Sonny Lubick spent his final press conference at CSU doing what he has always done.
He told stories, cracked jokes and showed emotions 15 years in the making in front of hundreds of fans, boosters and players Tuesday afternoon in Moby Arena.
One thing he did not do was hint to what his future will hold.
After Athletics Director Paul Kowalczyk asked Lubick to step down on Nov. 18, Lubick said he has yet to begin considering his next move.
“Well, everything happened kind of quickly, as one can imagine,” Lubick said. “I have no plans right now to even speculate on that.”
Lubick has an option written into his contract to take a new position in the department, which Kowalczyk said would be assisting in fundraising and program development.
Kowalczyk apologized for any confusion created by a press release Monday that suggested Lubick had been offered a position as “senior associate athletic director,” and that Lubick has all the time he needs to make a decision.
“He knows right now that he has time to do whatever he wishes to do,” Kowalczyk said. “He is always welcome to return. If Sonny wants a position with this university, he’ll have one.”
Kowalczyk said the decision to remove Lubick as head coach was the “most difficult” of his years in athletics.
“Sonny has represented Colorado State University with the utmost dignity and professionalism,” said Kowalczyk before introducing Lubick to a crowd of over 300 reporters, boosters, players and fans. “That’s why I struggled with a decision I felt had to be made.”
“In the end I felt it was time for a change in the football program, and 10 days ago I asked Sonny to step down and consider helping the university in another capacity,” he added.
Kowalczyk met with Lubick a day after the team’s second win of the season over Georgia Southern Nov. 17, and asked Lubick if he was considering retiring.
Lubick said he simply told Kowalczyk, “No.”
The athletics director then asked Lubick to step down, hoping to give him the opportunity to enjoy his final week as CSU’s head coach and his final game, a win last Friday against Wyoming.
“The thinking was to talk to him in advance — if this is it — and for him to relish that final moment, that final game . that it would be more special that way,” Kowalczyk said. “I don’t think it turned out that way.”
Players frustrated with decision
Lubick met with the team before the press conference Tuesday, notifying them for the first time that he had been asked to step down, news that came as a disappointment to many of the players.
“Well we were all just kind of confused about what was going on,” said senior quarterback Caleb Hanie. “After the (Wyoming) game I kind of thought he had made his own decision, but as things played out, it didn’t turn out that way.”
Hanie said he and other players were upset to learn Lubick hadn’t been able to go out on his own terms.
“I just feel a little bitter toward the university leaving a legendary coach like him out to dry — kind of forcing him out,” he said. “We just wanted Coach Lubick to be able to do whatever he wants to do.”
Lubick, known for his grace and even-keeled personality, didn’t say if he was frustrated with how the decision was handled.
“What’s done is done,” Lubick said. “I’m not gonna get caught up in that, that’s for sure.”
Negotiations have been ongoing since the season’s close in relation to Lubick’s contract, as well as that of his assistants.
If Lubick declines the new position with the program, he will still make his base of $259,000 per year the next two years. If he accepts, he will make that plus an additional $75,000 each year.
Lubick’s staff will be paid for three months or until they find a new position elsewhere.
Lubick became emotional when talking about his assistants, both current and former, whom he thanked repeatedly.
“How can you not be loyal to guys that give up their whole damn life for you?” Lubick said. “Wins and losses come and go, but the relationships will not.”
Wrapping up the hour-long press conference, Lubick made it clear he has no ill feelings toward the university he brought so much success to on and off the football field since his hiring in 1993.
“Now, at Colorado State, we can look back with pride . at all we accomplished,” Lubick said. “And we look to the future with hope. And there is hope. And the future will get better.
“I’ll be a Ram until the end of time.”
Football Beat Reporter Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.