Monthly Archives: November 2011

Keeping Steve Fairchild at CSU… Is It Really That Crazy?

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Apparently some folks out there think Fairchild should be given another year. I am not one of them. (Photo courtesy Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Yes.

I’m surprised at the number of people I interact with who are somewhat opposed to firing Steve Fairchild. Tweets, texts, friends, family, random dudes in CSU hats, whatever. I was skeptical coming into this season and I became completely anti-Fairchild after the homecoming loss to San Jose State. I’ve already moved on and started looking for new coaches, but apparently I may have gotten ahead of myself.

Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post wrote an interesting and in-depth article that was posted online Tuesday afternoon weighing the complications of keeping or firing Fairchild. I encourage you to read the article here.

The chief arguments for sticking with Fairchild are these, followed by my rebuttal (a term I usually save for beer pong):

CONTRACT:

The biggest issue in firing Fairchild is, naturally, money. He has one more year left on his five-year contract and will make $700,000 next season if he is retained. The obvious argument here is that a school like Colorado State cannot afford to pay two coaches at once.

My response to that is simple:  Do what ya gotta do. Kowalczyk made a mistake with this hiring and we all end up paying for our mistakes, financially or otherwise. In other words:  Yes that is a lot of money, but too damn bad.

Another point that cannot be overlooked here is the recruiting situation with a lame duck head coach. It’s tough to imagine Fairchild being granted a contract extension, and a struggling coach in the final year of his contract isn’t attractive to young recruits. Competing schools would undoubtedly let recruits know that CSU’s staff probably won’t be there much longer.

Can we afford to throw an entire season of recruiting in the toilet for the sake of saving money? I understand $700,000 is not chump change, but waiting a year to fire Fairchild would prove very costly in its own right.

RECRUITS/YOUNG TEAM

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Fairchild has not translated supposedly strong recruiting classes into wins. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Most of Fairchild’s supporters point out that the players who are leading this team are all young kids, which is actually a pretty strong argument. Chris Nwoke has had a breakout year to say the least. Garrett Grayson has shown some promise as a true freshman. Shaquil Barrett, Mike Orakpo, Nordly Capi, Crockett Gillmore and Weston Richburg are all sophomores making huge contributions as starters. They argue that Fairchild has done a great job recruiting and this team will be very good in a couple years. Firing Fairchild may even cause some of these kids to transfer schools.

My response: Let’s not get too caught up in how many stars a kid has next to his name coming out of high school. Pete Thomas was the greatest recruit for CSU in years; Fairchild’s crown jewel. He’s had his time to prove himself and hasn’t done it. Yes, all of these sophomores are leading the team, but the team is getting beat every week.

After Air Force pounded CSU, Tim Jefferson, the Falcons’ senior quarterback said, “No offense to CSU, but we moved the ball down the field way too easily against a Division I defense.” That’s a classy kid from a service academy saying he didn’t think the Rams looked like a Division I team.

That’s not exactly saying, “They have a lot of young talent. I was impressed with some plays those guys made. They should have a great team a couple years down the road.”

INJURIES

This 2011 team has been hit very hard with injuries. Mychal Sisson is our best player and he was out for the bulk of the year. Pete Thomas is going to miss the last three games of the year. E.B. Smith missed some games.

My response: Don’t wanna hear it. Every team gets hit with injuries; next man up. If Fairchild is such a good recruiter, we should have a deep enough team to beat UNLV and San Jose State regardless of who is stuck on the sidelines. I don’t remember injuries hitting the Rams this hard in 2010 or 2009 and we went 3-9 each of those seasons too.

***

Keeping Fairchild would be a simple case of overthinking the situation. We can talk all we want about potential, about attitude, about tough luck, and even about money.

Paul Kowalczyk (courtesy colostate.edu)

Paul Kowalczyk has a huge decision to make. It's not a tough one if he doesn't overthink things. (Photo courtesy colostate.edu)

The truth is simple and it’s right in front of our eyes. Colorado State has descended to the bottom of the college football world over the past three years. Nine wins, 26 losses– soon to be 27 after Wyoming heads back to Laramie with the Bronze Boot Saturday– while playing in the Mountain West Conference (and not exactly traveling to SEC country in non-conference games).

Things have gone from frustrating, to disappointing, to sad, to embarrassing. CSU fans are too proud, if not apathetic, to put up with this for another year. Listen, I understand Colorado State isn’t Oklahoma or LSU, but this isn’t Louisiana Tech or Portland State either. This is a program with a tremendous history and strong tradition. This is a university located in one of the nation’s best cities with a huge alumni base just down the road in Denver, a major market and one of America’s great sports towns.

