Wednesday, December 03, 2014

I Thought He Was Like Sonny

As I sat at my desk at work yesterday, I picked up my phone to quickly check Twitter. The little bird was saturated with news of a chartered plane flying from Jacksonville, Florida to Fort Collins, Colorado. On that plane happened to be Jeremy Foley, the Athletic Director from the University of Florida. The rumors were swirling that he was on his way to Fort Collins to offer the head coaching position for his Florida Gators team to our current head coach, Jim McElwain. I was pretty much glued to social media and the radio into the evening, formulating the opinions you see here:
  • Colorado State University is not part of the Power Five conferences. While the SEC, Pac12, Big12, Big10, and ACC sit at the big boy table, our Mountain West Conference gets to wait outside for whatever scraps are thrown our way. This disparity was displayed quite clearly as the College Football Playoff rankings were released this year. Despite the records of Colorado State and Boise State, three and four loss teams from the Power Five conferences were consistently ranked in the top 25 above any MWC team. Where the Mountain West does have a huge amount of value is apparently grooming the next round of Power Five coaches, the latest of these being McElwain. This whole event has highlighted yet again that CSU is considered a "stepping stone" school, only there to move on to a higher profile and more lucrative position. 
  • When McElwain signed his contract, it included language for a significant buyout. At this point in time, that buyout is valued at $7.5 million. The buyout was inserted into the contract for one very specific reason. It was meant to deter other teams from trying to lure our coach away from Fort Collins. Our AD at the time of the contract signing, Jack Graham, made sure that the language dissuaded any changes to that buyout. Our coach was here to stay. During the chaos yesterday, an article appeared online that during the finalization of the contract, the President of the university agreed to negotiate that buyout amount in the event that McElwain's "dream job" became available. Again, the specifics of this are not entirely known as this information is mostly coming from Jack Graham. Should the deal with Florida go through and McElwain departs, I am interested to see what happens with that buyout. Right now, it seems like it did not accomplish what it was meant to accomplish.
  • I have had a steadfast belief that Tony Frank was and is a great university President. He is engaging, active in the University, and has lead the entire campus in a positive manner. If he truly did make a handshake agreement to negate the terms of the McElwain's contract that were explicitly agreed upon to protect the interests of CSU, my respect for the man will take a hit. 
  • I understand that there were multiple issues that led to the termination of Jack Graham's contract as Athletic Director. However, his indelible mark on the department was twofold: a complete change in attitude about where we should be going in terms of athletics (Bold New Era) and an uncanny ability to hire and retain quality coaches. He was directly responsible for the hiring of McElwain from Alabama, Larry Eustachy (MBB) from Southern Miss, and Ryun Williams (WBB) from South Dakota. All three hires have produced a better on-field or on-court product since before their arrival. If McElwain truly does bolt for the SEC, it would have been great to have Graham in place to hire his successor. 
  • The logical next step is to start talking about who is the next coach of the CSU football team. Dave Baldwin is the clear internal favorite; he has previous head coaching experience at SJSU and has created a top-25 offense this season. 
  • Another interesting name that has popped up is Bob Stitt from Colorado School of Mines. I doubt this happens because without an established AD, I don't see any risky hires being made. Hiring a successful D-II coach and noted offensive guru would be an interesting proposition. Considering he is coming from a lower tier program, he might be content to actually stick around for a while. 
  • I had hopes that Jim McElwain was a reincarnation of the greatest CSU coach of all time, Sonny Lubick. They are good friends, having recruited together when McElwain was an assistant at Eastern Washington. Sonny's conversations with McElwain and his history in Fort Collins were a large reason why McElwain accepted the CSU job in the first place. During his successful tenure at the help, Sonny was also desired by other programs in the top conferences (most notably Miami, where he had been a defensive coordinator). Each time an opportunity arose, Sonny respectfully declined as he loved Colorado State, he loved Fort Collins, and his wife was not moving anywhere! At his introductory press conference, McElwain spoke about that same path that Sonny had laid out for him. Here he was in a great city with a great university heading up what could be a great football program. Fast forward three plus years and we are (potentially) seeing where the true loyalties of our head football coach lie - the SEC and cash money. This is the part that upsets me the most. Here is a guy who was given a chance to be the head football coach of a D-I school. His mentor and friend established the criteria for how coaches are judged in Fort Collins. He talked the talk and then bailed when the money came. So frustrating. 
  • I am undoubtedly biased toward Colorado State University. My unwavering support for the Green and Gold started during my older sister's tenure in Fort Collins, continued through my time and my younger siblings' time up there, and will extend past my kids' time up there (if they are awesome and amazing as we hope them to be). My dedication to the University makes it extremely difficult to reconcile myself with the fact that one of our own wants to leave. CSU > Anywhere else
  • That being said, would I turn down the pay raise that he is bound to receive? 
What are your thoughts on the chaos surrounding CSU? 

Apparently Tony Frank is holding strong to the buyout amount identified in the contract. Keep doing what you do, TFrank. Thanks, Robert, for the link to the article.

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