Asking the tough questions about the new stadium

William Clem

One of the many benefits of being a part of a state university is that there is an assumed level of transparency and honesty from the administration. However in recent years, the actions and statements concerning our athletics department, especially surrounding the proposed on campus stadium, have been anything but clear. While this confusion has come from several key characters, perhaps the most notable of all is Dr. Tony Frank, our president. In light of these incongruities, I have a prepared brief summation (as well as some questions) of the areas in which Frank and his administration have contradicted themselves in.

The ghosts of athletics directors past

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The recent firing of Jack Graham has not only caused some to question the circumstances regarding that matter, but it has also resurfaced several questions which were brought up when Jack Graham was initially hired. According to CBS, in 2011 when Paul Kowalczyk was fired for the poor performance of CSU’s football team, he was immediately replaced by former football player, and Boulder resident Jack Graham. Many found this decision questionable; not only were there no other applicants considered, but Jack Graham had no experience in college athletics since his own playing days.

Fast forward to August 2014. Jack Graham, in an interview with the Coloradoan, stated that only $45 million (or $20 million if you don’t count “pledges”) had been raised for the proposed on-campus stadium. Graham went on to say that the Athletics Dept. had never intended to raise $110 million, but instead had an unofficial goal of $75 million. Immediately after Graham’s comments, Frank made the counter-statement that the goal had always been $110 million. Within a week of this incident Jack Graham was fired, and a negative review of his job performance was released.

To me this raises several questions. First, if Graham was so poorly suited for the job then why was he “hired on the spot” to replace Paul Kowalczyk? Why were no other applicants interviewed? Secondly, considering his complete lack of experience, what qualified Graham to the position in the first place? Furthermore, if Graham was in fact qualified, why was the Deputy Athletics Director John Morris (an 8-year veteran) hired to perform the “day to day” operations of the AD department? Isn’t that hiring two people to perform a job that had previously been done by one? Thirdly, if Jack Graham was so terrible at his job, why then had no mention of it prior? Lastly, in light of Jack Graham’s contradictory comments to the Coloradoan about the “unofficial goal” of the administration, and their proximity to his firing, are we really expected to believe that Graham was fired for just a poor performance review?

The mystery of renovating Hughes

Since the beginning, Frank’s comments concerning the renovations to Hughes Stadium have been inconsistent to say the least. In Frank’s initial report to the Board of Governors (BOG) it was projected that “repairs” to Hughes Stadium would cost $30 million over the next ten years and would only fix failing infrastructure. Frank also repeatedly stated that there was no donor support for repairing Hughes, a statement which he has repeated many times, including in a letter to the university delivered in September.

However, these claims raise some questions, for instance in Frank’s report of ‘repairs to infrastructure’ he listed a $1.3 million renovation of the stadium suites next to the $60,000 required to repair the cracked cement at Hughes.  Are we to believe that these two items are of equal importance, and that the former does not improves game day experience? Furthermore in the recently released stadium “blue book”, which outlines the potential costs of each of Frank’s four possible stadium plans, it states that there is at least $5 to 10 million in donor support for renovating Hughes.  Considering that less than a month ago Frank said there was no donor support for the stadium, what caused this to change?

The un-ending construction saga

In his interview on The State of the University, Frank attempted to address students concerns over the ongoing construction at CSU. In his interview, Frank said that campus construction comes in 10 year phases, first being initiated with 10 years of student growth and then followed up by another decade of facility improvements. In this interview Frank told the Collegian that CSU was at the end of its “construction phase.” Frank was quoted saying, “I think there is always stuff that would be nice, but none of it falls in the category of ‘we’ve got to address this.’”

Considering that both the renovations and the new stadium options, which Frank has proposed will likely mean further construction over the next decade, was Frank mistaken in his evaluation that there are no longer any immediate necessary construction projects? Or is the stadium, in fact, not a University necessity?

On the matter of the four stadium “options”

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In the recent release of the stadium “blue book”, Frank outlined some of the details for his four possible options for a new or renovated stadium at CSU. Of these four options, numbers two through four involve not only significant costs to the student general fund, but also the sale of revenue bonds totaling well over $100 million. This seems to contradict Frank’s original statement in his Stadium Update that, “state general funds, student tuition or fees, or proceeds from any tax shouldn’t be used to finance the stadium.” So, if all four of these options represent considerable costs to the general fund, does that not negate Frank’s original argument for searching for alternatives to Hughes?

In his interview with the Collegian, Frank’s expressed his own speculations that CSU will lose most of its state funding in the next seven to 10 years. Even though CSU appropriation reports show, CSU has received a 15 percent increase in state funds over the last two years; let us assume for a moment that this claim is true, and that we will lose our funding in the next 10 years. If that is the case then shouldn’t we cut as many non-essential costs to the school as possible? Even if it were possible for these stadiums to be built and fully operational in the next 10 years, would these stadiums be able to pay off both their own $100+ million in debt, as well as supplement CSU’s lost state funding ($120 million)?

So if the administration has failed to raise the $110 million that it promised and now are unable to present a solution to this “problem” which doesn’t involve using the general funds, then what is the point of even looking for options outside of renovating Hughes? Especially if we are in fact facing an impending financial crisis.

While these questions are clearly aimed at Frank himself, I do not expect him to take these comments into consideration. Rather I write these questions, in the hopes that they will encourage the students of CSU to look objectively at their University and its administration. Though it would be nice if we could blindly trust our school to do the right thing, unfortunately that is not the case. But this is precisely the benefit of being part of a state university: each student has the right, if not the responsibility, to hold the leaders of this administration accountable for their actions. But this is only possible if you, the student, make the effort to inform yourself, and become active in your University’s activities.

For those who wish to hold their university accountable, they can email their questions and comments to the CSU Board of Governors at csus_board@mail.colostate.edu

Collegian Columnist William Clem can be reached at letters@collegian.com.