Rocky Mountain Showdown in ’28 and ’36? CSU Rams coach Jay Norvell is all for it. “I’d like to be able to play it whenever we can.”

4-5 minutes 8/10/2023
Jay Norvell ain’t hard to find, either. But when asked about The Year of Prime — as in, new CU Buffs stalwart Deion Sanders — in the state of Colorado, the second-year CSU football coach says he’s more focused on making sure that his Rams ain’t hard to watch.
“We haven’t run into (Sanders) in recruiting much (within) the state, so, I mean, it really doesn’t affect us,” Norvell told The Post during a tour of Denver media outlets Thursday.
“We know we play him (in Boulder on Sept. 16) and we know we’ve got to be ready to play. But besides that, it doesn’t really affect us. I think it’s great that we’re playing and (that we’re) playing this year, I think it’s great for the state. I think it’s great that we get exposure across the country.”
Whether it’s Bernie Sanders or Deion Sanders coaching the Buffs, Norvell knows his end game is the same — win the in-state Super Bowl. The Rocky Mountain Showdown is back next month after a four-year hiatus, the longest for the CU-CSU football matchup since 1959-82.
“This is my first (full) year living in Colorado but when I coached in other conferences, I always paid attention to that game,” Norvell continued. “When the Rocky Mountain Showdown was going on, I wanted to see who (was) gonna win. I knew it was gonna (have) a lot of bad blood and I knew it was gonna be a hard-fought game.
“And so we’re excited that the game is on. And let’s face it, it’s gonna come down to the team on the field, the players on the field, who’s ready to play and who plays the best. All the other (Prime) stuff is great for you guys, but it doesn’t really affect us and what we’re trying to do.”
The Showdown has shifted back to campus sites after a long run at Empower Field, with a series of home-and-homes that run into the next decade: 2023 (Boulder) and ’24 (Fort Collins); ’29 (Fort Collins) and ’30 (Boulder); ’33 (Boulder) and ’34 (Fort Collins); and ’37 (Boulder) and ’38 (Fort Collins).
But one of the trickle-down effects of a wild fortnight of realignment — CU leaving the Pac-12 to rejoin the Big 12 next year, then rivals Utah, Arizona State and Arizona following suit — has been the opening of a handful of non-conference slots on the Buffs’ future schedules.
As of Thursday afternoon, both CSU and CU now had matching open weekends on Sept. 16, 2028, and the entire month of September 2036 left to fill.
“The rivalry game in Colorado is great for our school and I’d like to be able to play it whenever we can,” Norvell said. “And so I know there’s a gap in there — and if we could fill it, I think it’s great.
“When (in-state rivals such as) Texas A&M and Texas stop playing. I think the fan base suffers. And I think that’s a great rivalry that people look forward to every year. Ever since I took the job, I (have heard) stories about the Rocky Mountain Showdown. And I want to coach in that game, our kids want to play in that game. And so if we could, if we could work it out, or we could schedule it (more) in the future, I think it’s just great for the state.”
Just as the 2023 Showdown will renew rivalries within Front Range families, the CU and CSU football staffs have a bit of a family tie, too.
Sanders’ wide receivers coach, Brett Bartolone, came over with Coach Prime from Jackson State, a job he was recommended for by … Jay Norvell.
Bartolone joined Sanders’ SWAC power from Norvell’s staff at Nevada, where he worked for the current Rams boss as an assistant coach and offensive analyst.
Norvell even texted Prime a few winters back to recommend Bartolone for his Jackson State staff. But the CSU coach said they haven’t communicated since.
“I’ll call Brett from my driveway from time to time, get an update and see how he’s doing,” Norvell said Thursday. “I’m sure we’ll talk before, before we play (in Boulder).”

Players mentioned in this article

Drew Norvell

Deion Sanders Jr.

Aaron Ramseur

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