Note to Reporters: The “Football 101” tailgate at Ag Day will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 in Ram Town next to Hughes Stadium. For more information on Ag Day, go to http://agday.agsci.colostate.edu/.
In 2002, Kaizer Cooper arrived from Mumbai eager to start a master’s program at the Colorado State University College of Business and experience American culture for the first time.
The furor over football was the one thing he didn’t comprehend.
“I thought, ‘Why are all these kids asking me to watch a game and what game?” said Cooper, who grew up in India with cricket and soccer. “You drop everything because there’s an Air Force game? Why go so many hours before a game?”
Cooper’s experience is common at American universities, leading the International Alumni Engagement committee of the CSU Alumni Association Board of Directors to collaborate with Ram Athletics and the Office of International Programs to create a unique program called “Football 101.” A briefing session was held Aug. 29 with 80 international students learning about “downs”, tailgating and the words to the CSU Fight Song.
This Saturday, as many as 150 international students have tickets to attend an Ag Day tailgate with alumni and other volunteers who can help explain what’s happening as the Rams play Weber State at Hughes Stadium.
Gary Ozzello, senior associate athletic director, said the students have surprised him with some insightful questions.
“A couple of students from Nepal know more about football than I do,” Ozzello said with a laugh, adding that most questions at the Aug. 29 briefing were fairly basic. “What’s a play? What’s a first down? Why do people jingle their keys? It’s a new world for a lot of these students. What was really apparent is that passion for sports is universal and they seemed anxious and enthusiastic to learn about American football.”
More than 1,000 international students from 80 countries are enrolled at Colorado State. They come from all over the world – from Albania to Vietnam – to obtain their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Another 300 international scholars work as assistant professors, research scientists, research associates and post-doctoral fellows.
“Football 101 provides a bridge to American culture and college life,” said Mark Hallett, director of International Student and Scholar Services. “New international students are introduced to the rules of football and hosted by the Alumni Association at the first home game. Football 101 helps them to integrate into the larger campus community and feel pride in being a CSU Ram.”
As with Cooper, a little support can encourage these students to attend future games.
Cooper, who is a member of the International Alumni Engagement committee, started attending his first Ram football games while still a student. Now a senior information technology associate at Ernst & Young in Denver, he attends at least two games a year in Fort Collins and tailgates. He’ll attend the festivities this Saturday.
“A lot of international students are operating in their own little silos and laboratories,” Cooper said. “They don’t quite get to see the social aspects in the United States apart from academics. I thought a lot of kids were left out and that’s why they lacked school spirit and didn’t feel strongly for their school. Being part of a team and cheering for a team gives you a sense of belonging.
“I love it.”