Done in by Justin Timberlake

by Gary Kimsey

The 2006-07 school year was the 115th anniversary of the founding of the Rocky Mountain Collegian—and it seemed ironically appropriate that the newspaper dipped into a smattering of history while reporting and commenting on news at Colorado State University.

It started with a song.

During the previous 2005 football season, a new tradition had slipped into CSU pigskin games: the singing of “Fum’s Song.” It was a “war-cry-like ditty, written to breathe life into CSU’s rivalries,” the newspaper reported.

The song featured a historical sound track by a CSU athletic hero, Thurman “Fum” McGraw, who sang the song during his days as a student and fraternity member as a way to playfully jab at rival schools. He died at age 73 in 2000 after a lifetime of commitment and service to the university.

{Learn more about Fum McGraw.}

In the 2005 football season, CSU fans sang along with the recording of McGraw’s deep, booming voice between the third and fourth quarters while his larger-than-life image was shown on Hughes Stadium’s big screen.

The song focused on such opponents at Colorado College and University of Denver (known as “C.C.” and “D.U.,” respectively, in the lyrics), University of Wyoming and, among others, of course, the archrival University of Colorado.

Fum’s Song used the term “Aggies”—CSU’s long-time nickname—and went like this:

“I’ll sing you a song of college days
And tell you where to go
Aggie’s where knowledge is,
Boulder spends your dough.
C.C. for your sissy boys,
Utah for your times,
D.U. for your ministers,
For drunkards, School of Mines.
Don’t send my boy to Wyoming U.,
A dying mother said;
Don’t send my boy to Brigham Young,
I’d rather see him dead,
But send him to the ole Aggies,
‘Tis better than Cornell,
Before I’d see him in Boulder,
I’d see my son in Hell!”

As the Rams’ season got underway in late August 2006, the Collegian published a banner front-page headline that surprised many readers: “CSU sacks Fum’s Song.” An accompanying article said the athletic department and university administration decided to forego the tune because it was “too offensive to play at games.” Within days, the Denver Post and other media outlets in the state picked up on the story.

Alumni Association president Tom Field, who was also a CSU animal sciences professor, was so upset with the banning of Fum's Song that had his students sing the tune. "Dozens of giggling students sang along, none as passionately as Field," the Collegian reported. "'Western movies have John Wayne,"' he said before the group singing. "We have Fum McGraw."'

Alumni Association president Tom Field, who was also a CSU animal sciences professor, was critical of the banning of Fum’s Song. In his classroom, he had his students sing the tune. “Dozens of giggling students sang along, none as passionately as Field,” the Collegian reported. “‘Western movies have John Wayne,”‘ he said before the group singing. “We have Fum McGraw.”‘ Photo by Tanner Bennett, the Collegian’s assistant multimedia editor in 2006.

“Poking fun at other institutions wasn’t necessarily good for our institution,” the Collegian reported the athletic department’s spokesperson as saying in explanation of why the song was banned.

The Collegian took the athletic department and university to task in editorials.

“So what if our fight song isn’t nice?” one editorial pointed out. “Watching sports without rivalry and trash talking is like eating ice cream filling without the two Oreos on the side. Sure, the cream filling is what you are really after, but it needs those two chocolate wafers on the sides to complete the circle of tasty goodness.”

The Collegian focused hard on covering news related to the ban.

The newspaper reported the Alumni Association’s president, Tom Field, who was also an animal sciences professor, was critical of the ban and had his 100 freshmen students sing the tune. In another article, the newspaper reported on an enterprising student who began printing and selling “Fum You” shirts. She sold more than 60 shirts at $15 a piece within three days.

The Collegian also reported that CSU president Larry Penley did not even know the popular song had been banned.

Finally, the athletic department admitted the ban was its own “business decision” because some supporters did not like it.

“We weren’t aware that appeasing the humorless was part of the CSU athletic department’s business mission,” the Collegian editorialized. “In our naivety, we thought it was to build school spirit, unity between alumni and students and keep our school on the national radar.”

The student government became involved and, in a rare moment of political camaraderie with the student newspaper, actually agreed with the Collegian and passed a resolution to continue the singing of the song during games.

Thurman "Fum" McGraw during a practice at the College Avenue gym during his Colorado A&M days (now CSU).

Thurman “Fum” McGraw during a practice at the College Avenue gym during his Colorado A&M days (now CSU). Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Collegian.

In the meantime, a CSU football star, Kyle Bell, who was sidelined for the season with an injury, started a supportive Facebook page that soon had 2,500 followers, the Collegian reported. “They banned ‘Fum’s Song’ at football games—screw it, we’ll sing it anyway,” Bell’s Facebook site said.

In ensuing games that season, song advocates passed out fliers printed with the song’s words on them. It turned out that students knew what to sing but not when to sing the song, the Collegian reported.

The athletic department decided to broadcast a different tune between the third and fourth quarters when Fum’s Song was traditionally front and center. The replacement was a popular NSYNC song featuring Justin Timberlake, so far from a fight song that it was ridiculous.

In an editorial titled “Touche, athletic department. Touche,” the Collegian all but admitted defeat—a tough solo to sing, pardon the pun—by directing this message to the athletic department:

“Not only did you stymie ‘Fum’s Song,” you added insult to injury by blaring Justin Timberlake in Fum’s stead…and you are supposed to be the ones preaching sportsmanship…If we let NSYNC put the final nail in this tradition, who knows what CSU tradition Mr. Timberlake will kill next.”

Touche. Touche.