It is supposed to be a party in the parking lot and stand on Saturdays at Nottingham Field. Many longtime season ticket holders are planning to tailgate and have fun together at the University of Northern Colorado’s home opener.
The sport represents much more than just football for these supporters. It’s about family, friends and spending time together.
Many supporters attended the season opener at the University of Colorado, and a handful went to Houston Baptists, but it’s different when the game is on a local turf.
“We’ve fixed (our tailgate) with about four other families, but we’ll look at 100 people we know, easy,” Larsen said. “The social thing is big part of it. And, as a small businessman, I’d love to spend my money with the community here.”
Many of his friends also have similar ties to the UNC. Participating in sports together is a way to support their alma mater, local students, and to maintain friendships as engaged adults. He said that Larson and several families together participate in football, basketball and volleyball as much as possible.
In fact, Larson said, people in his friend group want UNC to succeed. But if the teams lose, it doesn’t matter much. They’ve stuck to the program through the good, the bad and the ugly, and plan to keep it that way.
“Teams are going to have their ups and downs, so we’re not fans of fair weather,” Larsson said. “We’re going to support the teams no matter what.”
The Larson family has a long history with UNC, with family members attending school in the 1930s. Larson and his son competed on the track and cross country teams, while his wife Maureen also earned her degree through university.
Additionally, Larsen sponsors new football coaches which airs every Tuesday on KFKA and scholarships for track and field athletes.
“There are a lot of people we see there and good people in the community who have been around for a long time,” Larson continued. “You develop those friendships, so it’s not about winning or losing for all of us. It’s about the people we look up to, and support the UNC community.”
Former UNC athlete, administrator and public announcer Tom Barbour will also be at the game.
Barbour attended UNC back when it was still called Colorado State College. He was a freshman in 1969 and spent one season as a football walk-on. Ultimately, Barbour decided that football was not for him, but stuck around the schedule.
In fact, Barber spent time as principal communications manager for the athletic department until 1983, before taking on some other central administration roles. He left the university in 2000 as a full-time employee.
Even after spending more than three decades on campus, Barbour — a UNC Hall of Famer — returned to what he calls football and basketball from 2006 to 2016.
“More than half of my life has been spent on the UNC campus. It has just been part of me,” Barbour said. “I grew up in Denver, and most people ask me how I got into Greek. I tell them, ‘I came to Greely to come to school, and I haven’t been home yet.’ Greely is my home. And the biggest reason for this is the university.”
Barbour has been a season ticket holder since Nottingham Field opened in 1995, with the same tailgating spot, B3, since 2011.
Like Larson, Barber is excited to be back after almost two years. He looks forward to doing a lot with friends he hasn’t seen in a while. Plus, they all look forward to finally seeing UNC coach Ed McCaffrey with the new ground on edge at Greeley.
McCaffrey was hired in 2019, but did not make his debut until September 3 due to COVID-19. The team planned to play in the spring, but concerns about health and safety eventually led to the cancellation of the season.
The Bears are now 1-1 with two good performances and people are expecting good things.
“This place really has conference championships and an amazing football history of great players,” said Barbour. “It lost some of its luster for a while, but with Ed being named head coach, it put him back on the map almost immediately. It will be great fun to see what he does with his schedule.”
UNC will face FCS rival Lamar at 2 pm on Saturday. As of Friday afternoon, tickets for the game were still available. If fans cannot attend, the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Face masks must be worn in all public indoor places on the premises.