CU Chancellor DiStefano’s Seat Could Start Warming Up
By Alex Schultz
The University of Colorado’s next athletic director, who has yet to be named, can rest assured of one thing: He or she will have a big fan in CU chancellor Phil DiStefano.
After all, DiStefano’s job security likely will be tied to the next athletic director’s performance more than ever before.
On May 23, DiStefano called eight-year CU athletic director Mike Bohn into his office to inform him that he had “materially failed” in his job duties.
This after Bohn, a Boulder native, engineered CU’s move from the Big 12 to the Pac-12, hired a men’s basketball coach (Tad Boyle) and a women’s basketball coach (Linda Lappe) who have completely turned around their respective programs, spearheaded the popular Pearl Street Stampede and helped secure $11 million in donations to pay for the practice structure outside the Coors Events Center, among other accomplishments.
Five days after that conversation in the chancellor’s office, Bohn submitted his letter of resignation. That evening, DiStefano named CU senior women’s administrator Ceal Barry, who served as CU’s women’s basketball coach from 1983 to 2005, interim athletic director.
“I made the decision that now is the time to bring in a strong leader to set a strategy that will step the department up to a new level of performance and fundraising and overall management,” DiStefano said during a news conference the day after Bohn resigned. “I want an athletic director who will run the athletic department like a business.”
The chancellor added that Bohn’s successor will have “as the No. 1 priority fundraising for not just the facilities that we need for football, but fundraising we need for other facilities as well.”
DiStefano had better hope the next athletic director surpasses Bohn’s level of performance in a big way because, all things considered, Bohn could’ve done a lot worse.
Bohn was the most successful fundraising athletic director in university history, helping grow donations from $6.46 million in 2005 — the year he was hired — to $11.79 million in 2012. He also secured six donations of $1 million or more, increased corporate sponsorships to record levels of $4.1 million and created the Buff Club Cabinet, a group of 68 donors who donate a minimum of $25,000 each year to the athletic department.
But all of that clearly wasn’t good enough for DiStefano, who, along with other university officials, announced a couple of weeks ago that the department’s new goal is to eclipse the $20-million donation mark within the next five years.
It’s hard for a department to pull in that kind of cash when its football team, the window into most universities, is terrible.
But the team’s failures cannot all be pinned on Bohn because DiStefano approved Bohn’s decision to hire and fire Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree, who failed to produce a winning record in seven combined seasons in Boulder.
This much is clear: CU’s next athletic director will have a ton on his or her plate. The football team needs to vastly improve, donations to the athletic department need to increase and facilities upgrades need to be made.
And from inside his office in the Dal Ward Athletic Center, DiStefano will be rooting hard for all of it to happen.
If it doesn’t, he may be the next one to go.
That one line from DiStefano tells you everything you need to know about intercollegiate athletics: “I want an athletic director who will run the athletic department like a business.” It's true, and has been true for decades, and anyone who considers college sports a bastion of amateurism still thinks of Bear Bryant as the head coach at Kentucky.