“Dear Mr. George” Revisited

Recently, Neill Woelk at cubuffs.com posted a look back at the first 1,000 days of the Rick George administration at Colorado. The article, entitled, “Woelk: Buffs A.D. George Reflects On First 1,000 Dayscan be found here, and is well worth your time if you haven’t already read it.

The essay got me to thinking about August of 2013 when Rick George first took office in Boulder. It was during Rick George’s first week, on that Thursday night, in fact, that I first “met” Rick George. I received a phone call from Mr. George around 8:00 p.m. (I wasn’t convinced at the outset it was actually him). He was calling in response to a letter I had sent to the athletic department a week earlier. He thanked me for the letter, which outlined six “suggested marching orders”, and we discussed some of my concerns for a few minutes.

With the Woelk retrospective, it seems appropriate to revisit my open letter to Mr. George, and take a look at how he has met some of my/our concerns as members of the Buff Nation.

Dear Mr. George: An Open Letter to the New CU Athletic Directorcan be read in it’s entirety here.

The opening dealt with my frustrations concerning CU’s inability to move forward on facilities upgrades. At that moment in 2013, most, if not all, of the Buffs’ rivals in the Pac-12 were building new facilities, or were well on their way towards doing so. Even “little brother” Colorado State was touting its plans for a $246 million new stadium.

With that background, I launched into my:

Suggested marching orders, courtesy of a frustrated member of the Buff Nation”

1) Go public with your intentions. The “silent phase” of fundraising has got to come to an end, and it has to come to an end now.

How has Mr. George done?

Very well.

The reason for the concern was that CU was seemingly on its tenth straight year of its “silent phase” of fund-raising, with little public documentation as to the status of the campaign.

And now?

The Sustainable Excellence Initiative has been on the front page of the CU website for several years now. Want to know how how CU is doing? Want to read up on the “Drive for $105”? It’s right here for all to see.

2) Be bold. Dream big, and then make it happen.

How has Mr. George done?

Have you seen the Champions Center? If so, you know the answer to issue No. 2. Read any article about Buffs’ new facilities, and you get nothing but rave reviews. Under Rick George, the facilities upgrade has gone from a wistful prayer to a reality in less than three years.

3) Involve the little guy. Assuming no one from the Phil Knight or T. Boone Pickens families is going to adopt CU as their new favorite team, you can’t rely on huge donations alone to make things happen.

How has Mr. George done?

Very well, thank you.

While it took awhile to come to fruition, the Legacy Brick program was launched a year ago, and has been a success. According to this article, posted just this week, the Buff Walk program has sold over 2,500 Legacy Bricks, and has raised over $600,000.

While it impossible to raise over $100 million a brick at a time, involving the “average fan” in the process pays great dividends. It makes us feel like we are a part of the process, a part of resurrection of the program. If you feel like an “owner”, you are going to attend games, buy memorabilia, and stay loyal to your team.

Mission accomplished.

4) Improve CU’s brand. 

How has Mr. George done?

A good job here as well.

Short of donning a helmet and helping the football team win a few more games, Rick George has done almost everything possible to help restore the Colorado brand.

Now, it’s one thing to swim upstream against a market obsessed with the Denver Broncos. CU will always be a distant second in fan loyalty in the Denver metro area.

It’s another problem altogether to have to fight against perceived deficiencies from a contentious media market.

Need proof? Two articles from just the past few days:

– “Who’s ‘Big’ and who’s ‘Little’ is becoming less clear between CU and CSU“, from Mile High Sports (warning: if you are on medication for high blood pressure, do not read this article); and

– “Former CU Buff Chadd Evans being held in connection with the shooting deaths of three people in Park Hill“, from the Daily Camera (originally from our good friends at the Denver Post). Don’t remember Chadd Evans? Neither did I. It turns out Evans was a member of the team for one year (2004), before transferring to Tulsa and playing only one year there. Only the most tangential relationship to the CU program, but that’s not the impression you get from the headline.

And so it goes … CU against the local media, and, often enough, against its own University (though that relationship has improved in recent years).

One move by Rick George which I would have him take back. Restore the program which took 50 of the most loyal fans from the student section to the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament (and, hopefully, the NCAA tournament). That program helped the Buffs go on an unlikely run to the Pac-12 title as a sixth seed in 2012, and helped fill the student section at home games throughout the year.

5) Go to some tailgate parties. Not the fine china and silverware variety, but those with beer and brats.

How has Mr. George done?

Very well, indeed.

Everyone I have spoken with who has met Rick George has come away with a favorable impression. He understands that it’s not just about schmoozing the most wealthy members of the Buff Nation, but befriending everyone who walks down the street wearing black-and-gold.

For me, the first and the most recent contacts I have had with Mr. George have completely sold me on his abilities to handle the job of meeting and greeting the average fan.

As noted, above, Rick George called me to discuss my letter – on his fourth day on the job. An infinite “to do” list in his new job … and he called me to discuss CU athletics.

Then, this spring, when I was in town to interview Lance Carl, Lance took me down to Mr. George’s office to say hello. There, without any prompting other than hearing my name, Rick remembered my letter from two-and-a-half years before.

It is the job of a politician to have a great memory, and to make everyone they meet feel special.

Athletic directors, for better or worse, are politicians.

Rick George is very good at his job.

6) Do not allow CU to be left behind.

How has Mr. George done?

Another positive grade.

The concern in 2013 was that, when the Power Five conferences would eventually morph into the Power Four conferences, that Colorado might not make the final 64-team cut. When Rick George took over, Colorado had facilities which were at the bottom tier amongst its peers, and that, combined with the disastrous 1-11 season in 2012, gave Buff fans some real reason to fear that Colorado would be left out of future realignment discussions.

Since then, the won/loss results on the field have marginally improved, but the addition of the Champions Center has all but assured the Buffs that they are in the big time to stay.

Overall … 

By almost any objective measurement, the University of Colorado athletic department is in better shape than it was 1,000 days ago.

Rick George has not only put together a vision of facilities improvement … he has made it a reality.

There are some remaining issues, of course. The football team must find a way to start winning games if the Mike MacIntyre regime is to continue. The relationship between the athletic department and the media is a constant struggle. The Pac-12 must find a way to keep from falling further and further behind the other power conferences in media and overall revenue.

But those issues are largely outside the control of Rick George. Those issues which have been under his control since taking over in August of 2013 have been handled, and handled well.

The Buff Nation is lucky to have Rick George as its athletic director, and there are good reasons to be excited about where the next 1,000 days will take us.




3 Replies to “Rick George – Revisited”

  1. Regarding Evans arrest, the media loves to jump on football, and not just CU.
    The guy could have been identified as a former CU student, or ex-Boulder resident, but since he put on shoulder pads, he was a member of the football team.

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