WINDSOR, Colo. – Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn concedes the best marketing tools for any athletic program and its head coaches are found in their respective win columns.
"We understand winning’s important," Bohn said Monday.
But how important is it this season for football coach Dan Hawkins, who at his team’s senior banquet last season challenged his returnees to shoot for "10 wins and no excuses" in 2009?
Well, Bohn is savvy enough not to say any win total that falls short of double figures would be disastrous. He’s also savvy enough to stay away from defining just what might be a successful 2009 season.
"I think it’s too early to say that, but I think in a lot of ways we’re having an awesome season already," Bohn said. "I think when you have ESPN committing to two Thursday night games featuring our team (at West Virginia, at Oklahoma State), to featuring another Friday night game (at Toledo), to FSN featuring Colorado State on a Sunday in an exclusive window nationally ... those are huge statements for us."
Bohn also said discussions are underway with ESPN and ABC that possibly would put CU’s 2010 home game against Georgia in a prime time television slot.
But once again he underlined the importance of stockpiling the 'W's’ – something Hawkins hasn’t done to his own satisfaction during his first three seasons (13-24 overall, one bowl appearance) at CU.
Said Bohn: "How will that (CU vs. Georgia being a prime-time TV attraction) happen? If we’re winning and we’re successful. So we understand that."
As a prelude for that anticipated on-field success, though, Bohn pointed to upgrades fans can expect this season at Folsom Field and others they might not notice. Permanent lighting standards are being erected and new position meeting rooms are being constructed for the team in the lower sector of the Dal Ward Athletics Center.
"Those are some of the issues that have kind of been nagging around us and never seemed to get done, but now they’re finished," Bohn said. "And I think that’s why we have a lot of momentum right now."
Now, back to those `W’s.
"But you’re right . . . it’s about wins," he added. "And I think we’re going to try to help our fans understand their role in winning. And it’s not just about dollars; it’s about how they come to the game prepared."
CU AD Mike Bohn, with Buffs' golf and football alum Hale Irwin, is pleased with the "synergy" felt in the athletic department.
"It has nothing with people making major donations, making gifts," he said. "They (fans) brought it that day to say, 'Hey, we’re going to get after these cats.' And I think that’s the passion element we’re trying to instill in our fans, that they can make a difference."
Bohn indicated he and other athletic department officials are experiencing a "synergy" present that previously hasn’t been apparent to him.
"I feel like the support from the president’s office, to the chancellor’s office, to the role of the faculty, to our increased academic performance ... from a lot of different things, it just seems to be a lot of good things happening, a lot of the right things going on right now with our team and the synergy, if you will, of the entire program," he said.
"I think our fans kind of feel that, too. When they come on game day and see the new lights, the new gating facility (on the South plaza at Folsom) and Ralphie hits that field for that opener, I think they’re going to be excited."
CU’s slogan for its student-athletes this year is "Passion to Win," and Bohn said the school expects that phrase to permeate the athletic environment.
"We expect our student-athletes, our staff, our donors and the environment around all our teams to have passion to win," he said. "That’s why synergy is a part of that. I think that passion fuels that. It’s really, really important."
HAWKINS HEALING: Hawkins did not attend Monday’s golf tournament/lunch at Pelican Lakes Club in Windsor. He was released Saturday after being hospitalized for a surgical procedure to remove kidney stones.
"I really hope Dan’s doing well; I know that’s been a tough blow for him, but he’s mentally and physically tough and I expect him to bounce back," Bohn said. "He was really going to try and get here (Monday). That’s a tough procedure, gang."
Cody Hawkins (right) and Scotty McKnight celebrate a touchdown against Colorado State in 2009.
Bohn said that question, as well as the site of the 2010 contest, remain among the issues he and his CSU counterparts are "still trying to resolve" and that definitive word on the series’ future could come before the schools play this season.
Meanwhile, CSU has sold its 3,000 ticket allotment, but Bohn said another 2,000 could be made available if CSU requests them. Similarly, he said if the 2010 CU-CSU game is played in Fort Collins, CU would "take the maximum number (5,000) we could get a hold of."
CSU’s leadership team, said Bohn, "has been a very active, collegial partner" during negotiations on the football series. "They’ve been terrific, and we’re looking forward to working with them on some other initiatives."
