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Plenty Of Work Ahead For New CU AD

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Colorado made a bold move to replace Mike Bohn with former Texas Rangers CEO Rick George. Now George must take alumni donations to unprecedented heights. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.
Colorado made a bold move to replace Mike Bohn with former Texas Rangers CEO Rick George. Now George must take alumni donations to unprecedented heights. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

After a 22-year sabbatical, Rick George is back in Boulder — and let’s just say the 53-year-old father of two has a lot more work to do this time around.

George was introduced as Colorado’s sixth and newest athletic director at a July 17 press conference in the university’s Byron R. White Stadium Club, where the Illinois alum spoke about his love for Boulder, his many fundraising successes and his vision for helping CU become more competitive in one of the most competitive conferences in the country.

The whole package had CU chancellor Phil DiStefano racing to bring George back to the Rocky Mountains.

George replaces Mike Bohn, who was forced to resign in late May after DiStefano made the bold decision to cut loose the most successful fundraising athletic director in CU history in hopes of landing someone who might be able to engineer bigger and better things.

And DiStefano doubled down on the prospect of seeing those bigger and better things come to fruition, awarding George a base salary of $700,000 with plenty of incentives cooked into his five-year contract. CU’s board of regents still has to approve George’s contract, and when it does, he will become the highest-paid administrator in CU history. Bohn earned a base salary of $306,000.

“I’m here today because I’m convinced that this is the best job, at the best university, in the best conference in the nation,” George said at last week’s press conference. “CU-Boulder is a special place. All of you in the room know that.”

So special, in fact, that George always had his sights set on returning to Boulder after working as CU’s recruiting coordinator and assistant athletic director for football operations from 1987-91. Those were some of the CU football program’s greatest years — years that saw the Buffs win the national championship (1990 season) and three straight Big 8 Conference titles (’89, ’90 and ’91 seasons).

One could say that times have changed since then.

Today, $20 million in debt weighs down the athletic department, the football team hasn’t manufactured a winning season in eight years and donors are reluctant to give to a $270 million facilities project.

But George relishes a challenge, and he’s got a hefty one in front of him in Boulder.

“It’s Colorado as I remember it — a great institution with great student-athletes and a great future,” George said. “I firmly believe our best days are ahead.”

Only time will tell, but George certainly has the credentials to back up his words.

George had served as the Texas Rangers’ CEO since 2010 before accepting the CU job. He’s also worked for the PGA Tour (2008-10), the Champions Tour (2003-08) and the Fore! Kids Foundation (1998-03), all jobs that helped polish his business acumen and fundraising know-how.

His grasp of those two is the primary reason why DiStefano offered him the job.

And if he does his job well, he may never have to leave Boulder again.