Dec 012011
 
Authors: Kevin Lytle

CSU President Tony Frank announced Thursday the firing of Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk and the hiring of former CSU football player John C. “Jack” Graham to replace him.

“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,” Frank said.

Frank met with Kowalczyk on Wednesday and let him know of the change.

In his next athletic director, Frank said he was looking to implement a bigger plan for CSU athletics and that he needed new leadership to fulfill that plan.

He thinks he has the man for the job in 59-year-old Graham.

“In Jack we find someone with a big vision for what Ram Athletics can do for Colorado State University,” Frank said. “We find someone whose relentlessly committed to excellence and someone who shares my passion for accountability and not settling for anything less.”

Graham was signed to a five-year contract that will pay him $260,000 per year. Kowalczyk has three-and-a-half years left on his contract after signing an extension through 2015 last year.

Frank said that Kowalczyk will be bought out with all of the money coming from private funding, and that no public funding or student fees will be used.

A 1975 graduate, Graham played quarterback for CSU before being drafted by the Miami Dolphins. Following his football career he went into a lengthy business career.

Graham and Frank started talking over the past weeks after Frank decided to make a change. After Frank convinced Graham that they both had the same passion and vision, Graham decided to end his brief retirement and take on the task of bringing the program to new heights.

His love for CSU and desire to raise its national profile helped lure him to the job.

“In my opinion, it’s one of the best in the country, and in my opinion as well, it’s a really well- kept secret,” Graham said of CSU. “There aren’t really a lot of people outside the immediate CSU community that know how great our university is.”

For Graham the best way to bring the notoriety that he feels CSU deserves is through success in athletics.

And he has a plan for how the program will reach the levels it needs to.

“There are three things at the top of our list,” Graham said. “Number one: This will be a program of squeaky clean integrity…Number two is what I call academic excellence. We graduate more student-athletes than the general population at CSU and that will be maintained…The third thing is we’re going to win. We are going to win.”

Graham will have an immediate decision to make about the football program. He said that it is too early to speculate on football coach Steve Fairchild’s future and that he will make a decision “within a timeline that’s appropriate.”

Graham also added that “there’s some good things happening inside CSU athletics; let’s just carry that theme across every single program.”

To transfer that success across the department, Graham’s main focus will be increasing funding, something he feels has been lacking.

He says that even with his impressive professional resume, he was never contacted by CSU to contribute to the athletics program.

That is a problem he vows will change.

“Everyone who’s part of Ram Nation can expect a phone call from me at some point and time because I’m going to ask for help.”

Graham said that he will take every bit of public funding he is entitled to, but will increase donations to make the CSU athletic department completely self-reliant.

As that happens, he expects all 16 of his varsity sports to be in the upper-echelon of their conference.

“Ultimately I want to see our football program be a top-25 ranked football team in the country,” Graham said. “I want to see us play in bowl games every year. I want our basketball programs to be consistently competing for conference titles and championships, I want us in NCAA tournaments.”

The press conference announcing the changes was packed with everyone from media members, to boosters, to players and coaches. The move was a shock to virtually everyone in the CSU community.

“First of all, Paul Kowalczyk’s a friend of mine. He bet on me, he hired me at CSU. He’s a good man,” said men’s basketball coach Tim Miles, who was hired by Kowalczyk in 2007. “That being said, Jack Graham has great vision and he’s got bold ambitions. He’s highly successful businessman and now he wants to implement those ideas of the business world into college athletics and it’s our job to help him see that through.”

Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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