Bohn, DiStefano Want Winners

Athletic director Mike Bohn and Chancellor Phil DiStefano answered questions at a town hall-type meeting in Boulder Monday. Roughly 150 people attended the gathering, hosted by the Daily Camera, and asked a range of questions. Inside, excerpts from the morning's session.

Continuing his theme of making the Colorado athletic department more "user-friendly," athletic Mike Bohn was joined by Chancellor Phil DiStefano Monday at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder. The two answered roughly 15 questions and listened to suggestions from members of the community. The topics ranged from sensitivity to sexual harassment and ethnic diversity to Bohn's dedication to holding coaches accountable to producing winning teams to marketing and scheduling for men's basketball to plans for minor sports to strategies for creating better relationships with the local press.

The following are excerpts from the exchange, which lasted nearly an hour and a half:

Q: Have you thought about using the world-class running community in Boulder to help fund a world-class track and field stadium at CU?

Mike Bohn: "I think when you look at track and the great job that Mark (Wetmore) has done for us — two national championships — it's fantastic. In order for us to continue to do that, we need better facilities. How do we improve upon that? We have to inspire people to make donations. We have to find a way to build a longterm facilities plan to have upgrades.

"A facility that would help out all our teams would be an indoor workout facility. But what would be neat would be to put it together so it isn't exclusively an athletic facility. It becomes something where you can put classrooms there, intramural programs, fraternity and sorority events.

(DiStefano mentioned the short-term goals to build a soccer stadium and put a weight room at the Coors Events Center. He said he thought those needed to be accomplished in the next two to three years).

Phil DiStefano: "I want to be as competitive in athletics as we are in the sciences and engineering and the social sciences. We're one university and we thrive on competition, whether it's on the academic side or the athletic side."

The fundraising arm of the athletic department won't be taking much time off this summer. Bohn has instituted an ambitious capital campaign, with the goal of raising $3.7 million by Sept. 1. Bohn said Monday that $1.1 million of that campaign had already been reached, and "by the end of the day, I hope to be at $1.7 million. We're on our way, and I hope people recognize the importance of that."

Q: On the issue of educating student-athletes about sexual assault.
(A woman who identified her name as Sally and said she was a rape crisis counselor, said she hoped there would be a tremendous amount of education for students about sexual assault. "We cannot assume that we are good people. The biases are deep," she said. She said she was concerned that the athletic department brought in an expert on gender from a university in New York in March 2004, but that no CU football players or player parents attended the workshop.)

(DiStefano said his understanding of the meeting that some student-athletes from all CU sports were at the meeting.)

PD: "One thing that has developed is that the campus is putting together a course, not just for student-athletes, but for all students that we're calling University 101. It will be a course that will be required of all of our students. It will look a issues such as sexual assault, discrimination and drug and alcohol abuse. As an educational institution, what we need to do is to have a first-rate educational program that deals with these issues. But also to have serious sanctions for individuals that violate any policies."

(Interim athletic director Jack Lengyel was a big proponent of the University 101 class, which could be modeled, in part, on the athletic department's Life Skills program).

(Bohn said he met with sociology professor JoAnne Belknap last week. Belknap was a vocal critic of the athletic department and the university during the so-called scandal last year. Bohn said their meeting went "great. We already talked about implementing some new programs an procedures to augment what the institution is doing.")

Q: (To Bohn) What are your priorities for the department going forward?

MB: "In my opinion, this is our No. 1 priority. We have to instill public trust in the athletic programs and in the institution. We need to engage as many people as possible. It's not by writing letters and sending e-mails — it's about reaching out and shaking hands with people. This is a Your Team campaign."

(Used the metaphor of Boulder Creek being a revenue stream that allows the department to fix its various ailments. Said he came from California with his surfboard, jumped into the creek and discovered there was nothing there.)

"Obviously a priority has to be to generate revenue," Bohn continued. "When we talk about this process, whether we're talking about programs on campus, that takes revenue to do that.

"I also think that creating a team environment is also a huge priority. Whether it's building a team with Phil and his staff, or engaging the student body. That's a huge resource for us. They're the heartbeat of our program."

