It has been a fascinating and challenging time for the Buffs and it's just the beginning of more big changes on which the athletic department and the school are collaborating.
CU athletic director Mike Bohn spoke with the Camera on Saturday for this first edition of a multi-part series of stories we will run in the coming months chronicling these endeavors.
Bohn revealed that the department plans to add a new women's sports team in the near future. He acknowledged there are ongoing talks within his department and with campus leaders about major facilities improvements starting with Folsom Field and the football program. He discussed the new football scheduling alliance between the Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences and how it will affect CU and some of its other series, including CSU, going forward. He said he is talking with several Big Ten programs about scheduling football series prior to the official kickoff of the Pac-12-Big Ten collaboration in 2017. And he shared his goal for the football program in 2012.
Does CU prefer to start Pac-12-Big Ten football series with Nebraska?
"I don't know if that will initially happen. We're actually working on trying to jumpstart that strategy even before 2017. So we're in discussion with some Big Ten institutions about potentially starting that before then. We would love to play Nebraska with the history that goes together there. One of the big challenges associated with that move is that creates a verychallenging schedule because you've got to go on the road every year. In essence, it's like 10 conference games. But we are 100 percent on board with that thinking. It fits the school's strategy that we've always had here at Colorado. We think it's going to be great and we look forward to the point when it is Nebraska."
Does this partnership with the Big Ten, given the fact that you will be playing different opponents from that league every few years, does that put an end to the idea of ever rekindling the Nebraska rivalry on a consistent basis?
"No, I think it's going to be played from time to time. It's probably going to have to fit into that Pac-12-Big Ten element. We're working on some other matchups right now simply based on availability of schedule. I will say that the Pac-12-Big Ten scheduling alliance is going to put some pressure on some other non-conference games and traditionally where they fall, who they are and what they do."
Well, that leads me to ask what effect this will have on the Colorado State series long term?
"Certainly it brings a new element to it. It's something we're going to have to address and strategize with and see how that impacts our overall strategy."
So are you considering getting out of the CSU series, which has eight years remaining?
"It's premature to say that, but the dynamics are certainly changing for us. The change from eight to nine conference games, and now essentially, nine to 10, and all the other things that are moving on us creates another dynamic. But we have a contractual agreement and we honor our contracts."
Is the Pac-12 putting itself at a disadvantage because it already plays nine conference games and the Big Ten and other leagues only play eight? Now your conference leader, whoever that is each year, will have a harder road to get to a BCS game than other teams.
"I think you look at Oregon and what a wonderful job they did playing against LSU earlier in the season. I think that's what we want to do. We want to play on the big stage. We want to play marquee opponents and we want to be in marquee TV slots. We want to continue to draw audience, fans, alumni and young people to the University of Colorado. That will help us do that. One of the neat things about this alliance is we have a wonderful and strong alumni base in the Chicago area and getting to play back in that area at times will be huge for us."
What sort of upgrades is CU planning for Folsom Field and the football program, which generates most of the revenue for your athletic department?
"It has been a very busy 2011 particularly related to the Pac-12 with the new network and with the new revenue streams associated with the network. You're seeing a lot of our peers in the conference making major investments and the University of Colorado is working extremely hard through the process for similar types of initiatives here. We will continue to work through the process and engage our top leadership and campus leadership and do everything we can to provide upgrades that I believe our fans, incoming recruits and future recruits and our current student-athletes and our community will benefit from long term."
There is a perception from some CU fans that we hear from at the paper, that CU is dragging its feet on announcing facilities upgrades. Why can't you say more about what you are planning at this point?
"Well, certainly the scope of these projects are such that it requires us to pay attention to every detail. We're very proud of our track record of improvements that have benefited all of our programs. This basketball practice facility is one that we are very proud of, and our history of delivering on those is validation that we are committed to making more improvements and delivering on those once we have all of our ducks in a row."
There is an impression out there that you are getting this windfall of Pac-12 money down the road and that is going to solve all your problems and you will be able to build new facilities and make improvements with that money alone. Is that true and what part do donors play?
"When you look at all the significant upgrades around, whether it is in the Pac-12 or TCU's new initiative or others, there is a private element. Obviously that is a part of it. Part of the silent phase or the process we're going through first before we start announcing initiatives that aren't finalized is working on the major private element that is a part of the formula. We're still dealing with the (financial) issues associated with the departure from the Big 12. We're discussing the issues associated with adding a new women's sport. We're discussing a lot of different pieces that make up all these different issues we're talking about, which is why we're not going to come out with a plan or some type of initiative without it being viable."
What women's sport will you be adding?
"We're not prepared to make that announcement at this time."
Can you say when you expect to add the sport?
"We plan to make the announcement of the women's sport later this spring, and the team will begin competition full-fledged in the 2013-14 year."
Is it possible you will borrow against future Pac-12 revenue or issue bonds to fund these improvements?
"Those are all different issues we're exploring."
How did you evaluate coach Jon Embree and his staff in the first season with the football program?
"Any time you win two out of three and you break a 22-game losing streak against the new program that has been identified as your rival, it's significant. I couldn't be prouder of the way that they finished the season and the way that they are hitting the recruiting trail with a great deal of energy, passion and hard work."
What about the season in total. It's one thing to say you're proud of the way the team finished, but what about your assessment of the whole season?
"You have so many different elements to put that together. After signing day, Jon and I will have the opportunity to sit down and we'll evaluate every aspect of our program as we do every year, and we'll find areas for improvement."
Coach Embree and his players have set their primary goal for next at ending the program's four-year postseason drought. What are your goals for the program next season?
"Whether it's women's basketball or men's basketball, the seasons we are in, or all of our teams, the goal is always postseason play."