Arslanian quickly turned fortunes for Rams football
Sark Arslanian, who reminded the Colorado State football program what it was like to win again, died Sunday afternoon at his home in St. George, Utah. He was 92.
Arslanian spent nine seasons as the Rams’ coach (1973-81), a tenure matched by Bob Davis and exceeded only by Harry Hughes and Sonny Lubick. Under Arslanian’s guidance, the Rams went 45-47-4, with the magical run of 1977 in the middle.
During that season CSU went 9-2-1, highlighted by a win over No. 12 Arizona State. By 1975, the program had just one winning season in the prior 15. Arslanian’s teams had four before he was replaced by Chester Caddas midway through the 1981 season.
“Sark, first of all was always good to me and a good friend, a person I could call on and count on,” said Gary Ozzello, who works in the CSU marketing department and served as the sports information director at the time Arslanian coached. “I look back and Sark brought to Colorado State University some of the most incredible performers ever. When you look at the players he brought in, it’s amazing to think about the level of talent he had here.
“I think he embodies everything we talk about being Rams’ pride.”
Arslanian arrived with the Rams coming off a 1-10 season. He won five games his first year, the Rams led the nation in passing his second year, and in his third season they had a winning record at 6-5.
Mark Driscoll, who played quarterback and coached under Arslanian, remembers a man who was devoted to the people around him.
“He always was a very kind and compassionate person,” said Driscoll, who helped celebrate his former mentor’s 90th birthday in Utah. “I learned a lot from him about that. He had a great way about people; he treated people fairly and always had a compassion for people. He always thought the best of people.
“I have a lot that I owe to Sark Arslanian for what I have in my life.”
Driscoll remembers that trait paying off for Arslanian as a coach, because he was great at talking to families with in-home visits. It allowed Arslanian to raise the talent level at the school, and that showed as many of them played at the next level.
Arslanian was also ahead of the curve in the passing game, putting many of his best athletes on the offensive side of the ball and going to the air at a time when run-first offenses were still the norm.
He had two players, linebacker Kevin McLain (1975) and defensive lineman Mike Bell (1977-78) earn All-America recognition from at least one group, both of them getting first-team acclaim. There were 27 Rams drafted by the NFL while he coached, with Bell being the No. 2 overall pick in 1979. Of the program’s five first-round picks, three played for Arslanian (McLain and Mark Mullaney were the others). Ozzello noted that eight members of the 1977 defense alone played in the NFL.