While facing a potential $5.6 million shortfall, University of Colorado athletic director Rick George is simultaneously trying to raise $50 million for facilities improvement.
George, who has been on the job for nearly 90 days, told the Daily Camera on Wednesday he has been on the road fundraising endlessly hoping to meet his goal of raising $50 million for the department's facilities plans by December 1. He was on the road five days last week and leaves Thursday to spend the weekend in the Seattle area where there are several longtime donors.
George would not say how much money has been raised so far.
"We're a ways away right now," he said
When asked if he still believes raising $50 million by December is doable, he said: "I don't know. I'm still optimistic, but we've got to have some people step up in the next five weeks and I hope they do."
CU has never raised more than $16 million in total donations to the athletic department in any one year and had received fewer than 10 gifts of $1 million or more in its entire history when George took over Aug. 12.
At the time, he said his goal was raising $50 million by December. The ambition obviously raised eyebrows.
CU announced in February when former athletic director Mike Bohn was still leading the department, a plan for raising $170 million for facilities improvements in and around Folsom Field with a goal of raising $50 million in private funding and the rest in bonds.
If there was ever any doubt in George's mind about how badly the department needs to upgrade its infrastructure, the doubt disappeared one day in September during historic rains that led to massive flooding in the area.
George spent an entire night at the Dal Ward Center staving off major flood damage with several facilities staffers. Study hall computers on the second floor had to be covered with plastic to protect them from a leaking roof.
George said there was water leaking into an area of the basement at the Dal Water Center and facilities staffers rigged a cookie sheet held in place by several pairs of vice grips to deflect water away from an electrical box. They were dumping trash-can sized buckets of water every half hour
"This building did not hold up during the floods," George said. "This is the best building that we have, the newest building and we couldn't conduct study table for a week.
"These facilities are not a want, they're a need that we have to have. So that has been our focus. We're going to work hard and do everything we can to try to generate the support we need to be able to start building these facilities so we can have something in place in the very near future."
After studying the facilities plans he inherited and what the department needs, George has made some adjustments to what will be done first. He is not a fan of the piecemeal approach to the projects and said he intends to remodel the Dal Ward Center, enclose the northeast corner of the stadium and build a permanent indoor practice facility north of the current practice fields all at once.
Bohn's plan was to begin construction as soon as enough money could be raised -- approximately $8 million -- to fund a new academic center. George acknowledged it might become necessary at some point to begin the project in small pieces.
"At some point, we may have to make a decision," George said. "I'm of the opinion that we need to do it all at one time, but if we can't generate the revenue, at some point, we may have to consider that. I don't want to consider that. It's not in my thought process at this point because I think we need it all."
George said the Dal Ward Center will not be expanded. It will be remodeled with a goal of bringing the entire department under one roof while maximizing the ability to serve the academic, training and sports medicine needs of student-athletes.
George said accomplishing those goals is just the initial phase of the facilities projects CU athletics must undertake in the coming years. He said enclosing the northwest side of Folsom Field, remodeling Balch Fieldhouse and possibly adding new suites and a new press box and updating the interior of the Coors Events Center are also necessary.
The three priorities on George's list every day are getting the department's financial house in order, develop strategic plan and putting shovels in the ground with new facilities.
He said he has assembled a 34-person panel of all constituent groups to help develop his long-term strategic plan for the department that he hopes to unveil at some point in January. He said the plan will cover the next 15 years and will include a series of five three-year plans.
There haven't been any major surprises in his first three months. George said he has a much better feel for where the department is and where it needs to go.
Not long after he started George and his wife made a donation to the athletic department that endows a scholarship for the next five years. He also has donated money to the capital campaign for facilities. He chose not to divulge how much.
Every member of his senior staff and every member of the Buff Club staff also have made donations. In addition, George said President Bruce Benson made a generous donation to the facilities fund.
"My wife and I and our family decided that if I was going to take this role and if I was going to lead the charge to change the direction of our program that I needed to commit financially to what we're doing long term," George said. "So we made a five-year commitment to endow a scholarship and to support the capital campaign because if I'm going to be out there asking for money, they need to know that I'm all in."