While Colorado football fans are antsy over the lack of any news regarding enhancements to Folsom Field and some are panicking about the results the team is producing so far this season, president Bruce Benson lives in another realm where patience rules.
The news this week that Colorado State president Tony Frank has decided to proceed with plans to build a $250 million stadium on campus in Fort Collins has only added to the frustration fans feel in Boulder.
There has been talk at CU of a permanent indoor practice facility for at least 20 years with no progress toward actually beginning such a project. In June, chancellor Phil DiStefano briefed the Board of Regents about options the schools is exploring for upgrades at Folsom including an indoor facility.
In an interview Friday, Benson said he has heard very little from CU fans and donors about possible Folsom Field upgrades or concerns about the Buffs' 1-4 start. He said CSU's announcement has no influence on CU's plans or time line.
"It doesn't put any pressure on me," Benson said. "We're going to do what's right for our institution and not worry about CSU.
"They've got a big hill to climb. I've talked to Tony and I know what's been the papers. They've got to raise $125 million private in two years. Naming rights and all that other stuff is not in that $125 (million). It's true, pure philanthropy is what I'm told. So they've got work to do. I can't opine on who their donors are or how they're doing. It's not my business. But it's a lot of money. I wish them luck. I hope they can get it done."
Benson attends most CU football games home and away and says he talks with a lot of the biggest donors to the school and the athletic department at the games. Apparently those folks either don't have the same sense of urgency as those who post their complaints on message boards or call talk radio or they just haven't brought it up with Benson.
"There certainly hasn't been any conversation like that that I've had and I see a lot of people and go to a lot of events," Benson said. "My phone hasn't been ringing. My emails aren't off the walls. I'm not getting any pressure. Somebody else might be, but I sure haven't heard a word."
The CU Foundation, the school's fundraising arm, is completing a feasibility study with its donors in an attempt to gauge how much money it might be able to raise for Folsom Field enhancements that could include the practice facility, enclosing the north end of the stadium, remodeling Balch Fieldhouse on the west side including possibly adding suites, a second level of seating and a new pressbox.
The total cost of completing all those upgrades would likely be approximately $220 million.
CU is also interested in more upgrades at the Coors Events Center, including adding a club level.
Benson said he doesn't expect the school will have any news on its facilities plans until January at the earliest. He refused to say if the school would be willing to invest a percentage of the television money it receives annually from the Pac-12 Conference to fund its projects if it can't raise enough money from donors.
CU has received fewer than 10 donations of $1 million or more to its athletic department in its history, which makes raising $220 million an extremely ambitious endeavor.
"I have no problems doing the upgrades if the money is there," Benson said. "Sure, I want everything upgraded. We've been building great academic buildings. ...I think we're doing some really good things on the campus."
The football program hasn't had a winning season since 2005 and in its second season under coach Jon Embree, the Buffs are off to a 1-4 start including an embarrassing stretch of losses to CSU, Sacramento State and Fresno State in the first three games.
The Buffs were off Saturday and will host Arizona State on Thursday night when CU's facilities and its football team will be on display on national television on ESPN.
Benson said last month in an interview with the Denver Post that fans already calling for Embree's head after the team started 0-3 were unrealistic. He said the team's struggles on the field might ultimately help efforts to raise money to facilities upgrades.
"I'm not sure it isn't positive believe it or not because I think that people know where we are," Benson said. "This is a young team. I think they are busting their guts out there."
Some believe Benson might change his mind if the Buffs finish the season 1-11, but Benson said he is committed to giving Embree and his staff ample time to rebuild the school's flagship program.
"Well, if I knew the scenario and I knew what the facts were today, I'd be able to answer that," Benson said when asked under what circumstances he would be in favor of a coaching change in the future. "But I'm not going to answer that because I don't know. I do know coach (Bill McCartney) said we're on the right track, and people have a lot of faith in him because of his background and what he has done. You don't get it done in two or three years. I mean, it's going to take a little while to get this done. If all f a sudden we have a blow up and things are going really horrible, I'm sure somebody is going to say, 'Hey, we better take a hard look at what's happening.' But I wouldn't even entertain a thought like that today and I wouldn't know if I would entertain it next year or the next year. We just have to stop and wait and see what's going to happen and try to make decisions when you should."
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