Athletic director is a strange job in the sports world. Few people truly understand what exactly an athletic director does on a daily basis, and the position, unlike others, is completely reliant on the performance of others.
New CSU athletic director Jack Graham was hired for his grand ideas and vision for the future.
Graham wants a brand new, on-campus stadium (key to his hiring in the first place) in order to fulfill his pledge to bring back the universityâ€™s alumni â€” and their money â€” and see the athletic departmentâ€™s rise.
But in the end, two critical hires will determine if Graham has a place in this future he envisions.
Soon after taking over the duties for Paul Kowalczyk on Dec. 1, Graham made his first hire. He brought in Jim McElwain, an experienced assistant coach fresh off of two national championships with Alabama.
As Grahamâ€™s first hire, McElwain will forever be linked to Graham and his legacy. Want proof? Look no further than Grahamâ€™s predecessor, who had the rug pulled from underneath him because of a single hire that didnâ€™t work.
Former football coach Steve Fairchild was brought in by Kowalczyk, his second hire at CSU, and despite Tim Miles achieving success, Kowalczyk was fired because Fairchild had three straight 3-9 seasons.
A five-year contract extension, improvements to Hughes Stadium and even a successful basketball program werenâ€™t enough to save Kowalczykâ€™s job.
Letâ€™s face it, football is, and always will be, the face of the athletic department. If McElwain becomes a successful head coach, people will look at Graham as a genius, even if it is his only quality hire. A winning football program gives Graham a huge margin for error when it comes to the other sports within the department.
If McElwain fails to turn around the football program, Graham better hope his second most important hire works out because menâ€™s basketball is the only sport that can fill the void of football.
Milesâ€™ departure to Nebraska was a blow to Ramsâ€™ fans, a hole that wonâ€™t easily be filled. Graham has the challenge of replacing the most beloved figure in the athletic department and, fair or foul, many donâ€™t believe Graham did enough to keep Miles around.
Graham said a key component to his hiring process is finding someone who wants to make CSU a long-term position, in reference to Miles, who left for greener pastures. Finding a new football coach was easy, compared to bringing in a new basketball coach.
Fairchild was, in every sense of the word, opposite to Miles. Fairchild was not warm with the fans, did not have a real presence on campus and most importantly did not win games. As a result the fan base hated him, booed him out of town and basically anyone else seemed like the better option.
Replacing Miles, however, has the potential to be a nightmare for Graham. Miles not only turned a program (which was further in the dumps than football) around, but he was also liked by everyone. The next coach will inevitably be compared to Miles.
Comparisons between Miles and the new coach will lead to putting Kowalczyk and Graham side-by-side. I can see the questions now. At least Kowalczyk brought in Miles. What has Graham done?
So Graham better hope his two hires work out because sometimes you donâ€™t get many more. Just ask Paul Kowalczyk.
Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.