong finish to the staff's first season, a bowl appearance and the anticipated competition for quarterback Nick Stevens this fall. Northern Colorado's Earnest Collins Jr. noted that 10 of 11 starters are back on offense from a 6-5 team, and most of those were freshmen and sophomores last year. John Wristen joked about being the blind squirrel who found the acorn when looking back on CSU-Pueblo's massive success since restarting the program.
Falcons coach Troy Calhoun took a different approach.
Calhoun never mentioned a current player by name, mentioned a new scoreboard at Falcon Stadium only in comparing it to the much larger investments in facilities made in Boulder and Fort Collins and continued to harp on the theme that Air Force is entering a rebuilding season despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Calhoun also lamented his program's lack of junior college transfers or ability to redshirt, an inability to work with players over the summer and he seemed even to take a dig at his boss, athletic director Jim Knowlton, by cautioning Air Force to "be careful you aren't a Northeast private."
Knowlton, a West Point grad, was at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a private school in the Northeast, prior to Air Force.
"In many ways it's going to be a pretty massive overhaul," Calhoun said of a team that returns players with starting experience at every position on defense, an offense that brings back five of its top six rushers, a quarterback who has logged starts in each of the past three seasons and entered last year as the starter, one of the top receivers in program history and, while losing four of five offensive linemen, has one returning starter on the offensive line as well as three others who have started games in the past.
It is easily the most experienced Air Force football team in recent years, yet Calhoun opted not to tout that experience or speak about his roster in front of a crowd in position to help stem a tide of declining attendance.
"We have a great, great deal of arduous activity and work that has to occur in the month of August and we have to make up some major ground," Calhoun said, "especially with the caliber of schedule we play this fall."