Tag Archives: Steve Fairchild

Reaction to Colorado State’s Hiring of Jim McElwain

A press conference at noon Tuesday will be the first opportunity for the Colorado State community to welcome their newest member. Jim McElwain, currently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at #2 Alabama, will be introduced as the next head coach of the CSU Rams.

Jim McElwain (Photo courtesy of Mark Almond/Birmingham News)

Jim McElwain is a good hire as your next head coach of the CSU Rams. (Photo courtesy of Mark Almond/Birmingham News)

You can read his official bio from the Alabama athletics webisite here, but I’ll give you some of the highlights.

  • Arrived at ‘Bama in 2008; team went 12-2 after losing seven games in 2007.
  • Tide went 14-0 in 2009 and set Alabama all-time record for yards from scrimmage.
  • Coached 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.
  • Helped lead team to BCS championship game this season.
  • Coached 2011 Heisman finalist Trent Richardson.
  • In 2007, in his only season as the offensive coordinator at Fresno State, he led a somewhat dramatic turnaround of the Bulldog’s offense.

It’s unlcear what role McElwain played in recruiting at Alabama, but his biography didn’t mention anything, so my guess is not much.

It is also unclear (until the Tuesday presser) how much CSU will be paying McElwain or how many years will be on his contract. I’ve heard/seen a couple reports that McElwain will be making between $1.2 and $1.5 million, which means he could earn double the $700,000 Steve Fairchild was bringing in. McElwain made $510,000 in 2011 according to al.com.

If McElwain’s future contract numbers are accurate, the contract should not be for five or more years. Commiting around $6 million to a guy with no head coaching experience would be silly.

Anyway, this should be considered an impressive hire for new A.D. Jack Graham. As a Ram fan, I was hoping for an up-and-coming assistant coach who was familiar with big time college football and has seen what success looks like. Colorado State isn’t a likely destination for a head coach on the rise and I think hiring NFL assistants is stupid.

McElwain’s biography showed no connections to Colorado State, which should not be held against him by the die-hards in Fort Collins. If he can coach, we’ll take him.

There’s one simple way to bring back passion, interest and streams of revenue in a football program:  Win. Winning is a challange at CSU and the Rams have hitched their wagons to Jim McElwain.

Let’s hope he can recruit, motivate, run a clean program and embrace the Fort Collins community. And let’s hope he can win.

A Tumultuous Week for CSU Football and Other Musings

Jack Graham (Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post)

CSU fans sure hope Jack Graham knows what he's doing. (Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post)

I know I haven’t been around all that long, but I think Colorado State football fans will be hard-pressed to come up with a more tumultuous week than the one we all witnessed recently. Here’s a quick timeline of the events:

  • Thursday morning:  Highly respected athletic director Paul Kowalczyk fired completely out of the blue. The final 3 1/2 years of his contract are bought out using “private funds” (meaning donors/boosters likely pushed Kowalczyk out).
  • Thursday morning:  Kowalczyk replaced by Jack Graham, a passionate donor with zero athletic administrative experience.
  • Thursday afternoon: CSU President Tony Frank posts a letter in which he confirms his commitment to athletics at CSU. One eyebrow-raising sentence mentions “the impact that a privately funded football stadium on our campus would have.”
  • Saturday:  Nearly pull off a large upset against arguably the Rams’ biggest rival, only to fall short in the fourth quarter (no surprise there).
  • Sunday:  Fourth year coach Steve Fairchild fired by Graham.
  • Monday:  Graham announces his perplexing hiring of a national search firm to look for coaching candidates. Someone is paying the firm a quarter of a million dollars.
  • Tuesday morning:  Fort Collins Coloradoan article confirms that Jack Graham wants/is thinking about an on-campus stadium.

Whew… Need a few shots of Pepto Bismol to digest all that.

