A Message from Jack Graham

Jan 162012
Authors: Jack Graham

Welcome back and Happy New Year.

While you were away enjoying a well-deserved break from classes, there was a great deal of discussion and media attention focused on CSU’s athletic department. Along the way, the Denver Post suggested that, even with a new football coach, we would be content to have a .500 football team, and the Collegian commented that our proposal to build an on-campus stadium is a great idea, but something that will fade when “reality sets in.”

I guess I have a different view. As your new Athletic Director, I don’t intend to settle for mediocrity in anything. We are committed to excellence –– and to more than just “thinking big.” We are committed to making things happen.

I welcome opinions both for and in opposition of an on-campus stadium –– differing views keep balance and discipline in the process. Differing views make us better. Tough questions can drive better solutions, and asking questions is part of our mission as a university. Still, beyond the right to express our opinions, each of us has an obligation to seek and speak the truth and to be part of the solution. There is always room for skepticism, but there’s no room for cynicism –– it has no value and it becomes an excuse.

How we talk about ourselves matters. “What we say” is a leading indicator of what we believe about ourselves; and what we believe about ourselves significantly defines our results. And results matter.
What we experience defines what we believe. For example, going 3-9 over three seasons would lead one to believe that we are not very good at football.

Believing we are not good will influence our language: “We’re no good and it doesn’t matter what I do … we won’t win anyway”. All of us have heard this train of thought.

Our beliefs significantly define our actions. If I believe that what I do doesn’t matter, then why work out hard? Why practice hard?

Our actions define our results. If we don’t work out and practice hard, a losing season is a logical result.

Statements that CSU’s efforts to improve are pointless and that all great ideas will die from “the daily grind and reality” is, to me, a reflection of a defeatist and unproductive mindset.

And that is not who or what we are. We live, attend and work at a great university –– one of the best in the country. This university has accomplished great things and we will continue to accomplish great things because there are people here who are willing to take risks, think big, work hard and pursue new and innovative ideas. Consider the Peace Corps –– that probably seemed like a wild idea to many back in the early ‘60s, but not to Professor Maury Albertson. The University Center for the Arts? There were a lot of people who said that it would never get done, but now it’s a source of pride for our entire community and region. One of the nation’s top business schools? Ours is now the best in the state and among the very best in the country because Dean Ajay Menon and the College faculty decided to make it happen.

I know that we are far from perfect, and I want to emphasize that I am not espousing a “Pollyanna-ish” culture. But talking about what is great about our University, not just what is wrong, will change what we believe about ourselves. This in turn will define how we act. And our actions define our results. Cynicism is a bad speaking habit that’s toxic to any organization –– and it can be changed.

When I took over as your Athletic Director, Tony Frank told me to “Dream big … work hard … and settle for nothing less than excellence.” I say without hesitation that those who are cynical about our future are wrong: I will not settle for .500. Our coaches will not settle for .500. Coach Mac wants to win every game, Tom Hilbert has never settled for anything less than excellence and Tim Miles and our other fine coaches have us on a great path. I expect to win every game in every sport in which CSU competes. Collectively, we should expect nothing less and we owe nothing less to this university, its alumni and its students.

Please join me in changing the conversation –– our university will be a better place if we do.

Jack Graham is the Colorado State University Athletic Director.

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