Editor’s note: This is the third and final part of a three-part series examining the athletic department.
The CSU athletic department is not competitive financially and must change to be competitive within the Mountain West Conference, various coaches from CSU have said.
Tom Hilbert, head coach of CSU’s volleyball team, believes the athletic department needs help from a variety of sources to improve.
“Our athletics need help, but it takes the university, community and state support to get there,” Hilbert said.
Despite the fact that CSU’s volleyball team has been to 11 straight NCAA tournaments, Hilbert said the team still has a hard time recruiting against better-known athletic programs.
“I am still regularly getting beat in recruiting, despite the fact that our volleyball program is top-notch and we have some of the best playing facilities for volleyball in the country,” Hilbert said. “We have proven we are better than some teams such as Iowa, but their athletic programs as a whole are more competitive.”
Hilbert said he believes new athletic director Paul Kowalczyk is a good fit, but admits changes in the athletic department “will not happen overnight.”
Men’s basketball coach Dale Layer also said he believes it takes more than one person to change the mentality of the athletic department.
“We need to engage the administration, fans, students and the community,” he said.
Layer also understands that CSU’s athletics are at a financial disadvantage to opponents they play throughout the year.
“Financially we are not up to par with other schools in the conference,” Layer said. “Our facilities are in need of help. We must continue to do more with less, but we can’t use that as an excuse to why we don’t succeed.”
Jen Warden, the women’s basketball coach, said she believes her team is on the rise despite the department’s shortcomings.
“I do believe this program will eventually be a top 25 program, but I also know we are not one now,” Warden said. “I think we need to recognize that the athletic budget situation is a universal problem that is happening around the country, it’s not just a CSU issue.”
Warden said one thing the athletic department must do is continue its strong bond with the community.
“When the team does well I believe the community also benefits,” Warden said. “Something that originally attracted me to CSU was the relationship between the town and the school.”
Del Hassel, who is retiring as CSU’s track and field coach at the end of the season, said CSU has improved over the years and will continue its improvement.
“I was here the first time in the 1970s as a coach, and the school has grown tremendously, academically and as an athletic department,” Hessel said.
Hessel said CSU’s in-state reputation could improve when it comes to sports.
“I believe we have a stronger reputation as an athletic department outside the state than we do in Colorado,” Hessel said.
Head football coach Sonny Lubick was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said he believes the football team will contend for years to come.
“Football-wise, we definitely have a bright future,” Hammerschmidt said. “We have some NFL prospects and the recent recruiting classes are as good as I have seen in 10 years.”
Hammerschmidt said recent upgrades to the McGraw Athletic Center and Hughes Stadium make it easier to recruit against other more-known schools.
“The stadium upgrades make us just like all the big schools, all the BCS schools,” Hammerschmidt said.
He is also looking forward to working with Kowalcyzk.
“He is an ex-football player and he knows how to be a moneymaker just like (former Athletic Director) Jeff Hathaway,” Hammerschmidt said.
In Hathaway’s last year as athletic director (2002-2003), CSU’s teams appeared in seven national postseason tournaments and won four Mountain West crowns. Hathaway also secured a $15.2 million donation from the Bohemian Foundation for upgrades on Hughes Stadium.
Paul Kowalcyzk begins his tenure at CSU on May 17.
Mike Donovan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org