Steve Fairchild, CSU football’s 19th head coach, officially reintroduced himself to Fort Collins Thursday, speaking with members of the media and boosters in his first official press conference as the Rams’ head coach.
Fairchild spoke for 15 minutes via teleconference from Buffalo, N.Y., about his visions of the program’s future and his excitement for the opportunity, reiterating the need for “good character people, hard work, and discipline,” to turn around a team that posted three wins this season.
“I’m very honored and excited to be the next head football coach with Colorado State,” Fairchild said. “It’s great to be back.”
A former CSU quarterback in the 80s and assistant coach through the 90s, Fairchild is currently employed as the offensive coordinator of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and has seven years of NFL experience.
Fairchild said that he will be staying with the Bills until the end of the NFL season in January, but he will be calling current players, recruits and possible assistant coaches for the next month in order to hit the ground running when he makes the jump to CSU.
Athletic director Paul Kowalczyk said that he met with Fairchild last Friday in Buffalo for a face-to-face interview. After taking the weekend to think it over, Kowalczyk made an offer on Monday, to which Fairchild was quick to say yes.
“One second, with a big grin on my face,” Fairchild said of the time it took to make his decision.
While Kowalczyk said that Fairchild was one of three different serious candidates for the job, he was the only one that the director met in person and the only one to receive an offer.
“He was right at the top (of the list), no doubt about that,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s definitely the right guy for the job.”
In order to woo Fairchild from the NFL, the athletic department offered a hefty, incentives-laden contract worth more than any other in the program’s history.
Fairchild will receive $350,000 in guaranteed money along with an additional $350,000 in media and public relations money each year, making him the third-highest paid coach in the Mountain West. The contract locks Fairchild up for the next five years and could be worth more than $1 million per year if all the incentives are met.
Before incentives, the $700,000 is about $150,000 more than Sonny Lubick ever made in his 15 years with the team.
The athletic department also bolstered the budget for assistant coaches by $300,000, bringing the total budget for assistants to $1.15 million per year.
Fairchild already has his defensive coordinator picked out in former Duke coach Larry Kerr. Kerr was the defensive coordinator at CSU during the same period as Fairchild, and he helped implement the Tampa Two defense that the Rams still run.
Along with Kerr, Sonny Lubick’s son, Marc Lubick, has been retained as an assistant coach. Last year Lubick was the wide receivers coach for the team, but he said that he did not know what his duties would be in the coming season. Tom Ehlers will also remain on staff as the director of football operations, his position in the department for the last three years.
Fairchild said that he has no timetable for hiring the rest of his staff and said that he would be handling the majority of the offensive coordinator’s duties for the time being.
“I’m going to have to address that at a later date.it’s something that I will be heavily involved in at first,” Fairchild said of the offense.
Reaction from the crowd of boosters and fans at Thursday’s press conference was generally positive for Fairchild, with the new coach receiving a round of applause from those who were there when he was announced.
Bill Schaffter, a booster from Fort Collins, said that Kowalczyk’s hiring of Fairchild was a safe play for the director to make, given the unrest that the community has felt over the removal of Sonny Lubick.
“I think its very positive, the hire, but I think that Paul (Kowalczyk) made the safe hire,” Schaffter said. “I think the last couple of weeks have been 99 percent negative and so (Kowalczyk) wanted a little positive.”
Kowalczyk himself joked about the unrest, but said that so far, the community’s reaction to Fairchild has been positive.
“I haven’t quite gone from the outhouse to the penthouse yet,” Kowalczyk said, “but the reaction has been favorable.”