PUEBLO, Colorado — It's the largest gift in the university's history. The nonprofit group Friends of Football voted this month to donate the Thunderbowl football stadium and other assets on the CSU Pueblo campus to the university's foundation.
The charity raised more than $13 million to build the facilities and help create football, wrestling, and women's track and field programs at the university beginning in the 2008-2009 season.
"I remain grateful to the DeRose family, to the Friends of Football for breathing new life into our university and our campus," said University President Dr. Timothy Mottet.
It's a bittersweet transition. The Friends group also voted to dissolve their organization after the transition is complete this August. That means the campus will lose a longtime booster of college athletics.
The CSU Pueblo Foundation will have to take up the mantel of supporting athletics programs moving forward.
"They helped transform our campus into what we are today," said Todd Kelly, President/CEO of the CSU Pueblo Foundation. "I can't thank them enough for that, I also can't thank them enough for trusting the foundation with these assets."
The news of the gift publicly exposes a divide between the Friends and president Mottet. The DeRose family has asked that their name be removed from the stadium.
Dan DeRose said that the Friends feel like the university has been heading in the opposite direction of the values, beliefs, and priorities of his group for quite some time.
Mottet said that's hard to hear.
"It is, and I'm disappointed by that but I'd like to learn more from them about where they are unhappy," Dr. Mottet said.
He believes the recent decision by the Colorado State University System to mandate that all students and staff be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus in the fall played a role in the split.
"I believe that was probably a driver in this decision because I think they're unhappy with that decision," he said.
Mottet supports the vaccine mandate because he has to protect health and safety on campus. He said two university employees and one student have died from the virus during the pandemic. He sees the vaccine requirement as the best approach to return campus life to normal.
The vaccine mandate may also be extended to football fans attending games in the fall.
DeRose said the mandate is only a small part of the story, "but it's a great example" of the disagreements the group has had with the president's office.