FORT COLLINS - Jack Graham, the man behind the plan to build a controversial on-campus stadium at CSU, was terminated as the school's athletic director Friday.
Graham, 61, a former Colorado State University quarterback, was hired Dec. 1, 2011. He first pitched the idea of replacing aging Hughes Stadium with an on-campus facility to CSU President Tony Frank in the fall of 2011. Frank cited that kind of bold thinking, along with Graham's business background and ties to CSU as an alum and former athlete, in selecting him as the school's athletic director.
However, fundraising to build the privately funded stadium has lagged with a reported $24.2 million generated as of June 30.
Frank was given conditional approval to move forward on plans for the stadium by the school's Board of Governors in October 2012, provided half of the estimated $220 million in construction costs were raised in advance by October of this year.
In a news release, the university said letting go of Graham was not related to the stadium issue.
Graham was responsible for the hiring of new head coaches in three of the Rams' four revenue sports. He brought in Jim McElwain to coach the football program, Larry Eustachy to run the men's basketball program and Ryun Williams to guide the women's basketball program. He also dropped the school's women's water polo program and replaced it with a women's soccer team.
Frank released the following statement about his decision to terminate Graham's employment:
"I have elected to terminate Jack Graham's employment as athletic director. While I am grateful to Jack for the energy he's brought to CSU in establishing a culture that expects excellence within Ram Athletics and his actions in hiring great coaches and staff, there have come to exist some substantial differences in our views. Based on our differences, I have chosen to exercise the termination for convenience clause within Jack's contract to allow the university and the athletic department to move forward, building on the successes that Jack brought to our program. As a personnel issue, this will be the University's only comment on this personnel action."
"Our athletic department has made great strides in the last few years, and I wholeheartedly expect that progress to continue. This in no way diminishes our institutional commitment to excellence in athletics. We're excited about the future of our program and looking forward to a great year."
Graham released the following statement after Frank's announcement:
"Today, Colorado State University informed me of its decision to terminate my contract as Director of Athletics. This announcement is surprising and deeply disappointing to me. I will personally miss the opportunity to continue to build on what we have accomplished during the past two and a half years," Graham said. "I sincerely hope that the University's decision today will not derail the significant strides and positive developments that have been made in CSU Athletics and our fundraising efforts for the new stadium."
Graham had spent the previous 30 years in the reinsurance industry, running branch offices for E.W. Blanch and then starting up and running his own company, Boulder-based International Catastrophe Insurance Managers in 1998. Graham sold the company, known as ICAT, to an investment group that included Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen but remained the chief executive officer until stepping down to become CSU's athletic director.
ICAT had in-force premiums in excess of $135 million and was operating as a general agent in 38 states when it was sold to Vulcan Capital, according to a company news release announcing the sale.
Frank has appointed Deputy Athletics Director John Morris interium director of athletics. A national search is expected to begin for a permanent replacement. More details will be released later this month.
Frank will report to the university's Board of Governors in October about the impact of Graham's firing on the on-campus stadium project.
Follow reporter Kelly Lyell at twitter.com/KellyLyell and facebook.com/KellyLyell.news. Allison Sylte from KUSA-TV contributed to this report.
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