Colorado conversation: CU coaches, administrators chat with The Gazette

June 5, 2017 Updated: June 5, 2017 at 8:21 pm

photo - Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre smiles as he makes his way through the crowd to watch Oregon play Colorado in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre smiles as he makes his way through the crowd to watch Oregon play Colorado in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

As part of their tour across the state, representatives from the University of Colorado athletic department stopped at The Gazette’s office in Colorado Springs on Monday for an hourlong conversation with president and publisher Dan Steever, editor Vince Bzdek and sports reporter Brent Briggeman. Here’s some of what was discussed:

Do you see clouds on the horizon when it comes to television payouts as ESPN continues to report financial troubles and changes in TV viewing habits might shrink audiences?

We talk a lot about that. The environment has changed. We’re the only conference that owns 100 percent of its network. Our contract is up in 2023 or ’24 with our TV partners, ESPN and Fox, so where does that go? So we’ve got a network that we could potentially put in a deal. We’re looking at different media rights that we have and how that will play in the future. It’s a landscape that’s changing. … We probably won’t see a lot of growth in our revenue distribution unless we get a couple teams in the Final Four or in the College Football Playoff – which we hope we’re one of them. So from that perspective, if we’re competitive we can generate more revenue. But I don’t see our revenue streams changing much in the near future.

– Athletic director Rick George

On the topic of revenue, as the divide between the Power Five conferences and other college programs grows, will a time arrive when those major conferences don’t need the others?

I think it’s important that we still have the others. Most of our preseason games are not against Power Five schools. … We’ll see where that goes. But schools that have budgets $20-$30 million less than us are still very competitive in a lot of aspects, whether it’s football, basketball or women’s basketball.

– George

While many teams have found a way to compete, is this a sustainable model?  

I’ve sat on the board of directors for Division I for almost a year now, so I’m fairly new at it. That was one of my concerns about being part of the Power Five, but I’ve seen it work extremely well. If we decide on certain legislation, everyone has the option of joining in. Some will, some won’t and they can kind of pick and choose. And I think that’s fine. The budgets will go from a $10 million athletic budget to a $120 million athletic budget. If that’s the reality, how do you deal with it? That’s what we’re looking at.

– Chancellor Philip DiStefano

It scares me for our sport, long term. I think the beauty of college basketball is the Cinderella story in the tournament. Those Cinderellas are going to get fewer and fewer. The beauty of our sport is a school can literally come out of nowhere and make the national stage, and I’d hate to see that go away. But I think it eventually will under this model.

– Men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle

I agree. That’s why people loved our game so much this spring, because somebody finally did something other than Connecticut.

– Women’s basketball coach JR Payne

What has been the impact of a successful football season on recruiting? I would assume that before you had to sell a vision, whereas now you can point to a more concrete results.

I call it the undercurrent. Before, we’d go to a recruit and we’d talk and a kid would walk out of there – say it’s here at Pine Creek – and he’d tell his buddy that Colorado talked to him. And his buddy would say, ‘Colorado? You don’t want to go there, they suck.’ That’s exactly what they were saying to him. Then he’d talk to his uncle, who would say, ‘You don’t want to go there, they’re not winning.’ Now the same kid walks out and hears, ‘You ought to go there. It’s awesome! Did you see what they’re doing?’ You can’t beat the undercurrent. Now the undercurrent is with us, so that helps us be more successful.”

– football coach Mike MacIntyre

And how has success in football helped financially?

It helps a lot. It helps from a revenue standpoint when you can put 48,000-50,000 in there (Folsom Field) vs. 38,000-40,000. We’ve had a 97 percent renewal rate on season tickets from this past year, which puts us well ahead of the pace going into this year.

– George

Do you often find yourself recruiting against Air Force?

The young men that go to Air Force are not only good players, but they have a calling. That’s what I call it. I kind of feel guilty recruiting them. If this guy is called to do this, I want great young men protecting our country and doing that. So it’s a little bit different situation.

– MacIntyre