Q: What is your strategy for creating a more friendly and sympathetic relationship with the working press? (And what will you do to increase interest in) the successful non-revenue sports that we have — cross country, women's soccer, skiing for example.

MB: "I believe that if it says University of Colorado on a uniform, whether it's cross country, women's golf, tennis, any of our 17 sports, we need to support them. That's our biggest challenge. I don't know if the media has really helped us in telling the story of all our programs.

"Last year the entire athletic program, which means every coach and their individual budget, took a 15 percent cut. This year, they're taking an additional 10 on top of that. So, our coaches are beginning to think: Can we produce national champions here?

"In skiing, we want to do a better job of being able to recruit great student-athletes from the state of Colorado. I went to Vail last week with President Hoffman. I had a dozen people come up and say, ‘We've got great skiers here; why aren't they staying in state?' It has to do partially with funding and being able to reach out there and grab those kids.

"As far as the media, we have a roundtable set up with them on the (31st), where we're going to try and sit down with them in a very informal environment as well. You'd be amazed at some of the great ideas they come up with.

"I'm a user-friendly AD to the media. I answer my phone if they call me. I call them back. I think as common courtesy, that's expected. I think we need to treat them in a very professional way, and treat them like they're part of our constituency so they really understand what we're dealing with, rather than not allowing them behind the curtain, if you will. They need to see that behind the curtain sometimes, there's nothing behind there so they can articulate that to people like you."

(DiStefano pointed out that the minor sports are supported by football revenue at Colorado, from ticket sales, conference and TV revenue.)

PD: "One of the ways to support the Olympic sports is to support our football team and to fill up the stadium. I've been at the university 31 years, and I've been a season ticket-holder 31 years. As I looked out at the stadium, especially at the Iowa State game, to see the smallest crowd (ever at Folsom) for a Big 12 game, that was disheartening. I remember back in the days when they were 15,000 people in the stadium (in the early 1980s), and then we were able to get it back to 54,000. That's where I hope to get back to. That's where we need community support and state support. That will help us to fund those top-rated (minor sports)."

MB: "I think that's exactly right. If you were in the room when we had an athletic department meeting last week, I told them exactly that. If you're Mark Wetmore and you're the national champions in men's and women's cross country, you ought to be the biggest football fan that you can. Because you know what? That's your budget that's running up and down the field."

Q: (The university has a rich history of using Folsom Field for big name band concerts. One person wondered if getting back to renting Folsom Field for band concerts as a source of revenue had been under discussion).

PD: (Said that was a timely topic, as he was in discussion with different parties about such use.)

Q: (One person brought up the issue of CU lacking in ethnic diversity and what was being done to address that).

MB: "We've got to create and environment for (diversity) to grow. If we want to continue to recruit great student-athletes and a diverse group, whether that's an international group, like we have in our men's and women's tennis programs, we've got to be user friendly. The support from the community would be great to help that."

PD: "I want to compliment the board of regents, who a couple of months ago passed a resolution dealing with diversity on all of our campuses. There's a couple of things we're doing. One is to expand our Kids Collegiate Program, a program that works with minority students in middle school. (DiStefano cited "sobering" statistics about how many Colorado minorities don't go to college.)

(DiStefano went on to say it will take engagement with the Boulder community, which has the perception in statewide minority circles as being unreceptive to minorities. He said whether or not it's an accurate perception didn't matter, because perception can become reality in people's minds. He said he'd like to work more closely with the community and with minority students at figuring out how to create a more welcoming environment at CU-Boulder for a diverse population).

Q: (Kim Moss spoke next to "offer a different perspective from the woman" named Sally, about sexual harassment issues. She said as a woman and mother of two girls, sexual assault was a big concern of hers, but that she felt it was a nationwide issue, not one centered on the CU football team. She said the team had been painted unfairly with a bad brush. "The athletic department does almost a better job currently than the rest of the campus doing a lot of training around sexual assault and drugs and alcohol," she said, referring to the department's Life Skills program.)

