Dec 092003
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

Since 1991, CSU has had six athletic directors, but in that time

many of the CSU sports have seen sustained success never seen

before in the school’s history.

Although many people involved in CSU athletics are excited by

the probability of new AD and Fort Collins native Mark Driscoll

holding the job for many years, the lack of a long-standing

athletic director has not been much of a roadblock for many CSU

sports.

“I think the credit for the success in the individual sports

goes to the student athletes and coaches,” said Jeff Hathaway, AD

at the University of Connecticut and former CSU AD. “At CSU, they

have outstanding coaches.”

The football team has gone to seven bowl games in 10 years and

won five conference titles after going to only two bowl games in

the previous 100 years of competition.

The volleyball team has had nine consecutive 20-win seasons,

including two 30-win campaigns and three conference

championships.

The women’s basketball team has a 197-58 regular season record

in the past eight seasons after a 236-309 record in its first 21

years.

Driscoll said the past ADs at CSU have been smart enough not to

mettle with successful head coaches like football coach Sonny

Lubick and volleyball coach Tom Hilbert.

“These staffs are as good as anybody in the country,” Driscoll

said. “You don’t try to micromanage a Sonny Lubick.”

Lubick said the ADs in his 10-year tenure have done good things

for the program, but it has taken them time to adjust to the setup

of the athletic department and relationships between CSU and other

schools.

“It slows the process of trying to get things continuously

going,” Lubick said.

Driscoll is in charge of the 15 varsity sports at CSU. On Oct.

31, Driscoll announced that women’s water polo would become the

school’s 16th sport to meet a NCAA requirement.

Along with CSU President Larry Penley, Driscoll is in charge of

hiring and firing CSU coaches. He also is in charge of receiving

and allocating donations to the department, voting for CSU on

decisions about the Mountain West Conference and the NCAA.

Hathaway, who was AD at CSU from 2001-2003, and Tim Wieser, the

CSU AD from 1997-2001 before leaving for Kansas State, both left

for higher-profile schools they had a history at. Hilbert said CSU

has to fight to keep both ADs and coaches from going to

higher-paying or higher-profile schools by selling the quality of

life in Fort Collins.

Hathaway said his philosophy in hiring coaches has always been

to go after the highest quality person for the job, regardless of

how long they may stay.

“I would never want to short-change quality because I was

concerned if he is going to stay two years, five years or 10

years,” Hathaway said of how he interviews potential coaching

candidates.

Gary Ozzello, athletic media relations director and associate

AD, said CSU’s ADs have, for the most part, left the program in

better shape than when they arrived.

“The people we’ve had here as athletic directors might have

moved onto other places, but left it a better place when they

left,” Ozzello said.

Donations to the athletic department have been more than $1

million every year since 1993 and over $2 million since 1995. A

donation by Pat Stryker, president of the Bohemian Foundation, a

non-profit community organization, made the 2002-2003 fiscal year

the highest ever total for athletic department donations. Stryker

donated $15.2 million to the athletic department, making the total

$17.86 million for the year.

Another a widely agreed upon reason for the Rams sustained

success is the stability of the athletic department staff. Ozzello

and associate ADs Marsha Smeltzer and Christine Susmihl have a

combined 71 years experience in CSU’s athletic department.

“The strength of any organization is going to be the people,”

said Bret Gilliland, associate commissioner for the Mountain West

Conference, which the Rams compete in.

Hilbert said the volleyball team has been able to sustain

success in part by the dedication of all the ADs to give the

volleyball team a fair share of the athletic department budget.

“All the athletic directors have had a pretty equitable

philosophy when it comes to funding,” Hilbert said.

However, many CSU coaches and players said that ADs do not have

much direct effect on recruiting.

“I didn’t know the athletic director from last year at all,”

said sophomore cornerback Ben Stratton. “Directly, the AD is not a

real specific point that athletes are looking for, but the AD is

kind of they guy behind the scenes that make everything work.”

However, transfer students like running back Marcus Houston

might pay a little more attention to the AD.

“The athletic administration has been very beneficial in my

process becoming a Ram,” said Houston, who had a mandatory transfer

year of ineligibility waived by the NCAA prior to the 2003 football

season. “It’s refreshing to be around people that have a genuine

concern for the welfare of students.”

Driscoll said he hopes to continue in his predecessors’

footsteps and advance the program further.

“The only challenge,” he said, “is getting up to speed and being

a quick learner.”

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