CSU’s marching band has been invited to perform at halftime of this season’s game.
LIGHT IT UP: Two caissons for light towers, each set about 19 feet deep, are being sunk on the West side of Folsom Field for permanent standards that will be ready for the 5 p.m. opener against CSU. CU is the last school in the Big 12 Conference to install permanent lighting, having rented temporary light standards in seasons past.
Bohn said addition of the two towers, set at each end of Balch Fieldhouse, "will create a huge reduction in light pollution we were having on game day." He said the new fixtures will disseminate "more of a downward light" and eliminate the mass of cables used for temporary lighting, which was "a huge safety concern for us."
Also being explored is the possibility of other groups on campus utilizing Folsom more when the permanent lighting is in place.
Other planned facility upgrades include dressing up the women’s soccer locker room and video room before this season’s first game at Prentup Field and addressing the discolored windows on the South side of Balch.
Bohn said all the projects mentioned are being funded by donations: "That’s huge in us being able to put that together."
HE KNOWS MY NAME: CU is about to unveil an intriguing marketing effort dubbed the CU Football Experience.
On CUBuffs.com currently, it’s a slick video that personalizes an invitation from Hawkins to purchase season tickets. The video features several former and current Buffs players, as well as former coach Bill McCartney, and concludes with Hawkins making a "personalized" telephone call to the person who logs in the required information at the video’s outset.
Throughout the video, the name of the person who signs in is printed in prominent places – such as a blanket slung over Ralphie’s back and in the Folsom Field end zone.
"It’s really a cool technology of being able to reach out to people," Bohn said.
CU is one of four NCAA football schools offering the video, according to BuffVision director Deric Swanson. The others: Arizona State, Iowa State and Boston College.
Fans can access it now at JoinYourTeam.com.
STEP UP, STUDENTS: CU anticipates selling out its student ticket allotment for football games, but Bohn said, "We’re not there yet." That entire allotment has been sold for the previous three seasons.
Bohn said students still were renewing their season tickets on line and estimated the total sold is "about 3,000 short of where we were last year (at this time), so we’re just over 19,000 right now.
"But usually when the Broncos start camp (next week) is when everything takes off."
He said the athletic department "feels good" about the suite renewals at Folsom Field, adding the stadium’s club seat sales also were "going well."
CU head men's basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik
"We’re hopeful in the next 30 days we can announce some news associated with the financing of that and how it’s all coming together," he said, adding that a new "hopeful" date for putting a shovel into the soil is early September.
The project’s initial cost was estimated at $10 million, but now has increased to about $10.8 million, Bohn said.
The facility, enough of a sticking point to men’s coach Jeff Bzdelik that he had launching the project written into his contract, is no longer being planned in conjunction with a heating/cooling facility on campus.
Bohn said he has not heard anything further from the Minnesota Timberwolves about contacting Bzdelik to discuss their head coaching vacancy. Bzdelik said he had a casual encounter with a T-wolves official last week in Las Vegas.
On target for use this season at Coors are a new video board and courtside ribbon board.
BEEFING UP THE WEB: The athletic department currently is doing about 37 percent of its commerce on its web site, but Bohn said the goal is to increase that to over 60 percent -- "And 70 percent would be great."
To that end, he said CU will continue to promote the site and hopes increased "original content" will be beneficial.
Plus, more on-line video will be available, including a soon-to-be-added segment featuring him doing a "two-minute drill."
He said the segment "will address (a timely) hot topic issue and help people understand it. It will fulfill the transparent commitment we have so people understand issues rather than allowing them to fester through Internet boards and different groups when maybe we haven’t done a good job of getting that information out."
STATE OF THE DEPARTMENT: Bohn said CU’s 2010 athletic department budget will be "virtually about the same dollar amount" as last year, that is, just over $45 million. He added when it is taken into account that the school is hosting the 2010 NCAA skiing championships (at Steamboat Springs) and a Promise Keepers rally later this month, "those expenses run through our enterprise. So our budget is actually down about $250,000 from last year if you just take out those two events."
He added there were "zero pay raises" for everyone in the athletic department, but said the department was "very excited about some of the major gifts that have come in lately."