A lovefest that took place Thursday between in-state college football coaches in downtown Colorado Springs represented the calm before a once-in-a-half-century storm.
And the coaches seem quite excited about that storm.
Continuing an annual tradition, representatives from Air Force, Colorado and Colorado State were on hand for the Sports Corp.’s College Football Kickoff Luncheon. The difference is this year, those three schools will play against each other.
“What if there’s a cup — the Governor’s Cup or whatever — between three state schools?” said Falcons coach Troy Calhoun, drawing a comparison to the annual three-game round robin between service academies for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. “I don’t know if that will happen.”
But the games are happening.
Colorado and Colorado State will meet in the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Sports Authority Field in Denver on Aug. 30. Air Force then travels to Boulder to face the Buffaloes on Sept. 14 as that series renews after falling dormant in 1974.
This has happened just once before, in 1958. Air Force defeated both in-state opponents, while Colorado State also knocked off the Buffaloes.
So, if that Governor’s Cup did exist, it would have been collecting dust at the academy for more than 50 years. And after this year, it’s anyone’s guess as to when it would be contested again.
The Falcons and Rams will continue to play annually as long as they remain part of the same conference. But Colorado and Colorado State are scheduled to play again only in 2020, ’23 and ’24. The Air Force/CU rivalry was renewed only long enough for the Buffaloes to pay a return trip in 2022 before again going silent.
So this is it. For now.
“What a deal, right? Air Force, Colorado State and CU getting to play each other one time,” said Buffaloes character coach and spiritual advisor Brian Cabral, who returns to the program this year after spending 23 years as an assistant. He was also a player at Colorado and was a freshman in 1974 when the Buffaloes topped the Falcons 28-27 in the most recent game in that series.
“I remember wondering, ‘What does an academy look like?’ What does a cadet look like?’” Cabral said. “What I did find out is you better bring your A-game, that’s all I know.”
The compliments flowed freely between the three schools. Calhoun noted the investment CU has made in its facilities, as well as the wisdom of new coach Mel Tucker to bring back Cabral in an advisory role considering he made an impact in so many high points for the program over the past 45 years.
Colorado State defensive coordinator John Jancek noted the difficulty in preparing for Air Force’s triple-option — an attack that has averaged 40.3 points in the series during the Falcons’ current three-game winning streak in that series.
“Anytime you’re playing Colorado or Air Force, that’s a big game,” Jancek said. “It’s an in-state rivalry and it provides a lot of bragging rights to a lot of people.”
Calhoun dampened any enthusiasm about future meetings, however, by saying such scheduling is “just not realistic.”
The Falcons have just two nonconference games to work with when crafting their schedule because two spots are earmarked for Army and Navy. One of those two openings has been taken by a Football Championship Subdivision team in each of Calhoun’s seasons, while the other has been used for games against programs like Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, among others.
Colorado has three games outside the Pac-12, but Colorado State frequently takes one of those openings. And it may be considered unwise for the Buffaloes to schedule two games outside the Power Five with frequency in the future as the balance of power in the sport and strength of schedule factors into potential postseason opportunities.
Calhoun did allude to a potential shift to join Navy in the American Athletic Conference when he noted that, “if you were in a league and if one of your league games as against a federal school” then it would open the scheduling for more flexibility.