After 27 years Mark Driscoll is back where he began his march to greatness: at the helm of the Rams.
This time, however, the former CSU quarterback will be leading the Rams with a more complex, complicated role than that of the leader of the offense; for his new position encompasses the university’s entire athletic program.
Aug. 8, before a large audience of media, athletic representatives and others CSU President Larry Penley announced the end of a three-month search for the university’s new Director of Athletics with the hiring of Driscoll.
“Mark is a man of integrity, character, but perhaps most important, he is a man who has great passion as a Ram and great passion for Colorado State University,” Penley said. “He’s a great guy and I know all of you are going to love him.”
Following a lengthy ovation from the audience the slim 50-year-old took to the podium with a smile from ear to ear.
“To think that 32 years ago I wandered on this campus as an 18-year-old freshman football player from La Junta and to think that the experiences I had would then bring me here to stand before you as director of athletics is beyond whatever I could have imagined,” Driscoll said.
It was not a quick, nor easy trip for Driscoll, but one he said was well worth it.
“My association with Colorado State University opened up many, many doors and to this very day continues to open up doors,” he said.
One of those opportunities was in business where the CSU business graduate used his master’s of science in business administration to become President of First National Bank of Colorado.
“Several someones have asked me why I am doing this,” he said. “Well I’m doing it because I want to and because I’m lucky enough to have the chance.”
The search for the position began in June after former Director of Athletics Jeffery Hathaway stepped down from that position to take a similar position at his alma mater the University of Connecticut.
The search process was a lengthy one, said Robert Keller of CSU who headed the nine-member search committee in charge of reviewing the applications of possible candidates for the position.
According to Keller, the committee received and reviewed 88 applications individually before consulting with each other and submitting a list of 10 finalists to Penley.
Penley then interviewed each candidate on the list individually, before coming to his final decision.
“In the time I’ve gotten to know Mark I’ve found a person that I can work with, a person in which I have great confidence, a man that I believe will be a tremendous asset to Colorado, to Colorado State University and to Ram athletics,” Penley said.
Asked whether Driscoll’s hometown roots played a part in his decision, Penley said that aspect of Driscoll was not what sold him on the Fort Collins resident.
“What we wanted was someone with visionary leadership and fine visionary skills,” Penley said. “On top of that we get a man who is a member of the Colorado community and the Fort Collins community. That is important because Colorado State athletics must reach out to that community.”
One of the biggest challenges facing Driscoll as he takes the reigns of the athletic department will be to maintain the high level of integrity the program has developed during the past decade, he said.
“I’m here to hopefully, in a small way, build upon the foundation,” he said. “There is a popular book out now called ‘Good to Great’…this is great to greater. We’re already starting at a very high level with great success in all sports. Academic achievement by our athletes is the best in the conference.”
Another challenge facing Driscoll will be choosing the university’s 13th varsity sport – a task brought about a year ago by an NCAA mandate that all Division-I universities foster 13 varsity sports.
“I knew before taking this position that that would be an issue,” Driscoll said. “It is something that has been in the works for some time so (Associate and interim Director of Athletics) Christine (Susemihl) will have to get me up to speed on that.”
For the time being, Driscoll said he is readying himself for what he hopes to be another long run with the Rams.
“It may have something to do with turning 50,” he said. “I think about what I’ve done and thought this might be the best way for me to work hard and pass the next years of my life.”