‘Don’t send my boy to Wyoming U’
LARAMIE -- No one epitomized Colorado State quite like Thurman "Fum" McGraw.
Not only was he the school's first consensus All-American, he later returned to Fort Collins where he served as Athletic Director from 1976-86. McGraw was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981. His No. 48 jersey is retired. It now hangs on the west side of Canvas Stadium.
Even the Rams' main athletic facility dons his name.
If there's one thing that will forever be synonymous with McGraw, though, it's this song:
"I’ll sing you a song of college days, and tell you where to go. Aggies, where your knowledge is, and Boulder to spend your dough. C.C. for your sissy boys, and Utah for your times, D.U. for your ministers, and drunkards School of Mines. Don’t send my boy to Wyoming U., a dying mother said. Don’t send him to old Brigham Young, I’d rather see him dead. But send him to our Aggies, it’s better than Cornell. Before I’d see him in Boulder, I’d see my son in hell!"
That, of course, will forever be remembered as Fum's song, a traditional melody that was played on the jumbotron inside Hughes Stadium before the fourth quarter of each home game until 2006.
What's ironic about CSU's unofficial anthem is that line about its Border War rival, Wyoming.
McGraw didn't see just one of his sons head to Laramie to play football for the Cowboys, both of them did. His daughter, Debbie McGraw, was a cheerleader at UW, too. Same can be said for his future son-in-law, Carl Hansen, who also suited up for Fritz Shurmurs' squad.
How did Mr. CSU's boys -- Mike and Dave McGraw -- end up in enemy territory? Truth be told, it wasn't as big of a deal as some might think.
"I hate to disappoint you, but dad was happy for me," Mike said, followed by a laugh, over the phone from his home in Hanna. "Their biggest rival when dad played back in the late 40's was Boulder. That was their huge thing. Granted, just because they're close to Wyoming, games were testy.
"Dad always liked Wyoming people. So there was never an animosity toward Wyoming at all."
But what about the song?
Turns out, his dad didn't actually write it. According to Mike McGraw, it was an "old drinking song" berthed in the Sigma Nu fraternity house.
"Dad is the one who instituted the rivalry back with Colorado," he said. "So the first time they were going to play it in over 20 years, or whatever it was, (former CSU head coach) Leon Fuller asked dad if he would come in before the game and sing that song. That's how it all got started. He did it and they upset Boulder. So, then it became a thing."
Mike played for UW from 1971-74, suiting up at tight end, on the defensive line and at linebacker. During his tenure, the Pokes knocked off CSU three times. While his father didn't exactly harbor ill will for Wyoming -- though they did ruin the Rams' bid for a perfect season in 1949 -- Mike, a graduate of Poudre Valley High School, said his dad's alma mater never even gave him a look.
"They didn't offer me a scholarship, Wyoming did," he said. "I wasn't really recruited by anybody. All of a sudden Wyoming called and said they were going to give me a full-ride."
Mike said Arizona State was the Pokes' biggest nemesis when he played. The people throughout the state of Wyoming "hated BYU" more than anyone at the time, adding that this was just two years removed from the Black 14 incident.
As a Fort Collins native, though, Mike said he, along with a number of other Colorado products on the roster, wanted to beat CSU more than anyone.
"You want to beat them. It's bad," he said. "As a matter of fact, the first game I played against them was when I was a sophomore. It's the worst game I played in my entire football career because I tried too hard. I hated them. I mean, I hate to use the word hate, but I did. I've mellowed in my age, but it affected me."
What about these days?
"I quit going to the CSU-Wyoming games quite a while ago because I couldn't handle the fans," he continued. "Let's just say I was not one to -- it could get a little testy. So I would not put myself through it. My hands would get sweaty, my palms would get sweaty and my knee would go 100 miles an hour during the game.
"You know, because I was that way about CSU, but I don't think dad really was about Wyoming."
Mike, like his father, was drafted into the NFL. He's credited with playing two seasons -- one in St. Louis and the other in Detroit -- though he did play all six preseason games in New England before suffering a hamstring injury.
The stint in the Motor City in 1977 was a special on for Mike. His dad won two championships with the Lions. In fact, Mike was born on Dec. 27, 1953, the same day Detroit beat Cleveland 17-16 inside Briggs Stadium.
Though he'll forever be a Cowboy, Mike said he is proud to see his father's name on the athletics building at CSU. He's proud of the legacy he left in Fort Collins and the admiration that has followed.
"I think it's great," he said of the ground breaking in 1996. "The nice thing about the building is they did it and finished it when he was still alive. For the family, that was what was so cool. It means a lot. I mean, it's kind of cool, but in all honesty, dad was so nice. I don't think anybody ever didn't like him."
Fum died in 2000 after suffering complications from a stroke. He was 73 years old.
Mike, now 68, shared a story that might have one day prevented that honor. After Paul Roach retired as head coach and athletic director in Laramie in 1995, Mike said UW asked his father if he would be interested in applying for the vacancy.
"He actually thought seriously about it. He did," he said. "But that's one that he could not pull the trigger with. It was like, 'Thank you, guys, but there has to be a line somewhere.'"
CSU fans and friends had to give Fum a hard time about his sons' decision though, right?
"First of all, not too many people gave dad crap," he said with a chuckle. "Even jokingly, no, I don't think anyone even mentioned it. Like I said, my classmates in high school, no one thought anything of it, going to Wyoming. Nobody even asked me why I didn't go to CSU."
Mike said he rarely discussed the Border War with his father, either.
"We had this unwritten and unspoken rule that the person who won never said anything until the person who lost brought the game up. Nobody ever gloated, nobody ever said anything," Mike recalls. "So, if Wyoming won, I wouldn't say anything until dad brought up the game and started to talk about it. Then we would discuss it. It just kind of happened that way, you know? We both knew how the other one felt, getting beat. So, we just kind of kept quiet."
Wyoming and CSU will meet Saturday night inside Canvas Stadium. It's the 114th meeting between these old rivals, the Rams holding a 59-49-5 advantage in the series. Though Mike will be watching from his home in south central Wyoming, he likes his alma mater's chances in his hometown.
"Well, I don't have a prediction, but we better damn sure better beat them handily," he laughed. "That's all I'm going to say."