BOULDER ó There were limericks. Recollections. Self-deprivation. Detailed game recounts. Confessions. Even a gubernatorial candidate. The sixth class inducted Thursday night into the University of Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame had it all, and then some.
As the evening progressed, it was revealed that all the inductees were connected in one fashion or another. The most common link was the posthumous member of the class, former sports information director and associate athletic director Fred “The Count” Casotti. He was the PR man for the 1959 ski team, CU’s first national champion in any sport, and for the first two years for All-American football player Bobby Anderson; he accompanied many members of several CU ski teams to the Olympic games, tutored Bill Marolt as a student-athlete, coach and then as athletic director; and was a close friend of football coach Bill McCartney.
Adam Goucher, one of the top collegiate distance runners of all-time, said he practically begged Marolt to hire current CU cross country and track coach Mark Wetmore after Jerry Quiller accepted a similar position with Army. Goucher and Marolt are also two of just three CU athletes to have won four individual NCAA titles in their careers. Marolt extended McCartney’s contract in the middle of a 1-10 season in 1984 when it was not a popular move to do so with the fans and media.
Anderson would span three decades as the sideline reporter, calling CU games for KOA-Radio and knowing everyone associated with football at his alma mater. The head coach of the ’59 ski team, Bob Beattie, recruited Marolt to CU, and later as a reporter and announcer for ABC, was “activated” from the roof of the press box in 1986 to report live on CU’s 20-10 stunning upset of No. 3 Nebraska, called at the time “The Turning Point” for the Buff football program.
Those were just some of the links of the entire group, officially inducted before better than 500 in attendance at the Omni Interlocken Hotel & Resort in Broomfield. Mark Johnson of KOA served as the master of ceremonies, while Larry Zimmer, who Johnson referred to as “the soundtrack of CU athletics since 1971” had the honor of introducing all the inductees. Assistant Athletic Director Bill Harris, who oversees the C-Club, and athletic director Mike Bohn, made introductory comments.
The crowd included several previous inductees (Eddie Crowder, Lisa Van Goor, Dick Anderson, Joe Romig, Jimmie Heuga, Carroll Hardy), members from the Board of Regents, past and present (Pete Steinhauer, Jerry Rutledge, Steve Bosley, Peter Dietze), former and current student-athletes (Cliff Branch, William Harris, Alfred Williams, Kanavis McGhee, Kara Grgas-Wheeler Goucher, Blake Anderson, Barry Remington, Lance Carl, Derek West, Jay Leeuwenburg, Paul Rose, Bill Coleman, Charles Johnson, Jim Kelleher, Phil Irwin, Jim Phillips, Bart Bortles, Kirk Tracy, Mike Pruett, Rocky Martin, Ron Scott, Bruce Heath, Sandy Bean, Liz Brugger, Tera Bjorklund, David Thistle, Dave DeLine, Jed Schuetze among dozens), former and current head coaches (Dan Hawkins, Ricardo Patton, Kathy McConnell-Miller, Pi’i Aiu, Nicole Kenneally, Anne Kelly, Roy Edwards, Bruce Cranmer, Gary Barnett), former athletic director Dick Tharp, former Big 8 Commissioner Chuck Neinas, several staff members past and present, and National Football Foundation executive director (and former CU SID) Steve Hatchell.
Here’s a look at some of the evening’s comments from all of the members of the Hall of Fame class:
The 1959 National Champion Ski Team
First up was the 1959 ski team, the first to win an NCAA championship for CU in any sport, doing so in classic fashion by defeating rival DU by 5.8 points.
“It was special for so many reasons,” Beattie remembered. “Not only because it was the first for the ski team as well as for the university, it was the first NCAA ski title won by a team comprised solely of American kids. DU was mostly made up of international skiers, so we wanted to prove that we could win with Americans.
“It was front page news back then,” he added, recalling that it was prior to Denver blossoming as a pro sports town. “CU-DU was the in-state rivalry, and to beat DU and my good friend Willy Schaeffler was something special.”
Beattie also recalled his close relationship with Casotti. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Fred,” he acknowledged.
