Front Range

Study Hall

What’s the best college football team in Colorado? The answer might surprise you.

September 2011

Which Front Range college football team has nine winning seasons in its last 10, features a national player-of-the-year finalist, and is ranked in the top 15 in two preseason polls? University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and even Air Force can’t lay claim to those kinds of stats. The answer: Colorado School of Mines.

In his 12-year tenure at the school, head coach Bob Stitt has gradually built a football powerhouse at Mines. Last year the Orediggers were co-champions of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and made it to the NCAA Division II playoffs. The accomplishment is more remarkable for its setting: an academically rigorous engineering school with a long history of losing at football. (For years, fans’ signature cheer was: “Ha ha, hey hey, that’s OK; you’re gonna work for us someday.”) “Coaching at Mines is definitely different,” Stitt says. “You can fall in love with a player, but in an engineering school he has to be able to make it as a student.”

Fortunately, that’s not a liability on the field. This year, senior quarterback Clay Garcia, a finalist for last year’s Harlon Hill trophy (the D-II Heisman Trophy) and junior Cody Renken, the leading receiver, should team up again to take Mines’ passing game deep into the playoffs. So, sorry Buffalo and Rams fans, we’re heading to Golden this fall. “Come to one game,” promises Stitt, “and you’ll be hooked.”