Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn can't remember one year in a 26-year career in college athletics administration that has been as eventful, challenging and rewarding as 2010.
Over the past 12 months, the department he oversees spearheaded the school's change in conference affiliation from the Big 12 to the Pac-10. It has fired two prominent coaches and parted ways with another and hired replacements for all three. It began construction on a basketball and volleyball practice facility, the most significant facilities upgrade since suites and club seats were added to Folsom Field in 2003. And Bohn lost his right-hand man, former senior associate athletic director Tom McGrath, who moved back to the East Coast to return to his roots with a job closely tied to the Olympic games.
"The entire process associated with building our enterprise, building our support base, building our teamwork on campus, all of those things has been really rewarding this year," Bohn said. "Though there was a lot of change, including some marquee coaches, the collaboration and the end result on the Pac-12 was incredibly fulfilling for so many people.
"I'm energized by that and encouraged by that. I believe our fan base is, and I believe that 2010, when we look back four, five or even 10 or 20 years from now, will be viewed as a significant time and a significant period of progress and synergy that will serve us well for the long term."
And the work never stops. In fact, Bohn already knows 2011 will be equally challenging in many ways even if it isn't as eventful.
Chancellor Phil DiStefano and Bohn have started preliminary discussions on a contract extension. Bohn is under contract until November 2012 and is making more than $300,000 a year. He is one of the lowest paid athletic directors in the Big 12 Conference and would be in the bottom half of athletic directors in the Pac-12 as well.
DiStefano said in October that he hoped to have a contract extension for Bohn this spring.
Many of the approaching hurdles Bohn will face beyond his contract will be related to the short term financial health of the department as it deals with an estimated $15-17 million budget shortfall created by the cost of conference realignment and a $2.1 million contract buyout for former football coach Dan Hawkins.
Bohn cautions that "complex" negotiations are ongoing and could drop those numbers significantly, but a $15-17 million shortfall is an accurate picture of the current situation. The shortfall also could be mitigated through a loan from the Pac-12 that would be paid back over a number of years. The loan and its parameters are also still being discussed.
Here are the most significant elements that contribute to those totals:
CU negotiated a $6.8 million exit fee from the Big 12. The school doesn't use existing funds to pay that tab. Instead, the money is taken from the total conference distribution from the Big 12 in June.
At this point, CU is not scheduled to receive a significant conference distribution in its first year in the Pac-12 (the 2011-12 school year), except for a percentage of revenue from the inaugural football championship game. So instead of receiving between $9 and $10 million as has been the case in recent years on conference distribution, it will receive very little in distribution. This is the part of the shortfall still being negotiated.
The final part is paying off Hawkins' buyout, which is built into the budget over a number of years to lesson the blow.
"We have numerous options to explore to include an advance from the Pac-12, to include financing package potentially with the institution," Bohn said. "Those are all key aspects of the move that we are still working on."
The change in conferences this year was sold as a move that was good for the future of the entire school even though it is primarily driven by athletics. Bohn was asked if that fact should lead to the school picking up some of the tab.
"I don't believe it would be appropriate to portray it that way," Bohn said. "The institution is very supportive. I think it's important for everyone to understand that the athletics enterprise is the University of Colorado's athletic program. We are not a standalone entity."
"... However, we recognize that the athletic enterprise must self-generate its revenue to run its program and we'll continue to work hard with the Pac-12 and our donors and booster base to generate those revenues and grow and build that. We recognize that the onus is on the athletic department to pull that together."
Bohn said he doesn't view the temporary budget shortfall in a negative light because it is an investment in the future that should put the athletic department on better financial footing over the long haul with more regular appearances in front of and access to its largest alumni base on the West Coast.
Bohn said he looks at the move in terms of how it will affect the school and athletic department over 50, 75 and 100 years, not just the next two or three.
"It is an initial investment in getting into that league so we can reap the benefits of revenue sharing, of the Rose Bowl, of all the different things that are associated with it," he said. "That's what we're investing in. We are not being assessed something that doesn't allow us to build upon it. We're investing in a big deal, in a league with significant equity and significant position for future growth."
Bohn said he is most proud of "the competitive resolve" he has seen emerge from everyone involved with CU athletics from the Board of Regents and President Bruce Benson to donors to the diehard fan who might only be able to afford to see a few games each year.
He said the biggest shortcoming of 2010 has been the inability of the department's most high-profile teams -- football and men's and women's basketball -- to win more games.
"I also recognize that 2010 was a huge year as far as building our base in the sense of putting in cornerstones of our program," Bohn said. "That's league affiliation. That's the coaches we're investing in and obviously the equity of major stakeholders who will allow us to be successful long term."