Six members of the team returned for the ceremony: Frank Brown, John Dendahl, Norris Durham, Gary Gisle, Bob Gray and Harold Shaeffer. Dendahl, who is running as the Republican candidate for governor in New Mexico against incumbent Bill Richardson (www.dendahlforgovernor.com), also paid tribute to Casotti. “There isn’t one of us who doesn’t miss having 'Casotts’ up here with us tonight. He was one of us, and he was terrific.”
“It’s a humbling experience to come back to your university, a place where you grew up and spent a good part, a special part, of your life,” Marolt said in his opening comments.
“When you receive an award like this, it’s special. The University of Colorado is a special place. You make a lot of friends along the way, and the bonds you forge with those people are ones that are with you for the rest of your life. It’s great to come back and reminisce.”
Marolt’s association spanned almost four decades from athlete to coach to athletic director. He was at the helm when CU built the state of the art Dal Ward Athletic Center in just nine months following CU’s 1990 national championship in football, perhaps his crowning jewel of many accomplishments in a successful career on all three levels. But he cited two people in particular that meant the most to him while at CU.
“Bob Beattie was a special individual in my life,” he said. “An unbelievable coach and mentor for me to this day. And as a student, and after as a coach and especially as athletic director, when I needed advice, who could lay it all out for me, well, I always called 'The Count.”
The only individual inductee who lives out of state (Portland, Ore.), he returned with his wife, Kara, herself a candidate for future induction for her long list of accomplishments in women’s cross country and track.
“It’s been quite a whirlwind for a month-and-a-half since I first received Bill’s (Harris) e-mail that I was being inducted,” he said. “It was a pleasant surprise. I am so blessed to be going into the Hall with such an amazing class and to be able to say thanks to the people at CU for everything they did for me.
“I have so many amazing memories of CU,” he continued. “Running on the CU campus, working out at Dal Ward, working out at Potts Field, and our long-running joke of avoiding the pothole in lane one, now that built character,” he mused.
“Taking the starting line with your teammates and wearing the black and gold. The support from the athletic department and the Boulder community was just tremendous.”
An 11-time All-American who won four NCAA titles, when asked about what his fondest memory of CU was, without hesitation he said, “The 1998 NCAA cross country title. It was the last event of my senior year, and to go out on that note was a dream come true.”
He recalled that after Quiller had accepted a job at West Point, he went in and spoke to Marolt about promoting Wetmore to head coach. “I was practically begging him to hire Mark Wetmore as head coach. I basically told him that if Mark stays, I stay, and if he goes, I go. It wasn’t an ultimatum, but I’d like to think my input was valued.
“Coming in under the reign of Mark, who was and is one of the toughest and most brilliant distances coaches ever, well, I wanted that challenge,” Goucher said. “There is no way that I would have been able to accomplish what I have been able to without him. He taught me that success comes from hard work and determination, and that is still with me today.”
The Late Fred Casotti
Zimmer recalled that when he was working at a Columbia, Mo., radio station, “Everyone couldn’t wait to get the CU release, which in those days was mailed and would usually arrive on a Wednesday. They always led off with a poem or limerick, and often it wasn’t rated PG.”
Fred’s daughters, Candy Nesheim and Christine Reichmann, accepted the honor for their father, who passed away five years ago to the day of his induction (Oct. 12, 2001), making the evening that much more emotional for the family. But they held their own, and Candy was the designated spokesperson for the family.
“On behalf of Chris and I, and the entire family, I certainly want to thank the University of Colorado for honoring our dad,” she started. “Dad used to say that his wife, his children and CU were the loves of his life and in that order, though we used to kid him that CU was really number one.
“What is most fitting is that he would be inducted with some of his closest friends, Bob 'Beats’ Beattie, Bill 'Will-dog’ Marolt, Bobby 'BA’ Anderson; dad gave nicknames to everybody... and the only other Detroit Tiger fan on the entire campus, Coach Bill McCartney.”
The family selected four of his most popular limericks to recite, including a two-liner after CU defeated Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl to win the 1990 national championship: “The Rocket had us in the bag, until a protestant threw a flag.”
To truly honor their father, they had to end with a special limerick, which was conceived by several family members:
The state of affairs at old CU
Has been knocked down and stepped on too
But we’ve been down that road before
And have always come back to even the score
So need not worry, panic or stress
We’ve still got Plato to clean up the mess
Remember that every era must write their own story
To bring the Buffaloes back to glory
Fred would no doubt be proud.
