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Ramsey: CU, AFA should renew football rivalry

June 11, 2009
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Lt. Gen. Albert Clark remembers the gruesome end of the Air Force-Colorado football series.

I hope he's able to see the renewal of this once fierce rivalry, which crashed to a halt in 1974.

AFA and CU officials better hurry. Clark, a World War II fighter pilot and German prison camp survivor, turns 96 on Aug. 27.

"And that's a long way off," said Clark, the former AFA superintendent in peaceful retirement on the northern edge of Colorado Springs.

No doubt, the Falcons' final trips to Boulder in 1971 and 1973 were filled with mayhem.

Clark, superintendent from 1970-74, remembers cadets being hassled at Boulder's Folsom Field. Uniforms were ripped, hats stolen.

Disorder reigned.

He remembers a frozen can of beer hitting him in the back of the neck.

He remembers eggs thrown at him and his staff.

Alcohol fueled the anarchy. Students and fans, filled with beer and hard liquor, lost control and gleefully annoyed anyone connected with the Falcons.

But it was more than sloshed CU supporters. Some of the attacks were inspired by a serious agenda. The fervor of the Vietnam War carried into the football stadium, and those who opposed the conflict found a tempting stage to showcase their rage.

"A rowdy phase all over the United States," Clark said.

And every other year, the Falcons had to invade one of the headquarters of the rowdiness.

"It was very difficult up in Boulder," Clark said in his steady voice. "The college was pretty riotous, and there was a lot of anti-military feeling."

After watching eggs and beer cans and abuse of his cadets, Clark made his decision.

"I was disgusted and determined to take action," he said.

He withdrew from the series, ending what should have become a great tradition.

From 1958 to 1974, the Buffs and Falcons played 16 times. CU won 12, including the last five.

But it wasn't the state school picking on the military academy. Five of AFA's losses were by 10 points or less. Two losses were by one point.

Clark made the right move when he halted the series, but it's time - it's way past time - to renew the rivalry. The bad days of the '70s rank as ancient history.

A marquee opponent beckons 100 minutes from the AFA campus. The games would ignite interest all over Colorado.

Clark sees the obvious. The teams should play, and he's ready to put aside pain from the past.

"I don't hold a bitterness forever," Clark said. "I would not make any protest if the present leaders of the school decided to get a contract again."

It almost happened. CU athletic director Mike Bohn proposed a Falcons trip to Boulder in 2008 with a return game at Air Force in 2013, but AFA athletic director Hans Mueh decided five years was too long to wait.

Still, momentum is multiplying. Bohn says he wants to play. AFA coach Troy Calhoun yearns to tangle with the Buffs.

"Yes, absolutely," Calhoun said.

Jim Bowman agrees with Calhoun. He hopes the teams play again.

He witnessed the wildness in Boulder. Bowman, 76, worked for AFA's football staff from 1958 to 1974 and later served as associate athletic director. He spoke by phone from Corvallis, Ore., where he's retired.

"It was college kids being college kids," Bowman said of the CU craziness. "And we said, ‘Let's just knock if off for a while.'"

A while should have ended long ago.

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