Mike Bohn's Legacy Has Yet to Be Written, But His Passion is Clear

Marc Piscotty

Mike Bohn spoke to the media for the first time since his forced resignation Thursday in Broomfield.

After a week of soul searching and a passionate public defense of his record during a press conference on Thursday at Broomfield's Omni Interlocken Hotel, Mike Bohn summed up his ouster as Colorado athletic director in three words as he exited stage left:

"This (expletive) hurts."

No matter how you feel about Bohn's shepherding of the Buffaloes over the last eight years, there is no question the Boulder High School graduate loves CU and made decisions based on what he felt was in the best interest of the long-term success of the athletic department and university.

The final time I personally experienced Bohn's, um, "devotion" to the place was during halftime of the key CU-Oregon basketball game at the Coors Events Center this March. That's when he was screaming at me like a madman for breaking the story that Andre Roberson was out indefinitely with mononucleosis.

Some stunned fans and peers who witnessed the heated and one-sided exchange wanted to know what Bohn's "problem" was. Maybe he cared too much.

CU's now former athletic director would do anything to protect a student-athlete or fight for one of his programs.

I would also like to note that Bohn - who I suggested in print should be fired after the debacle that was Jon Embree's farewell press conference and not allowed to hire a third football coach at CU - was one of the very first people to reach out to me when I was unceremoniously resigned from the newspaper business.

Unfortunately, as standup a guy as Bohn is, I doubt he's interested trading severance packages.

So why was Bohn safe after the disastrous 2012 football season and handed a pink slip by Phil DiStefano now?

"I don't know why," Bohn said.

The chancellor said during his less quotable press conference this week that he "made the decision that now is the time to bring in a strong leader to set the strategy that will step the department up to a new level of performance in fundraising and overall management."

Bohn pointed out that when he was hired the CU athletic department was facing a significant financial deficit in the neighborhood of $8 million. The decision to part ways with Gary Barnett after the 2005 Big 12 championship game added about $3 million to the problem.

There is no defense for the Buffs' 25-61 record over the past seven seasons under Dan Hawkins and Embree, but Bohn did his best to explain the .290 winning percentage of the program that is relied upon to pay the bills.

"Just think back when Gary talked to me and said, ‘Mike, I can't get out of this hole, I've basically got to go.' And I negotiated a separation with Gary. We owed him a lot more. My hat's off to Gary for meeting us at a happy place," Bohn said. "At that time we went out and recruited what many people in the nation thought was the No. 1 (coaching) prospect to come in and pull it together. That didn't work out for obviously lots of different reasons. I think the stain on the football program associated with the challenge is one that has been a bearcat to put together. ...

"Then there was a huge push to want a Buff. We felt excited about bringing in some Buffs that had some wonderful coaching experience and connections and we quickly saw that wasn't going to work. We made the tough decision; I made the recommendation to move there. I get that. A.D.'s are judged by the coaches they hire."

Bohn believes his final football decision, hiring Mike MacIntyre, will eventually prove to be as savvy as his decision to take a chance on a uncelebrated coach from Northern Colorado three years ago when the players were demanding Steve McClain and most "experts" were lobbying for Mike Dunlap.

Let's not forget Bohn was the athletic director who finally made a commitment to basketball at CU. He agreed to put language in Jeff Bzdelik's contract that led to the construction of the new practice facility and other long overdue upgrades at the Coors Events Center.

While moving from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 was a no-brainer that CU administrators and supporters had dreamed of for decades, it actually became a reality on Bohn's watch.

Trust me, Tad Boyle and Larry Scott are not pleased with DiStefano's decision to fire Bohn.

"I never had a negative evaluation," Bohn said. "I met virtually every expectation and all my incentives for eight years straight. I gave it my all, I carried the ball forward, and the program is positioned for a bright future. ... I have no regrets about that."

According to the CU Foundation, the athletic department raised $7.6 million in private donations in 2011 and $11.8 million in 2012. The department's overall budget almost doubled over the last eight years. Men's basketball season tickets went up 69 percent last season.

Bohn also believes his grandiose plans for "transformational" facilities upgrades would have been realized if not for this week's blindside sack. He said questioning his ability to run the athletic department as a business and to fundraise is "offensive."

But due to the penalties associated with changing conferences, a $2.6 million drop off in football ticket revenue, contract buyouts from yet another coaching change, and the fact that the revenue from the lucrative Pac-12 media deal has not started kicking in yet, CU's athletic department is seeing red again this year and will be again next year.

DiStefano wants a new athletic director to get CU out of this hole.

"We knew it was going to be a tough two-year window. And campus knew that," Bohn said. "This is my hometown and I'm proud of that. I will never, ever believe that we didn't put out whole heart, soul, mind and key resources into it to pull that all together. I let my record stand for what it is."

Perhaps CU's next athletic director will do a better job than Bohn. But it will be difficult to find one that cares about the Buffs as much.

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