Dec 042011
 
Authors: Seth J. Stern

University president Tony isn’t being quite so Frank regarding last week’s decision to fire former Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk and hire new AD Jack Graham, and his decision making process is flawed.

I am fully and completely aware of the importance of healthy football and men’s basketball programs for NCAA Division I schools. The two primary revenue generators across the board have become critical to virtually every other varsity sport’s viability.

Yet this wasn’t the case at Colorado State. Kowalczyk, by all accounts, was responsible for several highly-competitive varsity sports at CSU, with football as the sole inescapable black-eye under his tenure.

Though the firing was certainly questionable in necessity and timing, the hiring process for new AD Jack Graham was simply nonexistent, and this has detracted from Tony Frank’s record of integrity and candor.

Frank said Thursday, “I consider Paul Kowalczyk a friend, but as I’ve watched where Ram athletics are going, I have become concerned about the signal that we are sending to people who view Colorado State University—and form opinions about our university—through the lens of athletics.”

Both basketball programs are coming off successful seasons—not top tier, but certainly not the sub-mediocrity that the football program sustained with identical three-win, nine-loss seasons for three consecutive years.

The cross-country teams both placed in the middle of the pack just three weeks ago at the Mountain Regional Championships, with the ladies taking fifth out of 19 teams.

The swim team, tennis, water polo and both golf teams are all roughly middle of the conference pack. Softball is admittedly a bit weak, but the volleyball team kicked ass and took names this year — again.

Kowalczyk was doing an acceptable job in every other arena, but football is the moneymaker. The game against Air Force had a paltry student attendance –– I was there, and it looked as if the band outnumbered the crowd.

The lack of revenue generated by the football team cost Kowalczyk his job, and that isn’t a major surprise to anyone with an understanding of how important the bottom line is to universities.
But why the rush to fire an AD on the eve of the last and biggest rivalry game of the year with an up-and-coming young opposition coming into town?

This has not been adequately or seriously explained. Is there a justifiable reason Kowalczyk needed to be out by Friday morning? If so, Frank, Graham and Kowalczyk may be the only people in the know.

The football program gasped into Saturday’s Border War loss with all the grace of a wing shot duck succumbing to gravity.

Not only was it the last game for the seniors, but it was the last game for the seniors recruited by Sonny Lubick, an opportunity for these young men to go out with their heads held high and leaving it all out on the field.

They accomplished neither, regardless of the margin of loss.

Though players from both teams showed very little of the class both institutions demand of their athletes in the first half, head coach Steve Fairchild’s ineptitude was on full display before the final gun sounded, and he most assuredly deserved to lose his job.

The most disturbing aspect of this entire ordeal is the incestuous hiring of a former Ram quarterback with utterly no background running an athletic program, without interviewing anyone else. Something is rotten north of Denver.

Tony somehow believed this was the right process. To hire a significant booster as AD apparently as the impetus to fire the existing AD, absent a hiring process and multiple candidates with experience in the task at hand.

Why would anyone assume a CSU alum is best equipped to run a Division I athletic department? Nepotism carries positive connotations to the beneficiary; to the rest of us, it stinks.

By his own account, he intended to discuss fundraising with Graham and instead ended up deciding he was the best man for the job.

How could Frank possibly know he had the best candidate when he interviewed only one? In order to raise more questions about the process, Frank would have had to hire himself or a direct family member to the job.

Above anything else, I hope Graham realizes the most egregious absence at CSU football recently, apart from victories, is tradition. CSU football games have far too few traditions.

If Ram football is ever to return to competitive levels, Hughes Stadium needs to be a hostile environment for opposing teams. Trombone suicides and “GO RAMS!” shouted from the alternating halves of the stadium for 10 seconds one quarter a game isn’t intimidating; it’s boring.

Don’t play the fight song when the offense gains the first down. That’s just sad. No more cannon fire for field goals that don’t put us in the lead.

Switch the benches. The opposition needs to feel the wrath of CSU students breathing down their necks for 60 minutes.

I hope this works out—not solely for football, but for all athletic programs at CSU. But the process stinks.

Seth J. Stern hopes future hiring processes at CSU smell better. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:41 pm

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