Lubick works wonders at Colo. St.

Coach has molded Rams into steady winner since 1993 hiring

College Football

December 21, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

San Diego --In the East, he is probably viewed as one of the most successful, least-known collegiate head coaches who work on the west side of the Mississippi.

At the relatively obscure station of Fort Collins, Colo., Sonny Lubick has taken a once-moribund program beyond respectability into a winning continuity that has earned the respect of his peers and the undying gratitude of Colorado State's alumni and the local gentry.

"We're a college town of 125,000. The university is the real hub of the community," said the school's media relations director, Gary Ozzello. "And there is no doubt Sonny could be the mayor if he wanted to run. He is regarded that fondly."

When Lubick leads his Rams onto the field to play Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl tomorrow night, they will be making their ninth postseason appearance since he was hired in 1993. Before his arrival, they had played in bowls only twice in their football history and only once in the modern era (1990).

In the previous 11 pre-Lubick seasons, Colorado State won 47 games. During his 13-year tenure, the total is 101.

Asked what his proudest accomplishment is, Lubick replied, "The fact that I got this program going. They never had many winning seasons before '93, had a lot of 1 and 10s. It turned around and stayed there. The previous five coaches had all been fired after a few years. Tom Osborne [longtime Nebraska coach] told me, `You sure made that a nice job.'"

Lubick, 67, is a 1960 graduate of Western Montana. His only other head coaching position was at Division I-AA Montana State more than three decades ago. He made his biggest mark as the defensive coordinator at Miami (Fla.) under Dennis Erickson during a period when the Hurricanes won two national titles and went to four major bowls before he returned to theWest.

Colorado State, which is in the midst of working on an extension of his contract through 2009, is fortunate that Lubick has stayed put. The school does not possess the resources of the game's titans, but he loves the small city situated at the foothills of the Rockies.

"It's a good university and a great place to live," said Lubick, who makes Colorado State football a family affair [son Matt was on the staff before becoming the

wide receivers coach at Mississippi and son Marc replaced him]. Ten sets of brothers have played for him.

Not that there haven't been tantalizing offers to leave, a tribute to his record.

"About every other year, somebody calls," he said. "I was contacted by Maryland [when Ron Vanderlinden was hired], visited with USC [when Pete Carroll was hired] and when Miami got an opening [after Erickson]. In a lot of situations, I came close. It's always flattering and some are very tempting. But sometimes, it's just not the right time."

During Lubick's tenure, more than 40 former Rams have been drafted or signed as free agents by NFL teams. When training camps opened this year, 19 were on preseason rosters. A half-dozen who walked on at Colorado State played in the NFL.

The most notable of the active crop is Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter, who donated $200,000 to the program.

That is just one of the many gifts that have poured in since Lubick arrived. One, a $15.2 million donation from the Bohemian Foundation, was made with the stipulation that the team's home field, Hughes Stadium, be named for Lubick. It made possible an 18-month project to renovate and expand the stadium, much like Navy did in Annapolis.

Altogether, the football program has enabled $25 million worth of improvements to be made at the school's athletic facilities.

Navy coach Paul Johnson said: "He came to Colorado State about the time I was leaving Hawaii. I know he's a good football coach and that they're going to be physical."

Mike Shanahan of the Denver Broncos said: "His teams are successful because they are always so well prepared. His record speaks for itself."

Lubick said he will continue to coach "three or four more years, probably. As long as things are going pretty well and I feel well. I started coaching in high school in 1960, so I've paid the dues. As long as you can win and get to a bowl, it's fun. When you don't, it's not.

"All the teams in our league are moving forward. There are no gimmes. We might not have the best facilities, but we hang in there. We've built our program around good players and we graduate a high percentage of them. Players know we're going to do things right here." kent.baker@baltsun.com

Poinsettia Bowl Navy vs. Colorado State, Tomorrow, 10:30 p.m., San Diego, ESPN2, 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 2 1/2

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