BROOMFIELD, Colo. (AP) — Mike Bohn said he was blindsided by the University of Colorado’s decision to make a change at athletic director.
He thought he was doing things right.
Well, maybe not on the football field, where the Buffaloes were struggling to find success, but he was bringing in money and the basketball teams were reaching new heights.
He was shocked by the recent conversation he had with chancellor Philip DiStefano, who made it clear the school wanted to head in another direction and that a switch might trigger better opportunities to raise money.
Shock turned to frustration and Bohn submitted his resignation after eight years in charge of the athletic program. He will depart on Monday.
Bohn vigorously defended his track record in a 45-minute speech on Thursday at a nearby hotel, even distributing a seven-page handout detailing accomplishments, fundraising numbers, community involvement and facility investments.
“The insinuation that we don’t have a plan is offensive at best,” Bohn said.
As for why he’s no longer athletic director, Bohn simply said, “I don’t know.”
Soon after his meeting with the press, the university issued a statement, saying: “The University leadership has always been appreciative of Mike Bohn’s many contributions to CU athletics and to the CU-Boulder campus. … We wish Mike all the best, and we’re focused now on moving ahead on our fundraising and organizational goals for intercollegiate athletics.”
VIDEO: Mike Bohn’s Entire Speech
The day before, DiStefano had a similar briefing and didn’t shed any light on the specifics behind the move. DiStefano did say that he wanted his next athletic director to act like a CEO and manage a program with an annual budget of around $60 million.
Fundraising would be an important part of the position as well.
Bohn took offense at the notion he couldn’t fundraise. In his handout, he said he increased suite sales by 34 percent and created a “Buff Club Cabinet,” where the minimum annual donation was $25,000 (the club had 68 members). He also said athletic giving in cash and pledges totaled $7.6 million in 2011 and $11.8 million in 2012.
“We are the No. 1 fundraising unit on the Boulder campus,” Bohn said. “I was never told, ‘Hey we’re not meeting numbers.’ … That’s why I use words like troubling, shocking — I had no idea this was coming. I was never informed there was ever an issue. When I arrived, the budget was about $32 to $35 million. It’s $60 million now. I’m proud of that record. My heart knows the honest and passionate commitment that we have made. I have no regrets.”
He provided a lengthy list of endeavors over his tenure, things like:
— Installation of Colorado’s Hall of Fame
— Extending a contract with Nike
— Renovating facilities at Folsom Field
— Creating a soccer facility on campus
— Setting an all-time home attendance record for men’s basketball last season
— Building a new practice facility
— Ushering the Buffs from the Big 12 Conference into the Pac-12
“I’m proud as heck,” Bohn said. “Do I wish we could’ve continued to carry the ball and do what we want to do? Absolutely.”
The lack of success on the football field may have ultimately led to his downfall.
Colorado struggled to gain any traction in football, with Bohn firing two coaches and pushing a third out the door.
It began with Gary Barnett, who was the incumbent coach when Bohn took over the department and who reluctantly accepted a buyout in 2005 after going 49-38 in seven seasons marred by a sexual assault scandal.
Dan Hawkins was the trendy pick at the time, but couldn’t consistently win, either, and was fired in 2010 after going 19-39 in five seasons. The Buffs tried to restore the luster of the program through Jon Embree, a former CU player, but he lasted just two seasons.
Bohn replaced Embree in December with Mike MacIntyre, formerly of San Jose State and someone who has a history of turning around downtrodden programs.
“I’m disappointed we weren’t able to turn the corner,” Bohn said. “The football program is a huge deal. It’s king.”
DiStefano said the school will assemble a search committee next week and that there is no rush to find Bohn’s replacement. In the meantime, former CU women’s basketball coach Ceal Barry will serve as the interim director of intercollegiate athletics.
As part of his buyout, Bohn will receive $918,000 along with eight season tickets to football and basketball games for life. He found it entertaining how taken people were with that part of his settlement agreement.
“I grew up here. This is my hometown. My mom lives here,” Bohn said of the tickets. “Eventually, when I come back to the Colorado area, I’ll have tickets. I want to be a part of it.
“I recognize their right to have who they want. I’m a company guy, I’ll continue to be a company guy. That’s their prerogative. It’s no different than when the Broncos decide who their quarterback will be. That’s their prerogative, despite how popular or unpopular the other guy is.”
- By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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