RAMSEY: If Gen. Clark can forgive, let's resume CU-Air Force football series

June 20, 2013 Updated: July 15, 2015 at 1:19 pm
photo - In an overtime battle Air Force lost to Navy 28-21 at Falcons Stadium Saturday, October 6, 2012. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette
In an overtime battle Air Force lost to Navy 28-21 at Falcons Stadium Saturday, October 6, 2012. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette 

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." - William Faulkner

Nearly 39 years ago, Colorado traveled to Falcon Stadium for the final game in what could have been - what should have been - an enduring football series. The Buffs defeated Air Force in a 28-27 thriller.

Colorado and Air Force have not played a football game since.

And they may never play again.

I want CU and Air Force to hug, make up, settle their differences and play some football. Both schools struggle to sell tickets in a state where college football struggles mightily. Trust me; a clash between the Buffs and Falcons would fill the stands in Boulder or Colorado Springs.

But ugly times from the past remain a roadblock to the future of the series, which thrived during 16 games from 1958 to 1974.

On Air Force's final two football trips to Boulder in 1971 and 1973, chaos reigned. CU students, fueled by alcohol and rage about the Vietnam War, attacked Air Force cadets and leaders. Uniforms were ripped. Hats stolen.

In the final trip in 1973, students tossed eggs and cans of beer. One of those cans hit Lt. Gen. Albert Clark, an American hero. Clark, the Air Force superintendent, survived internment at a German prison camp during World War II. He came home to survive a frozen beer can smacking him upside the head.

"The college was pretty riotous," Clark told me in 2009.

Those disastrous, disturbing visits to Boulder were long ago. Yet in a powerful way, those trips live, lingering in the memories of dozens who endured those "riotous" days.

Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh, who sat in the stands in 1973, is one who remembers. On Wednesday, Mueh was walking quickly on his way to lunch, talking happily about the weather. He stopped in his tracks when asked about those final football trips to Boulder.

"It was a very, very unpopular war," he said, "but for them to take it out on us ."

He shook his head. His smile was gone, not to return while he talked about a defunct football series.

"I will never forget it," he said. "It left a lasting impression. It did."

He sometimes sees, in his mind's eye, "little snippets" of the anarchy in Boulder. He was hit by a cup of beer in 1973 while he watched his friends abused by a rowdy gang of students.

"It's still with me," he said.

And not just with him. I've supported the renewal of this series for the past decade, and this has inspired Air Force alums and supporters to fill my e-mail box.

The CU campus is, one Air Force supporter wrote, "severely indoctrinated with a blind rage toward the military." This is a typical comment. But if true, why did the Air Force basketball team visit the CU campus without incident in November?

Those who lead the Falcons athletic department have never quite gotten around to renewing the series because they remain stuck in the past. It's not just Mueh. Randy Spetman, his predecessor, also retained a sense of anger about those now-distant journeys to Boulder.

I wish Hans, and everyone connected with the academy, would listen to the words of Clark, who spoke with me not long before his death.

Clark, then 96, talked in a clear voice. He no longer opposed renewing a once-promising football series.

"I don't hold a bitterness forever," he said.

Right on, general.


Twitter: @davidramz

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