Zahlmann: Fans need to let their leaders be just that

Luke Zahlmann

Moby Madness inside the stands has turned to a mob wielded pitchforks outside the confines of Colorado State athletics.

College athletics have an intertwined feature that is not present in professional sports: alumni. The group creates a family of past students at the university that share a special connection not present with a professional sports organization.

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Athletic Director Joe Parker addresses the media during a private tour of the stadium.
Director of Athletics Joe Parker addresses the media during a private tour of the stadium. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

The unique connection also gives light to heightened criticism and expectations from the past scholars and current fan base. When winning, the group gives its support in many ways, including financially. When things go wrong, the money transforms into program-altering calls for personnel dismissals.

Many alumni and hordes of fans during my time at CSU have called for the jobs of those that operate athletic programs at the institution. The names range from assistant men’s basketball coach Steve Barnes all the way to the Director of Athletics Joe Parker.

Parker is in the forefront currently as his decision to extend the contract of Larry Eustachy in 2016, who is currently on paid administrative leave, has blown up in his face. He put faith in the rehabilitation of a high-level coach with a tattered past, with the results giving way to the reappearance of his past issues.

The problem is that the immediate reaction is to dismiss every person involved, rather than look at the complete body of work before a concluding act is determined.

Parker has led CSU athletics to a level many universities dream of. He oversees programs that have reached the upper echelon in the nation such as volleyball, track & field and cross country. Softball is also off to its best start in over a decade.

Parker has achieved resounding success with the units that spread across the Fort Collins campus. The criticism of his position is unwarranted.

The call to arms by fans looking for large change is driven by the gravity of the programs that are under the microscope: football and men’s basketball.

Under Mike Bobo, the football program has steadily improved, without yielding ground-breaking results. The lack of accolades being added to the trophy case has put fans on edge regarding the team. Though preseason expectations were not met to their fullest this season, the team still reached a bowl and achieved a winning record once again. In the highest profile sport in college athletics, the Rams have done what many programs cannot.

The tweets, chants and conversations around the team revolved around disappointment and the calling for a dismissal of the highest-paid coach of the land-grant institution. The cries are unwarranted.

Men’s basketball serves as the hiccup under the watch of Parker. Eustachy came off a storied past but was given the confidence of a director who saw the potential of his rebirth through sobriety. The good-willed hiring by Parker has begun to show cracks but has led to success for the program for years.

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Eustachy is to blame for his abusive actions, not the overseer above him. Parker has taken action in the form of an assessment and is doing his due diligence in repairing any damage that has been done.

Admitting a mistake and taking action to repair the wrongdoing is a sign of honesty within the offices of athletics. They have brought to the forefront the problems within the men’s program instead of ignoring it and keeping the dispute away from the public.

The reaction of the populous of fans, both alumni and casual viewers, is understandable given their connection to the university. Their expectations have become a smokescreen over reality given the success they have seen in the school’s history, in turn raising the standard at CSU. This haze placed in the face of the fans has risen their reactions to faults to an extreme level.

Rather than understanding how student-athlete programs run and giving them a benefit of the doubt given their experience, the community has developed an inflated hubris that is thought to give them the same information.

The actions and activities behind closed doors are not known to the fans and can tell a lot about why things are being done in the manner they are.

The word fan is loosely defined as “an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The role of a fan is to support those that are in a given organization. The players at CSU deserve the support of their fans, without the constant criticism of their leaders. Barring infractions, the coaches should have support as long as their success is palpable.

Expectations differ between each fan; however, they need to be kept in the realm of possibility. One chink in the armor does not make the armor obsolete.

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.