A fresh era has dawned on CSU athletics with the introduction of a new athletic director.
Already donning green and gold, Paul Kowalczyk, the current director of athletics at Southern Illinois University, was introduced Tuesday by CSU president Larry Penley.
“He is exactly the individual that CSU needs at this time,” said Penley. “We are absolutely thrilled.”
According to Penley, the university went through an extensive search, talking with “in excess of 60 and less than 100” candidates. The 14-member board, which included two students and one athlete (the names were kept anonymous), hired an athletic director just 12 days after Mark Driscoll departed on March 31.
Time was of the essence for the university not only because of the recent resignation, but also the disarray of the CSU athletic department. With budget problems and certain programs performing below expectations, a new athletic director could provide the department with a new vision and steer it in the right direction.
“I think the timing is right,” Kowalczyk said. “I understand the importance of a good, well-rounded education and will focus on building a successful athletics program on and off the field.”
While Kowalczyk will have a bigger budget to work with at CSU, he noted that Colorado State faces more arduous opponents (compared with SIU) such as BYU and Utah. On top of that, CSU’s $15 million budget is small in relation to other Mountain West Conference schools’ budgets.
“We’re just going to have to take the time to build it,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Kowalczyk brings more than 20 years experience in athletic administration to CSU.
During his six years at SIU, he took the athletic program to new heights. His impressive track record there includes revamping sports with underperforming revenues and hiring coaches who can get the job done. Those same two things will need to be addressed and improved here at CSU.
“If we’re patient, we will get there,” Kowalczyk said. “I have no question about it.”
Kowalczyk was hired for this very reason.
“He understands exactly what a university needs,” said Jordan Wilson, a sports reporter at SIU’s student newspaper, The Daily Egyptian. “He was tremendous (at Southern Illinois).”
The 48-year-old Kowalczyk, who was accompanied by his wife Peg, made a point to note how impressed he was with CSU, it’s staff and the Fort Collins community. But at the same time, he wanted to address the students. Kowalczyk noted that there were two words that students like to associate with athletics, “free” and “winning.”
“I want to win. I want our program to win,” he said. “I also want those stands to be full.”
One problem that CSU has faced with athletic directors has been keeping them around. The last three, Driscoll (2003-2006), Jeff Hathaway (2001-2003) and Tim Weiser (1997-2001) have all left within three years. Kowalczyk said this shouldn’t be a problem.
“When I hunker down, I’m committed,” he said. “I couldn’t be more excited and honored,”
Kowalczyk, who signed a five-year contract worth $225,000 per year, will begin his duties starting May 17.