Other local and national sports musings:

  • How cool was it to see CSU play on Coach K court in front of the Cameron Crazies? It would have been cooler if they had a contributor taller than 6′-6″.
  • Am I the only CSU fan who was very disappointed to see the students rush the court after beating Colorado? We did the same thing two years ago and Kowalczyk sent us all an email saying how stupid it was. He was right.
  • In six or seven years the St. Louis Cardinals will be glad they’re not paying Albert Pujol$ $25 million a year, but don’t tell that to the 12-year-old in Missouri who has slept in a Number 5 jersey-T for as long as he can remember.
  • It seems like David Stern is losing control of the NBA. His nixing of the Chris Paul trade screws over three different franchises, but none more than the small market New Orleans Hornets, which he was trying to protect. Superstars in the final year of their contract will always have the power to dictate where they want to sign. It’s just an unfortunate truth.
  • The Rockies better sign some starting pitching during this offseason, the sooner the better. Getting rid of Huston Street and his contract to create flexibility was fine, but now it’s time to make some moves.
  • I would like to see Nene come back for the Nuggets, but I have a feeling some other team is willing to overpay for him. I think the Nuggets have to let them. A max contract would be a little much.
  • And no post would be complete without this:  TEBOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!!!!! At this point, there’s no sense in being skeptical. I’m all-in on the Tebow Train, and I worry that lots of people in Denver and across the country are too busy trying to be quarterback experts to enjoy what we’re seeing. This is the most remarkable football season of my generation’s lifetime, just shut up and enjoy it already.

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.

CSU Football Preview 2011

Photo Courtesy Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Steve Fairchild has some serious work to do if he wants to keep his job. (Photo Courtesy Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

A super-soft schedule may bail out Steve “In-Way-Over-My-Head” Fairchild this season for the CSU Rams. It may even force him to somehow crack a smile, which, to the best of my knowledge, would be a first.

I won’t lie, I thought Fairchild was a good hire when it went down. After he took Sonny Lubick’s players to a bowl win in 2008, I thought it looked even better. Things have kind of fallen apart since.

The Rams went 3-9 (again) last year. Going 3-9 is unacceptable, but the way last season ended makes things even more concerning.

The last home game was Senior Day (naturally) against a good BYU team. The Rams didn’t bother to show up, losing 49-10. That was embarrassing.

If the BYU game was embarrassing, the next week was humiliating. The Rams rode into Laramie for the annual Border War against arguably their biggest rival with a chance to end the season on a positive note. Wyoming was winless in the Mountain West coming into the game at 0-7.

Then the ‘Pokes beat CSU 44-0.

That game was a disgrace and hinted that Fairchild’s players may have quit on him, which has to be red flag for the program.

This year should be more kind to the Rams, thanks in large part to an easy out-of-conference schedule and a diminished Mountain West. Playing Boise State doesn’t make things any easier, but the departure of Utah and BYU make the overall conference less legit (as we used to say in Parmelee Hall).

Photo Courtesy of AP/Lenny Ignelzi

Pete Thomas needs to take some strides forward for the Rams' offense to progress. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

This year’s offense will go as far as Pete Thomas carries it. Thomas took his lumps as a freshman QB but still showed plenty of promise. Fairchild runs a fairly complex, pro-style offense and this is his first opportunity to coach a returning starter under center. If Thomas can find someone to throw the ball to, the ballyhooed recruit should be in position to take significant steps forward. On a related note, ballyhooed is a greatly underutilized term.

Defensively, there are certainly some holes but Mychal Sisson should have a monster season at linebacker. The senior used his speed to lead the nation in forced fumbles last year. He also led the Rams in tackles for a loss.

This Saturday starts an interesting season for the future of the Colorado State program. Progress is necessary. The status quo cannot be accepted.

Here’s my week-by-week breakdown:

Game 1: Sept. 3: @New Mexico  W (1-0)

This game is huge. New Mexico is picked to finish last in the MWC. They are awful. The Rams should beat this team. But winning on the road in college football isn’t an easy task, and when you’re CSU that includes playing in Albuquerque. If the Rams choke this one up, Fort Collins is in for yet another very long season and Fairchild should start looking through a few “Help Wanted” ads.

