FORT COLLINS — They’re building it.
Realistically, they now have no choice.
While discussing whether to move forward with construction of an on-campus football stadium, Colorado State president Tony Frank and athletic director Jack Graham have been blunt about the deficiencies of Hughes Stadium. They have so criticized the 44-year-old off-campus stadium, they have dealt death blows to its already suspect long-term viability.
With Frank expected to announce in August a “go” or “no-go” decision on the on-campus project, debates over whether Hughes Stadium is redeemable now are pointless. In the wake of this very public discussion, new CSU football coach Jim McElwain will have no credibility recruiting to Hughes as anything other than the place where the Rams could gloriously set the stage for a new stadium’s opening.
When I spoke with him recently in his office, andwrote about his views, Frank labeled the open talk about the existing stadium the “genie out of the bottle” element.
When I also met with Graham recently, he was even more decisive about Hughes’ inadequacies, primarily its off-campus location but also the likely staggering cost of maintaining and upgrading it to the first-class facility he and Frank covet. None of that is shocking, considering Graham’s hiring as AD in late 2011 came after he visited Frank as an alumnus and retired successful businessman, offering to lead the fundraising campaign for an on-campus facility, now estimated to cost $246 million.
This also isn’t a case of Frank and Graham letting their guards down and then wishing they hadn’t said what they’ve said. I’m convinced they know they won’t be believed if they later attempt to spin it as forgettable campaign rhetoric. Most important, though, and to their considerable credit, they’re telling us what they think.
“I think it’s really difficult to achieve this kind of excellence we’re talking about with the kind of facility we have 4 miles off campus,” Graham said.
I pointed out that Hughes Stadium didn’t scare off a young recruit quarterback named Jack Graham in 1973.
“It was 5 years old,” he said. “It had a press box. I wasn’t able to connect the dots between on-campus vs. off-campus. I thought it was a cool facility. But that was 40 years ago. … For me to pull punches and say, ‘It’s OK, having an on-campus stadium is not an indispensable component to solving our problems’? I can’t say that. I think it’s at the core of solving our problems.”
The new stadium would include an alumni welcome center and other attractions. It would be funded through private donations and borrowing against predictable future revenues. The on- or off-campus stadium discussion dates back many years, including when CSU president William Morgan was the major voice in the decision to build Hughes to the west of campus. It moved to the forefront again after then-AD Paul Kowalczyk last year asked the retired Graham, then a Boulder resident, to donate additional money for renovation of the Hall of Fame room in Moby Arena.
“I’m kind of a people pleaser. I’m not good at saying no,” Graham said. “I said no. I said no because I had this strong feeling that we were playing around the edges. Why are we going to fix up a Hall of Fame room when we were on our way to our third successive 3-9 football season? I was just flat-out grumpy. … We all hate to lose. That’s a given. I don’t like to lose any more than anybody else does. It was more my view that the athletic department and more specifically our football program was taking down the reputation of our university.”
Graham told me that he and friends had a “boys football weekend” tradition, making visits for golf and college games across the country. Each on-campus experience reminded him that attending CSU games involved no reconnection with his alma mater’s campus. Explaining his refusal to contribute to the Hall of Fame project, he told Kowalczyk that an on-campus stadium would be “a difference maker.”
When he told Frank the same thing, and said he would lead the fundraising campaign, the school president pondered and came back to Graham with a question: How would you like to be athletic director? They shared the view that a successful football program ultimately can help CSU — which recently completed a $500 million general fundraising campaign — draw out-of-state students, combating the disappearing funding for higher education from the state of Colorado.
They can’t take back what they’ve said. They can’t turn back.
Read more:Terry Frei: CSU has no good choice but to build new football stadium – The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/frei/ci_21033791/terry-frei-csu-has-no-good-choice-but#ixzz208ZaeClX
Terry Frei: CSU has no good choice but to build new football stadium
July 9, 2012 by ATLRAM