Sep 072010
 
Authors: Ian Bezek

While Saturday’s 24-3 defeat at the hands of the Colorado Buffaloes at Invesco Field was a disappointing enough experience, it has left me with an even more bitter taste.

You see, when I got to CSU in the fall of 2006, a bright new period for the football and men’s basketball teams was allegedly beginning.
But during my time at CSU, while we’ve fielded a lot of competitive teams, genuine greatness has been in short supply.

My best memories of CSU athletics both occurred in my first semester here. The first was our 14-10 victory over CU in the Rocky Mountain Showdown in September of 2006; the other was our thrilling 84-83 home victory over Kansas State in men’s basketball – an upset that left me hoarse for a week.

Since then, our teams have generally had less success, not more. While this has been disappointing, I understand the struggle to consistently field quality teams.

What has left me baffled, though, has been the considerable sum of goodwill and money that has been spent to achieve our lackluster athletic performance.

In particular, the stunning decision to relieve Sonny Lubick of his coaching duties of the football team still angers me. Lubick built CSU football from virtually nothing to a perpetual competitor that won six conference titles and three bowl games.

His record was so good, in fact, that when Pat Stryker decided to donate money to make renovations at Hughes Stadium, she demanded that the stadium be re-named to honor Lubick.

So while our stadium now includes Lubick’s name, even still, CSU decided to fire him.

What we got instead, was a new coach who is paid more (he received a $150,000 raise over what Lubick had been making according to the Denver Post) but who has managed to lose an appalling 10 consecutive games.

It’s not just the coaching change in football that raises eyebrows. Since I’ve been at CSU, we’ve also had a new men’s basketball coach and a new athletic director, and yet CSU athletics are in no better condition than when I arrived.

The other pity with our athletics has been the amount of money that
we’ve channeled into the programs without achieving results.
Throughout my time at CSU, student fees have sharply risen with large portions of the increases going to athletics.

We’ve also spent $20 million on new athletic facilities. These were supposed to be a springboard for us to recruit better players, build enthusiasm in the athletics programs and help our teams to be able to train and prepare better for the competition.

While it may still be premature to judge the results, the early signs of this idea seem to indicate that we still aren’t attracting the types of players we need to rise to the upper reaches of the Mountain West Conference.

Back in February of 2008, Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk said, “I’m not a happy person right now. Most people in our department want us to be better than we are. I know our fans do, I know our students do.
But, anytime you are trying to rebuild a program and really trying to create a culture, it is a long term process.”

I’m willing to grant him that it takes awhile to turn a program around. But it’s been two-and-a-half years since then and things don’t seem to be changing. Kowalczyk also said in 2008 about athletics that they are “an investment in the future.” How long must we wait for this investment to pay off?

If student fees are going to rise and donors are going to be urged to support athletics, rather than perhaps supporting academics, we need to receive results. Particularly in a time when state funding for the university is already low and could fall further yet, we cannot afford to divert more and more donor money and student fees into a perpetually-rebuilding athletic department.

I want our teams to succeed on the field and court. If they do, I believe it will help the university’s reputation and pay financial benefits as well.

But unjust firing of coaches does just the opposite, hurting our reputation. And unless our athletic performance rises, it isn’t fair to ask students for more fee increases. We can do better with the resources we already have.
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Ian Bezek is a senior economics major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com._

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