Interim AD Lengyel Points Forward

Interim director of athletics Jack Lengyel met with the press Wednesday, and spoke about his intentions as he guides the athletic programs over the next four to six months at <!--Default For Colorado is to ignore-->Colorado. Inside, excerpts from Lengyel's press conference.

Lengyel has served both as athletics administrator and coach at several universities. He has been athletics director at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1988-2001, the University of Missouri from 1986-88 and Fresno State University from 1984-86. In the 1960s and 1970s, Lengyel coached football and other sports at various universities, including Marshall University.

Most recently, he has been interim athletics director at Eastern Kentucky University and Temple University, as well as a consultant with a number of other athletics programs.

JACK LENGYEL
Opening Comments
I look forward to the opportunity to working with the administrative staff here in the athletic department and the chancellor and Dr. DiStefano.

While the position is an interim athletic position, I intend to be the director of athletics for the four to six month period we are operating under, and we will move aggressively on all issues with regards to daily operations of the program, and hopefully provide a seamless transition for the new athletic director.

Q: What's the first step?
Jack Lengyel:
The first step we've already taken is familiarization with the chancellor (Richard Byyny), and Phil DiStefano. We've talked about the various issues. Then I met with the athletic department to discuss my philosophy of operation, what we hope to accomplish, the methodology.

One of the things I want to express with the whole staff is: It's time to move forward; look through the windshield and not look back in the rear view mirror. We need to move forward with all of our issues.

We need a cultural change; we need a positive attitude as we move forward. We have a great institution here, and a great athletic staff. We hit some bumps in the road. Those things happen, and what we now must do is collect ourselves, move forward and take ourselves back to the greatness that was Colorado University before.

We intend to do that.

Q: How daunting a process is that? Or is it daunting at all?
JL:
It's a process, and how daunting it is will play itself out as we move forward. It's like any other institution. Every school I've gone to has had problems, whether it was on the athletic field, with the coaches, or losing teams or facilities. I have always enjoyed taking on those opportunities and turning those things around.

What we have here – we have all the elements for success. We have quality people, we have a quality institution. We've had some bumps in the road. Schools have that, people have that. What we've got to do is regroup and move forward.

Q: What are your major points of emphasis here?
JL:
The first thing is familiarization with the staff, and finding out what they feel the problems and concerns are. Secondly, with the administration, (finding out) what we feel our priorities are.

Your No. 1 thing is always your budget. Certainly, that's going to be a priority.

Since we're in the recruiting season for football, obviously that's going to be a priority. I'm sure Coach (Barnett) wants to talk about that.

Then the morale of the department — trying to change the culture and the attitude and getting ourselves looking out of the windshield instead of the rear view mirror.

And then start talking about trust, sportsmanship, integrity, and bringing those things to the forefront in everything we do. Those are the critical paths we start with.

Q: How closely did you follow the things that surrounded the University of Colorado the past year?
JL:
Like most people I followed it in the newspaper. As a former football coach and athletic director I saw the issues and read about them.

Q: In the area of recruiting, Coach Barnett's working with two years left on his contract which is not the ideal thing for a recruiter. Are you going to be in a position to talk about a contract extension with the administration?
JL:
That issue has not come up. I would think that would be under the purvey of the chancellor.

Q: How do you see this situation different from the other three times you've been an athletic director?
JL:
I don't see it as different other than that it's a different set of circumstances, different faces, different places. But the problems are somewhat similar. When I took over Fresno State, as an example, we were on probation in football and basketball and had to go back the NCAA, report to them.

The Marshall University program, we went in and the entire football team was killed in a plane crash, and the administrators, radio and television people, four doctors and their wives, major boosters, legislators. What I did not realize when I went there (as football coach) – I thought I was rebuilding a football team, but I came to find out that it was a town that lost a core function as well. It was a community and a football team that was part of the rebuilding.

Each situation is different. They require understanding, an aggressive posture of moving forward, and they require a sensitivity in developing trust, and changing the culture to look positively.

Q: There's a portion of the faculty on campus here that is critical of the athletic department and the football program. Do you see part of your job as mending those fences?
JL:
I will say this. I have been at about 15 universities as a football coach, assistant football coach or director of athletics. There is always a faction on campus that is in conflict with the athletic program. That in and of itself is not unusual.

But to answer your question, absolutely, yes. What you always want to do is reach out and integrate everybody into the program so that they see your program as a value in part of the educational process.

We believe athletics has the ability to produce leaders and character.... We as coaches and administrators must be responsible for mentoring (student-athletes) and must have the proper sportsmanship and character.

All of those are intricate to the program. We are always selling the program.

One of the things coaches always do – we always think we can save everybody. So we take the guy that might be close to the margin. When they're successful, that's a great story. When they fail, it's a miserable failure and it looks bad. But if we fail, we've at least failed by trying to help an individual who we thought had potential on the athletic field, and who could transform that in the academic environment.

NOTES

Provost Phil DiStefano said Wednesday the search committee for the permanent position has not yet been formed, but that it will likely be between seven and 10 people. Lengyel will not be part of the search committee, nor is he a candidate for the permanent position.

CU has a unique reporting structure as the athletic director reports to the Provost, rather than the chancellor or school president. Asked if he thought that would be a hindrance in attracting a quality athletic director, Lengyel said he didn't know because he hadn't experienced it yet. DiStefano said he would take Lengyel's feedback about the structure down the road as the school searches for a permanent AD.

The academic committee formed to look at, among other things, the possibility of narrowing the so-called admissions window for student-athletes has not yet made a recommendation to DiStefano, he said.


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