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The life and times of a super Ram fan

September 28, 2010

Joel Cantalamessa, who graduated from CSU in 1995 with a degree in technical journalism, knows what alumni connections mean. In 2000, Joel founded and still serves as editor of, a website dedicated to news coverage of CSU Athletics.

What it means to be an alum

Joel Cantalamessa, '95, with former Rams football coach Sonny Lubick.

About 96,000 Colorado State University alumni live in Colorado, and there are nearly as many ways of defining what it means to be an alum.

It’s the connection

Joel Cantalamessa, who graduated from CSU in 1995 with a degree in technical journalism, knows what alumni connections mean. Several years after he graduated, he received a University mailer promoting season ticket football packages for a special price. He was hooked; but just as important, he says it was his first opportunity to give back to CSU.

That first connection led to even more support. In 2000, Joel founded and still serves as editor of, a website dedicated to news coverage of CSU Athletics. A year later, he was elected a member of the Ram Club Board of Directors, and began working for the annual Ram Club membership drive.

Strong and steadfast

The Ram Club invests every dollar raised in athletic scholarships to support more than 400 student-athletes participating in 16 varsity sports. Joel’s ongoing involvement in his RamNation Web community, pre- and post-game activities, and his membership activities as a Ram Club member, allowed him to build strong, steadfast alumni connections. In fact, in addition to his role with the Ram Club board of directors in 2000, he was chosen to serve on the new Denver Ram Athletic Advisory Board in 2009.

During the 2010 Ram Club membership drive, Joel contacted alumni and CSU supporters to raise money and increase membership to the Ram Club. His efforts resulted in $14,060 total contributions, $2,660 in new money, and 12 new Ram Club members. Joel’s dedication earned him the Merkel Award for having the most spirit, enthusiasm, and fundraising success.

Invaluable contributions

Joel (left in white shorts), runs onto the field at Hughes Stadium with the CSU mascot, Cam.

Joel continues meeting with Ram fans to discuss how they can be more engaged and reap satisfying returns for their involvement.

It’s a crucial challenge: CSU is still enduring financial struggles because of steady declines in state support that have plagued Colorado’s public higher education systems for nearly five years. He believes if alumni and supporters understand the disparity in state funding that CSU receives compared to its peers, they’ll step up and swing for the upper decks. He knows alumni and donors are huge supporters who help fill budget shortfalls; create better, more competitive programs; and underwrite scholarships – and he’d love to see those valued contributions increase and strengthen.

Even more support

Joel says he’s seen a welcome improvement in how athletics and the administration – from the Board of Governors to the chancellor to the president – are working together to build more support across campus. He doesn’t recall such a strong network of unified support in the past.

As owner and president of The Black Diamond Group, Joel knows the importance and rewards of good marketing and visibility. He knows that a competitive football program provides the entire University with broad visibility and can help increase its marketability with parents, students, alumni, and other stakeholders.

He also credits the comprehensive Campaign for CSU for having a positive impact on the University and alumni. He thinks the campaign has helped build a broader base of support for giving among alumni. Joel says the campaign has coalesced all the individual fundraising efforts that have been under way for years. He believes the campaign has brought the strengths and needs of CSU in line with each other, and that’s helping all fundraising efforts.

Wish list

As part of the new Denver Advisory Council for CSU Athletics, Joel sees the passion that CSU alumni and supporters have for the University. He wishes he could be more successful in helping CSU raise an additional $5 million a year to backfill scholarships for athletics. Because the economy has made fundraising a challenge, Joel wishes that more alumni would reflect on the quality of life their education and degrees have provided them and find ways to give back.

All it takes is a connection. When Joel first became involved, he was editor of That first year, he and his team were very successful in connecting with folks and enjoying conversations about how important their involvement meant to the University’s success. He and his staff pulled in a lot of new members, and that indispensable effort continues to this day.

Football is a big part of Joel’s life, but he also takes a long-range view of CSU and higher education. He’ll continue meeting face-to-face with people, encouraging their support, and following up on all his contacts. That, he says, is the key cinder block to building engagement and to a vibrant and far-reaching University.

Future generations depend upon Joel – and all of us – to help in any way we can.

Contact: Michele McKinney
Phone: (303) 376-2635