Colorado State football can be a very respectable college football program. Unfortunately– and it is unfortunate, because he’s a proud Ram and a good person– I don’t think they ever will be with Steve Fairchild running the show.

Don’t overthink it, Paul Kowalcyzk, it’s time to move on.

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The Search for Colorado State’s Next Head Coach

Now that we can all agree that Steve Fairchild is finished at Colorado State, it’s time to think about who is going to take the reins for the Rams next. I think it’s imperative that Paul Kowalczyk looks in the college ranks this time and stays away from the NFL, which is a completely different game and requires completely different coaches.

I’ve come up with a couple humble suggestions for the next man to run practices at Elizabeth and Shields in 2012:

Billy Gonzales:  Wide Receivers Coach at Louisiana State. 

Billy Gonzales

Billy Gonzales is a CSU alumni who may be ready for a head coaching job. (Photo courtesy: lsusports.net)

Ram fans might want to remember this name, this could be the guy. Gonzales, 40, is a CSU grad from the class of 1994. He followed Urban Meyer from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida, coaching wide receivers at each stop along the way. In his four years at Florida he was part of a staff that won two national championships and he coached seven players who were drafted into the NFL, including first-round pick Percy Harvin. He was also promoted to the position of recruiting coordinator in his last two years at Florida. He’s at LSU now, and while they win with defense, they are the best team in the nation. You can read more about Gonzales here.

Gonzales would be a good hire if he’s ready to run a major program as head coach, a pretty big step up from wide receivers coach. If he’s not, here’s hoping Kowalcyzk offers Gonzales the offensive coordinator job at his alma mater. Gonzales’ SEC ties cannot be overlooked. Even as a wide receivers coach he certainly understands how big-time college football works, something Fairchild is clearly clueless about. I like the idea of having an alumni run your program, although Fairchild has also taught us that’s far from the most important thing. (Jon Embree are you listening?) Gonzales made $335,000 at LSU in 2010, Fairchild made $700,00, according to USA Today’s coaching salary database. So the argument that an assistant job at an SEC school is better than a head coaching job in a minor conference doesn’t hold much weight. Anyway, I have heard (don’t snicker) that Gonzales does want to be a head coach, and the timing seems perfect for him to come back to Fort Collins.

Justin Fuente:  Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach at Texas Christian.

Justin Fuente

Justin Fuente has done big things as the co-offensive coordinator at TCU. (Photo courtesy: gofrogs.cstv.com)

Fuente became the TCU co-offensive coordinator in 2009, right when the Horn Frogs’ offense began setting records. Fuente did special things with quarterback Andy Dalton, the two-time Mountain West offensive player of the year. Now, Dalton is having a very impressive rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals after being selected as the 35th overall pick. TCU was known for their defense, but Fuente has helped direct them to offensive dominance in his two-plus seasons as one of the offensive coordinators. Read more about Fuente here.

I think this would be a great hire for the Rams. Fuente seems to be a rising star in the coaching world and obviously knows the Mountain West very well. This would be similar to Dave Christensen leaving his job as a successful offensive coordinator at Missouri to take the Wyoming head coaching job. That has worked out reasonably well for the Cowboys thus far. Fuente has no ties to CSU– except for putting up 71 points against Fairchild in two games– but as noted above, that might not be a bad thing. Given the state of the Colorado State program, I think Rams fans would be okay with a coach who was running the offense for a team that just won the Rose Bowl.

Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer

If Urban Meyer wants to come coach at CSU... that would be nice. (Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images)

Bear with me. Or don’t. I realize the chances of Urb coming back to the coaching world at CSU are slim to none. Or maybe just none. But think about it for a minute:

Meyer spent six seasons coaching at Colorado State under Sonny Lubick in the mid-1990s, then went on to become one of the great head coaches in the nation. He retired at 46 due to some health issues, but it is widely understood that the stress of the job became too much for the very intense Meyer to take. Now he is an analyst and commentator on ESPN.

If Meyer does want to return to coaching, wouldn’t it be logical for him to take a job at a much smaller school, with much smaller expectations and much less stress? Wouldn’t it be nice to come to CSU, recruit a couple studs, win a diminished Mountain West title, kick his feet up with a 90 Schilling and call it a year?

A kid can dream right?

Okay go ahead and throw the Urban Meyer idea in the tank if you want. But when Gonzales or Fuente is hired, remember who told you first.