Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: Farewell, Captain Jack

Big news from the CSU camp this weekend.  I'll try to tackle it with grace, but no promises will be made. Needless to say, I laughed my ass off on Friday to the mental image of RamNation's sand castle stadium blowing away in the August winds.


in the bag, I'm talking about the shake up at the Fort, the comparative momentum in Boulder, and tragedy on the race track.

Click below for the bag...

Jack Graham Fired -

CU's first opponent pulled a fast one on Friday, dropping the stunning announcement that they were firing their athletic director, Jack Graham, just three weeks before the start of the football season, and just two months before the $110 million fundraising deadline for their on-campus football stadium.

That's... odd.

Graham, the one time high-dollar donor, and now former AD, was best known for two things: his desperate efforts to get CSU a seat at the big table, and the brash, antagonistic bravado he displayed in his efforts to secure that seat.  That bold downtown Ft Collins stadium proposal, all $250 million of it, was his idea, and the project had become the referendum by which his tenure would be judged. While Colorado State president Tony Frank was adamant that Friday's move was "in no way connected to the on-campus stadium project," it's hard not to view Graham's sudden ouster as anything but an admittance by the CSU leadership that the fundraising deadline will be missed, and that the stadium won't be happening the way Graham had envisioned it.

Suddenly, another song strums through my mind:

I think Tony Frank realized just how close to the sun CSU athletics was flying, and tried to pull out before things got too politically inconvenient.  With last week's announcement from the NCAA that they were moving forward with plans to set the Big 5 free on the path to autonomy, the stadium may no longer have been a link to a brighter future for the Rams.  Why spend all that money if you're only going to be shoved even further into second-class status?

Anyways, from a CU perspective (which is really all I care about), I can't help but see this as an opportunity to end the Rocky Mountain Showdown as we know it.  Word on the street is that Colorado AD Rick George is less than thrilled with the inelegant showcase, and new blood in Ft Collins might be all that is needed to shake loose a separation.  Finally, CU would have some flexibility with the shortened non-conference schedule, and unshackle themselves from the loathsome series.

Get it done, Rick!

Meanwhile, stadium improvements build a sense of hope in Boulder - 

Compare that mess in Fort Collins with what we have in Boulder.  Originally envisioned by Mike Bohn, CU's stadium project was much more conservative and reasonable, utilizing existing land and structures to give the University a better shot at hitting their target.  Even then, Bohn was falling behind schedule on the fundraising, so a new leader was brought in, deadlines were cast aside, and Colorado forged ahead with their plans, cash-in-hand be damned.

As the earth was moved, the funding followed.  Come Week 3 against ASU, the first phase of the new development should be completed.  At the end of the day, CU made the commitment to pursuing a winning football program.  CSU has, apparently, chosen a different route.
Commitment = Optimism.  From: the BDC
The result is that, despite another losing season in 2013, and a youthful roster that does little suggest that the sub-.500 trend will be halted this fall, CU athletics is shrouded in optimism that we haven't seen in years. Even Ringo admitted as much this weekend.  Couched behind a vintage Eeyore-esque lede, the BDC scribe copped to the fact that the construction on the northeast side lends heft to Coach MacIntyre's statements of rebuilding and momentum.

The Buffs had to jump feet-first into the dark pools of the collegiate athletics arms race, and it seems to be paying dividends.  Said MacIntyre:
"The new facility has helped change the undercurrent that was here when I first got here, that the University of Colorado is not committed to football. They cannot say that anymore. Period."
It worked for the basketball program, and even I'm starting to believe it will at least invigorate the wayward football program.  Shame the Rams weren't similarly committed.

In the face of tragedy, NASCAR stutters -

Late Saturday night in upstate New York, tragedy hit the driving world when 20-year old competitor Kevin Ward, Jr. was struck and killed (warning: graphic) on the track during a sprint car race.  Ward had crashed into the side wall after colliding with moonlighting NASCAR star Tony Stewart during a turn, and decided it was a good idea to get out of his car to confront the still-driving Stewart in the middle of the race track.  On the next lap, Stewart's car collided with Ward, rolling him under the back-right tire, and, ultimately, killing him.

The act was unfortunate and heartbreaking.  The kid should never have gotten out of the car (another driver can be seen in videos barely missing him on the poorly lit track), and Stewart - whether he was trying to 'buzz the tower' or not - should have managed to avoid him.
The scene in NY.  From: the New York Times.
In the face of this tragedy, you would've expected immediate reaction from Tony Stewart, his team, and even NASCAR - possibly even the suspension of Sunday's big race at Watkins Glen.  Yet, I awoke Sunday morning to find, if anything, no reaction whatsoever.  In fact, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli said that Sunday was going to be 'business as usual' for Stewart, and that he would race as planned.

Business as usual?  A guy died only hours before.  Seriously, business as usual!?  What kind of cold, heartless corporate drone utters 'business as usual' as a family grieves and the police investigate the face of your company for vehicular manslaughter?

Thankfully, someone with a soul stepped in, and Stewart withdrew from the race.  It absolutely shouldn't have been a question, but at least the proper response was reached, eventually.

In a competition built around adrenaline, hot tempers, big egos, high-octane and the melding of man and machine, horrible things happen far too often.  Saturday now joins the ranks of crashes and deaths from the often ugly history of racing in America.

Maybe that's just the way the racing world works, though.  Just hours before the race, NASCAR was back to throwing up hash tags for their sponsors, and the reverend giving the invocation (for a car race?) thought God wanted to be thanked for the good weather, rather than hear a prayer for the family of the deceased. Just business as usual.

Have a safe Monday, everyone

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