Snow is on the ground, cold is in the air and students are milling about campus after returning from a long winter’s nap. As poetic as that may sound, it is impossible to ignore the fact that there are a few less tennis balls flying around thanks to the hack-job Athletic Director Mike Bohn performed on his department last spring when he cut the men’s tennis program.
Or maybe it is possible to ignore the fact that there is no longer a men’s tennis program at CU, which is why everyone is still milling about instead of protesting. Perhaps Bohn knew that cutting the program would make little noise and incite little ruckus and was his best option to save a few bucks and put some foundation and eye shadow on a very ugly state of affairs inside the CU Athletic Department.
The men’s tennis program cost a little over $300,000 per season to run. Considering Bohn is still writing $3 million checks to Gary Barnett, $300,000 seems a little frivolous to consider it worth getting rid of.
Considering Bohn has a football team that takes up over 95 percent of the athletic department’s budget and just completed a 2-10 season which will undoubtedly drive away season ticket holders in an already apathetic sports community, it is reasonable to believe Bohn had bigger fish to fry than former Head Coach Sam Winterbotham and his team.
After all, Winterbotham made every effort to prove to Bohn the program should stick. He guided the Buffs to a 20-9 record last spring, their first 20 win season since 1996-97, and their success garnered them their first NCAA tournament berth since 1988. He was named Co-Big 12 Coach of the Year, and the men finished the season ranked No.25 nationally.
Alas, Bohn took the scissors to a program on the rise, one that Winterbotham had guided to success and had headed in the right direction with solid recruiting and excellent coaching. Looking around the CU Athletic Department, the second-year AD may have taken away the only program moving up the ladder. After all, the football team is just picking its ladder up after Barnett kicked it down on his way out, and the men’s basketball program will be picking theirs up very soon once head coach Ricardo Patton gives one final push after this his final season.
That makes it hard to look past the fact that Bohn took away his only really successful team. Seems a little backwards.
Football, by the by, is the department’s only revenue-producing sport. No wonder women’s basketball head coach Kathy McConnell-Miller and football head coach Dan Hawkins were “forced” to sign incentive-laden contracts upon their arrival in Boulder. Bohn has to be hoping his teams are unsuccessful so he doesn’t have to pay his coaches and won’t have to hack away at the skiing team or the women’s golf team somewhere down the road.
Now don’t confuse me with a coach-potato quarterback, so to speak. I would not like to be in Bohn’s shoes, as much as I’m sure Bohn doesn’t want to be in his own shoes. How do you infuse the same passion for CU football that Nebraska football has? How do you conjure up fan support for a floundering basketball team that is really just playing exhibition games until it can find its next coach? How do you get a consistent and solid money stream flowing into an athletic department that had to take out an $8 million loan less than a year ago? How can you possibly expect to keep prominent, in-state high school athletes from leaving when your athletic facilities are some of the worst in the Big 12, if not NCAA Division-I?
Don’t be surprised if this paper’s next headline reads “AD Bohn suffering from vertigo, insomnia and night terrors all at same time.” With those types of questions whispering in his ear on a no doubt regular basis, a headline like that seems all too probable.
This is not to excuse Bohn from having a faulty escape plan, although even our own President isn’t getting excused from that these days. Cutting the men’s tennis program was not the answer. The athletic department is still in debt, fans are still not coming to basketball games and the only team that seems to be any good is the ski team.
If Bohn’s previous actions with the tennis program are any kind of foreshadowing, the skiers might be smart to put in applications at Montana State. After what happened to Winterbotham and his successful group, the skiers might be next to feel the ax of Mike “Paul Bunyan” Bohn.