Anderson, who will also be honored this weekend as the fourth CU player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, virtually recounted the 1967, 1968 and 1969 seasons game-by-game for the audience, reeling off accurate scores and statistics like he was reading straight from the media guide.
His love affair with CU started well before he put on a CU uniform. “Dick and I grew up in Boulder, and our heroes were the guys on the ’61 Big Eight champion team,” he recalled.
“I was selling Coca-Cola in the stands in 1961 when Kansas was leading CU 19-0. Count Casotti always said that (quarterback) Gale Weidner was great at leading comebacks. Well, Kansas had John Hadl, but Weidner kept hitting pass after pass and before you knew it, CU had won 20-19. It was the largest comeback until a rally at Missouri in 1978 where Bill Solomon led the Buffs back from 20 down.
“Eddie (Crowder) recruited me out of Boulder High School, and he would become one of the most influential people in my life. 'Poise is the product of preparation’ is a phrase Eddie often used that has carried me through life, whether it was football or business. People don’t realize it, but I counted it up and Eddie defeated 10 coaches who are now in the College Hall of Fame. Guys like Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno, Woody Hayes, Bill Yeoman.
“I was so very fortunate to play for a man like Eddie Crowder, and to have a lot of great teammates as well,” he added. “Any honor I’ve ever earned is a tribute to all of them, because it was really those guys who made it all possible.”
He referenced many games throughout his career, especially the Indiana game in the snow in ’69 where “Bill Brundige and Herb Orvis were just slopping their guys right into the snow. They wanted no part of Colorado and we won 30-7.” He also cited his last game, a 47-33 win over Alabama in the Liberty Bowl. “What I remember from that one is Bear Bryant coming into our lockerroom after the game to congratulate us. What a class individual.”
McCartney was the final inductee to speak, keeping with the tradition of since he became associated with CU, no one could follow him once he left the podium. Just not possibleóit would be akin to Vanilla Ice following Paul McCartney.
“Most of you know that in Chuck Fairbanks’ career here (his predecessor), CU won seven games in three years,” McCartney opened with. “Then in my first three years, we also won seven games. The 14 wins were the fewest in the NCAA for those six years. We had to die to get better.
“It was so bad that my wife Lyndi once parked our car, locked it, and had left two tickets to a game on the dashboard. When she came back, someone had broken in and had left two more,” he joked.
Mac then turned serious. “CU ó it’s a maximum experience ó nobody can match what we’ve got. This is an extraordinary place, can’t nobody offer the package that CU can offer. You wake up every morning here, open your window, and just go, 'Wow.’”
He recounted his hiring back in the summer of 1982, when Fairbanks informed then-athletic director that he was leaving CU for the fledgling United States Football League.
“Chuck left June 1, 1982, and no head coach could really justify leaving his team at that point of the year, so it figured that Eddie was going to hire an assistant coach,” he said. “There was something like 80 or 90 references for other candidates, except for this one guy who none, this guy named McCartney.
“Eddie assigned Fred to show me around. Now I’m fired up, and I said to Fred, 'What are my chances?’ He responded, 'It’s third and long. You’d better make a big play.’ Now the format for the interview called for me to just answer some questions, but after what Fred had said to me, I decided to open with a speech. I spoke for about 15-20 minutes before I took any questions.
“Later that night, I asked him again, 'Mr. Casotti, what are my chances?’ And this time he said, 'You know, I think it’s fourth and short.’ Sure enough, 24 hours after I had come to campus, they offered me the job.”
He cited the team effort to rebuild the program. “We had tremendous coaching talent,” Mac noted. “There were twelve guys on my staffs that were or went on to be head coaches. I pulled out a (CU) media guide today and figured out that we had sixty-eight guys make it in the NFL. Sixty-eight. We were blessed.”
He ended with, “Someone once said, 'Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living.’ If this is true, then the McCartney family is living high.”
And with that, the University of Colorado had inducted class number six into its Athletic Hall of Fame, with the seventh edition to be selected in the fall of 2008. In the meantime, this year’s group will be honored Friday night on the Boulder Mall (7 p.m.) and at halftime of Saturday’s football game against Texas Tech (kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.).