Rams awakening

CSU football and hoops coaches stop in GJ to increase visibility

New Colorado State football coach Jim McElwain, center, talks with Austin Berk’s parents on Wednesday night during the RamStorming tour stop at the Grand Junction Courtyard Marriott. Berk, a senior-to-be at Grand Junction, has verbally committed to playing for the Rams.

On numerous fronts, there is an awakening going on in Colorado State University athletics, and on Wednesday, CSU’s RamStorming Tour rolled into the Grand Junction Courtyard Marriott, where the newest head coaches of the school’s most popular programs entertained and educated fans and CSU alumni.

Larry Eustachy, the Rams’ men’s basketball coach, and Jim McElwain, head football coach, headlined the event.

It was in Grand Junction, so that school’s Ram Network, an alumnus network, can expand to areas in the state besides the I-25 corridor, said Katie Bennett, director of Colorado Alumni Programs.

On a night in which a final public hearing by the school’s Stadium Advisory Committee was presenting its findings to school President Dr. Tony Frank about a possible new football stadium in Fort Collins, the coaches spoke of awakening the sleeping giant that is CSU athletics.

McElwain, 49, came to Fort Collins from the University of Alabama, where he was Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2008 to 2011.

He said he has emphasized statewide recruiting, evident by sending a CSU scout to every school in Colorado.

“And I still have some connections in the South,” said McElwain, his toothy smile widening.

It was the first time the RamStorming Tour has come to Grand Junction. The tour began in 2008, but did not take place last year.

The tour stopped in Castle Rock on Tuesday, Breckenridge on Wednesday morning and in Grand Junction on Wednesday night.

The final stop will be Steamboat Springs today.

The tour will cover about 730 miles.

On Wednesday, Eustachy, who was the 2012 Conference USA Coach of the Year after leading Southern Mississippi to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and 2000 AP National Coach of the Year after leading Iowa State to the Elite Eight, brought the humor.

He brought it to the end, when he introduced McElwain to the stage. Noticing McElwain wasn’t wearing socks, Eustachy said, “He’s the highest-paid guy in the state, and he can’t afford frickin’ socks.”

But Eustachy has high hopes for a Rams team that last season finished 20-12 and added its name to March Madness brackets.

He said he has been impressed with Colorado’s hoops interest.

“In my short time of being in this state,” Eustachy said, “I’ve heard more basketball-related questions than in eight years in Mississippi.”

And he doesn’t plan on coaching anywhere but at CSU.

“A lot of coaches say it’s their last stop, but this is my last stop,” Eustachy said. “It’s a dream job.”

CSU on May 21 also announced its women’s basketball head coach, Ryun Williams.

But it’s McElwain who is garnering statewide interest, having coached a pair of Heisman Trophy ceremony partakers — Mark Ingram (2009) and Trent Richardson (2011).

How does McElwain expect success when he’s not recruiting in the South?

He takes advantage of what Colorado produces best — toughness.

“And if you’re from the state, you’re going to play a little bit harder,” McElwain said. “There’s more pride, and these guys understand the rivalries. Then when you bring in an out-of-state kid, they help explain what those rivalries are all about.”

Austin Berk, a Grand Junction High School senior-to-be who has verbally committed to CSU, is one of them. He attended the RamStorming event.

“You can tell (McElwain) means what he says,” said Berk, a defensive lineman and tight end. “He’s going to turn the program around, especially after having been under Saban.”


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