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Sports / Recreation

New book on Colorado State's football history

March 10, 2009

In 1992, for the Silver Spruce, the CSU yearbook, John Hirn began researching Colorado State's football history for a story about the 100th anniversary of CSU football. Going back through records, he noticed that there was an abundance of tradition and history that seemed to be forgotten or unnoticed.

Alum's dream becomes reality 

In the 17 years since that point, Hirn has had the dream of putting together a comprehensive book on CSU’s football history. Now, his dream has become a reality, and Hirn’s book, Aggies to Rams: The History of Football at Colorado State University, is now available for preorder through the CSU Bookstore.

In his quest to compile the definitive history of CSU football, Hirn’s book covers everything from the formation of the inaugural team in 1893 through the present. The topics covered in the book are not limited to seasons and games, but players, coaches, stadiums, traditions, and other athletics history.
Aggies to Rams also includes a special epilogue that details the Steve Fairchild hiring and the 2008 season, which was capped by the Rams’ victory in the New Mexico Bowl.

A perfect fit

Hirn followed his brother Tom to Colorado State, and he was a freshman during CSU’s memorable run to the 1990 Freedom Bowl. A history major, Hirn was naturally curious about the Rams’ past, and when the Silver Spruce needed a writer, he was the perfect fit.

“As a history major, I was especially interested in our football heritage when my brother showed me James E. Hansen's book Democracy's College in the Centennial State,” said Hirn, a 1993 CSU graduate. “I wrote the 100-year tribute to CSU football for the 1992-93 Silver Spruce yearbook, which gave me the idea that I could transform an 8-page supplement in the yearbook into a great book.”

He began research in the mid-1990s for his dream book, but he was forced to shelve his hobby when his business career took him away from Fort Collins. In 2006, Hirn moved back, and in December of 2007 he began work in earnest to finish the book, spending much of his time at the Morgan Library going through records.
“I utilized interviews with former players, coaches and administrators, but most of the hard-core research has been through newspaper microfilms and yearbooks,” he said.

Additionally, Aggies to Rams features over 600 photos, including a 16-page color section. Of the photos, 85 percent were collected from archives at Morgan Library by Hirn on his vacation days and lunch breaks.

Another important step for Hirn was his creation in 2007 of, a site focused on CSU’s complete football history, with a focus on the era before the school changed its name to Colorado State University, from 1893-1957. The team changed its mascot from Aggies to Rams shortly after.

A proud history

A large factor in Hirn’s motivation for writing the book was to dispel the notion that Colorado State had no success prior to the 1990s.

“You never hear about how Harry Hughes was a nationally known football coach, who made athletes out of agricultural college students,” said Hirn. “He did not recruit. There was no such thing as scholarships, and of course, there was no television.

“Football became the single most important event in Northern Colorado in the 1920s. Businesses shut down. Each week there was a parade and bonfires. CSU was a very small college, but Harry Hughes was a tremendous person, coach and ambassador for the school and the sport of football as a whole.”

In his exhaustive research, Hirn found numerous lost facts, including three coaches whose tenure had been forgotten (W.J. Forbes, Matt Rothwell and George Cassidy). He also found out that the program was named by Liberty magazine as the 13th-best team in the nation from 1924-1928 and that the 1949 Raisin Bowl was not the first postseason game in program history; instead, it was a charity game against the University of Nebraska in 1931.

Other unique features

Aggies to Rams also includes information about the founding of several CSU football traditions, including the firing of the cannon after CSU scores, and the introduction of Ram horns on the helmets.

In addition, current Head Coach Steve Fairchild, who also played for the school from 1978-80 (Photo at right: Steve Fairchild playing quarterback at CSU), and served as an assistant coach during the remarkable 1990s, is writing the foreword for the publication.

Author to give 80 percent of profits back to CSU

Aggies to Rams will not only help readers bolster their knowledge of CSU’s proud football tradition, but anyone who buys it will also support current and future student-athletes, as Hirn will donate 80 percent of the net profit to the CSU General Athletic Scholarship Fund.

“CSU football history is a hobby of mine, that I enjoy, like others enjoy model trains, golf or collecting bobble head dolls,” said Hirn. “Most hobbies are not intended to profit, but for your enjoyment. Since I enjoy the history of CSU and its athletics so much, I felt it was a great way to give back to my alma mater, support athletic scholarships and still have fun with a hobby I have enjoyed for 17 years.
Hirn has a simple goal that he hopes his book can promote.

“Pride in CSU football past, present and future.”

How to order

Aggies to Rams is available now for preorder at the Colorado State Bookstore for $45. It is expected to come off the presses Sept. 1, just in time for CSU’s 2009 football season. 

Order now

Contact: Zak Gilbert
Phone: (970) 491-5067