It's not Bruce Benson or Phil DiStefano.
George Solich is a 1983 CU grad in Business-Mineral Land Management. He's also a wealthy man who has been one of the athletic department's biggest boosters in recent years. Late last spring, he sold his company Cordillera Energy Partners III, LLC, for $3.1 billion.
Solich didn't pocket the $2.5 billion in cash from the sale and he didn't get to keep all the $600 million in shares of Apache Corporation of Houston, the company he sold to. He had investors and shareholders who took their cut. But it's safe to say Solich has the kind of money that has traditionally given other wealthy men around the country over the years significant influence over what happens in the athletic departments they favor.
Solich has enough influence at CU that he is the man the athletic director, president and chancellor turn to first when they need help for athletics.
Last week, when CU hosted former Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones, who has since been hired at Tennessee, it was Solich standing next to Jones in most of the photos captured of Jones during his visit. Not Bohn, not Benson, not DiStefano.
There is nothing unusual about the relationship. Big boosters at other schools such as T.
It's not all about the money mind you. CU officials respect Solich's passion for the school and his desire to see its athletic teams excel, and that along with his ability to make things happen financially is why they include him in important decisions such as finding a football coach.CU Buffs fans are well aware he has influence over who will get the job and some of them might be wondering what Solich is thinking. I know I am.
They want to know what he values in a head coach, what characteristics he is seeking in the next guy who is going to lead the Buffs out on to Folsom Field behind Ralphie V. They want to know what questions he's asking candidates. How does he decide which coach to back in the search?
I've left Solich messages over the past two weeks letting him know I wanted to ask him some of these questions. He hasn't called back.
I think he should.
Solich is the only person involved in the search for the next coach who won't really have anyone to answer to if the new coach doesn't succeed and is fired in two, three, four or five years. Everyone else involved is employed by the school or the CU system and could suffer the wrath of angry CU fans, faculty members and boosters if something goes wrong.
Why should Solich get a pass? If he wants to be a part of the process, he should embrace it fully -- not just the parts he prefers.
For instance, CU fans have been all over Bohn, Benson and DiStefano for allowing themselves to be pushed toward hiring a former Buff two years ago when they ultimately chose Embree. I've got no problem with that criticism. Seems fair to me and there was definitely pressure for them to hire a Buff. But let's not forget that Solich served on the search committee two years ago as well, along with fellow boosters Dave Hoover and Roger Parker. He had a say then just as he does now.
I don't know that Solich was on board with the Embree hire or if he would have preferred to go in a different direction, but I'd like to know and I'm sure there are CU fans who would, too.
The fact that Solich is, perhaps, the department's biggest booster, isn't a secret. It's well known enough that Solich's name routinely appears in discussions on numerous fan websites, especially at times like these in the middle of a coaching search.
Ever since the sale of his company was announced nearly a year ago, CU fans have speculated that Solich might be the source of a significant donation at some point that could kick start the school's effort to build a permanent indoor practice facility as well as additions to Folsom Field and the Dal Ward Center. The school plans to share more about its plans for those improvements in January or February.
I wonder what Solich thinks of those plans. Does he believe they are feasible? Do they go far enough? Does he plan to help get it done?
Now that Solich no longer owns his company, some CU fans have speculated that he might be looking for something to do, like, say, running an athletic department. Hey, it seems to be working OK so far for Jack Graham, the former Colorado State booster turned athletic director in Fort Collins.
If Solich can build a company from scratch and sell it for $3.1 billion. It stands to reason he might be successful in other endeavors should he pursue them. I wonder if he has any interest in being an athletic director, or more specifically, CU's athletic director at some point in the future. I'd sure like to ask.
Give me a call George. You have my number.