Q: (Milt Branch, president of the CU Black Alumni Society spoke next. He reiterated the idea that much of the state's minority community views CU-Boulder as not being welcoming to minorities. He urged the athletic department to develop an outreach to minority communities in Denver. "That's never really been done," he said. "Whether it's going to meetings in the minority community just to say, ‘you're welcome, this a great program and we'd like you to come up (and see it). Just to create a positive buzz about the environment would be very productive." He said the perception is that CSU is more receptive to minorities.

Branch criticized the Daily Camera's handling of the so-called scandal for running mug shots of black student-athletes on the front page in an incriminating fashion. No one has ever been charged with any wrongdoing stemming from the allegations of the past 15 months. "That's something that was continuingly mentioned to me by black leaders in Denver — that it seemed like it was done deliberately," Branch said.

MB: "You're right, we have to be active (in minority communities). Bill Harris and other members of our staff are actively involving that group and we need to do a better job. Again, it's your team. If you have recommendations, let us know and we'll do everything that we can.

"I spent three years at Colorado State and I guarantee you they have the same issues. I guarantee you the University of Idaho does. (Bohn said he hired the first African American college coach at any college in the state of Idaho when he was there)."

Branch: (Branch also urged the university and community to develop an attitude against racist behavior that was as strong as its reaction to sexual assault.)

Q: I want to know what your commitment to winning programs is going to be. I'm interested to know what kind of accountability for coaches you're going to have for coaches. Over the last year, there have been some talk of scrapping the concept of (fielding winning teams as being important). (Also asked about possibility of bringing baseball back):

MB: "Let's talk a little bit about winning. If there's a fine recruit at Wheat Ridge High School, and everybody knows who he or she is. And we want that individual to be a Colorado Buffalo, what's the best way to recruit that person? It has to do with full stadiums and full arenas, excitement, a sense of confidence in the program, a program that's well funded."

(Bohn stressed the need to create a strong environment in recruiting top athletes.)

"We've got to find a way to do a better job. You look at (the football team) last year, we won eight games and did a great job of going to a bowl game after a lot of adversity, but how many players were drafted in the NFL? Zero. So we've got to help them recruit better players and pull that together. That takes all of us to do that.

When you ask, what do I expect from our coaches? I expect our coaches to be a lot of things. Maybe my expectations are too high. Their kids have got to graduate, they've got to go to class. They've got to be great on campus and in the community. Our coaches have got to be active in helping raise money, they've got to be active in community involvement, they've got to be great recruiters and mentors of the people on campus. And, you know what, we also expect them to be very competitive.

"That's a tall order. But teamwork will help with that."

Q: (A longtime men's basketball ticket holder said he was disturbed by the continued poor attendance. Said the department has done "really nothing to promote CU basketball." He asked what Bohn was going to do about it. Another man took the mic and said the non-conference men's hoops schedule "was atrocious" and urged Bohn to look into scheduling regional opponents to draw interest).

(Bohn responded saying the department needed to make basketball games fun. Make them a big event. Said he knows about how Kansas comes in and makes it a KU home game when they play in Boulder. Said he has been in touch with other athletic directors in the state about possibly playing each other more. He said basketball is important at CU, something that critics have wondered for years. Said that maybe Ricardo Patton needs to make a better effort getting out into the community and promoting the program. )

(On scheduling, Bohn said it's difficult to get top teams to come to Boulder because it's not yet an appealing place to play. Wants to change that. Said that will help with recruiting too. Also brought up the point that basketball scheduling changes from year to year depending on your team's needs. Wouldn't be smart to schedule heavyweights if the team was young, etc.)

Q: (Football season ticket holder had concerns about drunken fans at games, and keeping CU-CSU game at Boulder).

(Both Bohn and DiStefano said the commitment to 6 home games at Folsom remains. When the CU-CSU game is CSU's home game, they will play in Denver. Otherwise, they want to keep it in Boulder. Both expressed concerns over fan sportsmanship. Bohn said he will announce the 2006 12th game opponent May 31. It will be a marquee opponent on the road, then have a return date with the team, probably in 2010.)

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