FT. COLLINS -- It has been a great year In Fort Collins. The Colorado State Rams have a new head football and basketball coach. Plus, there is talk of a new on campus stadium.
The culture at CSU is changing and it has to do with one man. That would be Jack Graham.
At 6-foot-4, you can’t miss Graham at any Colorado State athletic event.
He meets, greets and oversees everything.
“The reality is I am wrapped around the axle,” said Graham. “I can’t wait to get the ball up in the air.”
He knows he has a tall task ahead of him.
“The level of intensity is a bit different when you are the athletic director as opposed to being an alum and a fan.”
An Alum and a fan is what he was until a little over a year ago.
Brian Roth, the voice of the Rams, said everyone was surprised because it did come out of left field.
“All of a sudden Kowalczyk gets fired and here’s Jack Graham a very successful businessman who is a former football player,” said Roth.
The Colorado State quarterback was good enough to get drafted by the Dolphins and bounced around the NFL, but it didn’t work out.
“I did have to shake the mud of my boots and say ok I got to have a great career doing something else and that was a choice.”
It was a smart choice. Graham went on to a successful 30-year career in the international insurance and reinsurance markets and sold his business in 2010. The multi-millionaire has been a solid donor for his alma mater. So how in the world did he end up as Athletic Director?
“I didn’t ask for this job, I really and truly didn’t,” said Graham. “I expressed my dissatisfaction as a proud alum, as a fan, as somebody who really cares. I was asked to go share my feelings and my thoughts with President Tony Frank. Tony ultimately asked me if I would be willing to take on the athletic director’s job.”
“I wanted somebody who had business experience,” said the CSU President. “The main reason was is that I wanted someone who was absolutely passionate about excellence in Ram athletics and really wasn’t willing to settle for anything less.”
“I think that the culture that existed inside at Colorado State is what I describe as a culture of poverty,” said Graham. “We are going to be a top 25 football program we are going to go to the ncaa tournament year in and year out in basketball”
And like any successful business, it’s about who works below the person in charge.
“There is one thing that is really comforting as a football coach, said Jim McElwain.” “We put in a lot of hours but his car is always here before us and is still in the parking lot when we’re leaving so you know that he’s committed to it.
“It’s the most thankless job being AD,” said CSU men’s basketball coach Larry Eustachy. In this profession you can’t be afraid to step out on a branch. He isn’t. If he believes in something, he’ll go get it.”
Now comes a big test for Graham. He wants to bring a football stadium on-campus replacing Hughes stadium where the Rams have been playing since 1968. The new stadium will cost up to $250 million.
“I’ve been calling on donors and prospective donors and asking them to give to the stadium really for about the last six weeks,” said Graham. “I’d say since the holiday season ended. Raising 125 million dollars is a very large project”
“It’s a game changer for all of Fort Collins, said McElwain. “It’s a game changer for this university and whatever side of the fence that you are on.”
It’s a tall order, one victory and dollar at a time.
“This is what you can expect to see from Colorado State and the kind of engagement that you are seeing from our students comes as a result from that kind of success,” said Graham. “This is what we are going to see in the future”