Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Mike Bohn's 'resignation.'

An era of CU Athletics came to a close yesterday when it was announced that Athletic Director Mike Bohn 'resigned' his post, effective June 3rd.

Regardless of your opinion of the man, his impact is unquestioned.  Over his eight year tenure at CU, Mike oversaw many transformative acts, including, but not limited to:
  • The move to the Pac-12.
  • A nearly decade-long campaign to improve the Coors Events Center, including the new practice facility.
  • The start of the Folsom improvements project.
  • Long over-due improvements to Potts and Prentup Fields, as well as the signing of Colorado National as a home for the golf teams.
  • Hiring Tad Boyle, Linda Lappe, Mike MacIntyre, and others.
  • Firing (or not retaining) Dan Hawkins, Jon Embree, Ricardo Patton, Pi'i Aiu, and others.
  • The cancellation of men's tennis, and the formation of women's lacrosse.
  • A total of four national championships, and 18 conference titles.
He didn't necessarily hit a home run with every one of his efforts, even struck out badly a time or two, but no one is perfect, and he hit enough solid singles and doubles to easily surpass his predecessor, Dick Tharp.
Mike Bohn guided CU into the Pac-12, silencing critics who thought CU should've settled for the MWC.
I've heard some people try to downplay his accomplishments, claim that the Pac-12 was going to take Colorado anyway, or that he got lucky with Coach Boyle.  You want to blame him for Hawk or Embree?  Perfectly fair, but then you also have to give him credit for being out in front of conference realignment, and pumping money into basketball.  The move to the Pac-12 essentially went down on CU's terms, with Mike's leadership being a key reason why, and Coach Boyle isn't here winning without Mike's tireless infusion of money and support into all things hoops.

But, regardless of what I say, there are many who will never allow themselves to admit that Mike did a single thing right.  Whether it was his handling of Gary Barnett or Jon Embree, many of the old-guard football crew have simply shut their minds to Bohn, spitting out his name if pressed.  In some respect, I can't blame them.  He did Gary wrong in '05, and the Embree hiring/firing was poorly handled (to be kind).  But those failings are not the end-all of Mike's tenure in Boulder, and focusing on them does the entire story an injustice.  The totality of the athletic department improved under Mike's reign.  If you can't see that, then I just can't help you.
Much of Bohn's legacy is grounded upon supporting basketball, and hiring Tad Boyle.
Compared to Tharp, who was the definition of corporate and aloof, Mike was loud, brash, and colloquial.  You didn't have to have a $100 handshake to get his attention, which may, ultimately, have been his downfall.  It was no fluke that the first marketing campaign under his direction was 'Your Team.'  This concept of personal ownership in the on-field product oozed through every bit of his shtick, and was designed to make everyone, whether they paid $5 or $5,000, feel a part of the product.  He was, essentially, an old school salesman, and I loved every minute of his efforts.

Initially, CU tried to pass off his departure as a pure resignation.  Unfortunately for them, the poor media management that often plagued Mike Bohn's tenure quickly made that a mockery.  A combination of Mark Johnson's initial confirmation and Bohn's initial response to CBS 4's Vic Lombardi made it clear what really happened.  No one is 'floored' by their own resignation, and being 'let go' sure sounds like 'fired' to me.  The reality is simple: Bohn was forced to resign, with CU paying the three years remaining on his current five-year contract extension.
Much like his fired football coaches, Mike's about to get paid to go away.
The why behind that force is less clear.  Many have speculated that it's rooted in the powerful donors that have been brought into the fold - many by Mike Bohn himself, mind you - over recent years.  Others, like disavowed CU alum Rick Reilly, chalk it up to a personality conflict with CU President Bruce Benson.  Regardless, whatever ends up being CU's official story must be digested with a healthy dash of salt.

My guess: this was all about the facilities plan.  Fundraising wasn't humming along at levels originally hoped for, which probably lead to the dismissal.  It makes a lot of sense that, with a $170 million facilities plan stuck in neutral, that leadership would start to get nervous.  I get that.

What I don't get, however, is the timing.  Since the end of football season alone, Mike has been entrusted to fire Jon Embree, hire Mike MacIntyre, and launch the heralded facilities plan.  If the idea is to get someone in place who can help spur a football revival in Boulder, then why allow Bohn to take these large, program defining steps?  Why wait until the rebuilding process is seven-plays into the 2-Minute-Drill before bringing in a new quarterback?
If this was about football, as it most assuredly is, then the timing was blown.
CU now has to hire a new athletic director who doesn't get to pick his football coach, doesn't get to create his own renovation plan, has to inherit all of Mike's baggage, and deal with the normal difficulties associated with transition.  You don't need an MBA to realize that's idiotic.

It's just another administerial fuck-up, only this time BuffNation can't take the easy way out, and blame Mike Bohn.  It's clear through this ham-handed approach to management that the lack of direction from Bohn in regards to everything football was a systemic byproduct of the dysfunction that President Benson and Chancellor Phil DiStefano brought to the table.  I don't blame them for wanting better results both on and off the gridiron, I only wonder why they waited til the week after Memorial Day to make their move.  Yes, the AD is in desperate need of new life, and a new direction, but I think that goes as much for Benson and DiStefano as it does for Bohn.

My immediate concern is, of course, centered on the hardwood.  Much of the recent basketball renaissance can be attributed to the man who finally spent money on languishing programs.  Bohn improved facilities, hired competent coaches, massaged emerging fan support, and trusted programs to grow despite of years of losing results.  While Tad and Linda will keep winning, I wonder if the institutional support the programs have enjoyed will whither under new leadership.

In the end, it's time to move on.  As much as I would like to dwell on the impact on basketball, this move will forever be defined by football and the Folsom renovation plan.  Can Mike MacIntyre bring wins back to Boulder?  Can the new AD squeeze $170 million out of an already dry stone to make the renovations a reality.  For Bohn's successor, the answers better be a resounding 'YES,' because the rest doesn't matter.

1 comment:

Aaron Jordan said...

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

I want to see some changes, and action is better than no action in this case.

I definitely disagree with the timing. If the new coach is the real deal and we start becoming competitive again, the money will start to flow. We could very well have just let go the AD that hired the best coach in years, but we will never know.

To me, what is frustrating, is that everything we are doing seems to be the right decision at the time, yet we keep taking turns for the worse.

Loose 70-3 with a coach with a rocky past, sure seems like a decent time to let him go.

Hire an apparent rockstar that takes sub-par talent and beats the big dogs, sure seems like a good hire.

Beat #3 Oklahoma in the 3rd year coaching, get to a bowl game, sure seems like a decent time for contract extension so we don't loose the coach.

Fire the coach, and hire a die-hard Buff for cheap during tough economic times, sure seemed like the right idea with what we had.

I guess it's just frustrating, because I agree with almost everything we have been doing, and we seem to be just getting unlucky.