Game 2: Sept. 10 Northern Colorado W (2-0)

Northern Colorado has gone 3-8 the past two seasons– sounds kinda familiar– but UNC is a FCS (aka D-1AA) team with a first-year coach. They should be completely overmatched playing in Fort Collins. This could be a trap-game for the Rams with Colorado on deck and Bears’ coach Earnest Collins Jr. looking for a signature win, but let’s be real: CSU won’t lose this one.

Game 3: Sept. 17 Colorado* L (2-1)

*Neutral site.    Invesco Sports Authority Field at Mile High 

I really can’t stand CU, so I don’t want to pick them here, but I think their team is a little bit better than CSU again this year. Colorado’s schedule is brutal. They play 13 straight weeks without a bye. They will be huge underdogs in almost every Pac-12 Conference game. I think new coach Jon Embree realizes that The Showdown is one of the only opportunities for his program to come up with a big win. The senior duo of Tyler Hansen at quarterback and Rodney Stewart at running back should put up some big numbers against the Rams’ defense. Losing to the Buffs makes me sick, so I hope to God I’m wrong on this one.

Game 4: Sept. 24 @Utah St. W (3-1)

Utah State went 2-6 in the WAC last year and their only road win came against San Jose State. They are breaking in new starters at quarterback and running back. The Aggies will be coming off a bye week, which doesn’t help, but if the Rams are at all improved they should win this game.

Game 5: Oct. 1 San Jose St. W (4-1)

This game might be even more of a cupcake than the UNC game. Rammies win big on Homecoming Weekend.

Game 6: Oct. 15 Boise St. (4 pm) L (4-2)

Boise State is one of the best teams in the nation. BSU is better than CSU. Need I say more?

Sidenote: If CSU does beat CU, this could be a matchup of two 5-0 teams and a potential sellout of Hughes stadium for the first time in recent memory. A 4 pm start would make things even more fun/rowdy/dangerous/riot-provoking.

Game 7: Oct. 22 @UTEP W (5-2)

UTEP went to a bowl game last year but lost six of their last seven games, including getting hammered by BYU in the New Mexico Bowl. Four-year starting quarterback Trevor Vittatoe is long gone and the Miners are in a rebuilding year. Sports Illustrated is picking them to go 0-8 in Conference-USA. Rams finish out-of-conference play at 4-1.

Game 8: Oct. 29 @ UNLV W (6-2)

The Rams crushed UNLV at home last year 43-10. Things are different on the road, so this is no chippy. UNLV only has three conference home games, so this is probably their best shot at putting a tally in the left-hand column in conference play. Still, the Lobos are a bad team and are also breaking in a new quarterback. If CSU loses this one, it would be a big disappointment. They’ll pull it off and remarkably become bowl eligible before Halloween.

Game 9: Nov. 12 San Diego St. (4 pm) L (6-3)

This is an intriguing game. Things are lined up for CSU to pull off an upset of one of the nation’s upstart programs. The Rams are coming off a bye week. The Aztecs might have one eye on hosting Boise State the following week. However, I don’t see the Rams defense stopping SDSU’s prolific offense. Senior quaterback Ryan Lindley– one of the better signal callers in the country and the best in the Mountain West not named Kellen– threw for 26 touchdowns and over 3500 yards last year. Sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman ran for 1500 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in his freshman campaign. I think the Rams keep it close, but don’t come up with enough key stops to pull it off.

Game 10: Nov. 19 @ TCU L (6-4)

See explanation of game 6.

Game 11: Nov. 26 Air Force (4 pm) L (6-5)

If you like college football and live in Colorado, you love Troy Calhoun. The Falcon’s coach is getting done at a service academy and is turning down major offers to stay at his alma matter. I see another big year from the Falcons and I think they might even be ranked when they roll into Fort Collins. Air Force has beaten CSU five straight years, twice in FoCo. This year the home-field advantage (can you even call it that at Hughes?) will be diminished by Thanksgiving Break. Senior quarterback Tim Jefferson is primed for a huge year running the triple option that I can’t ever remember the Rams shutting down.

Game 12: Dec. 3 Wyoming W (7-5)

Andy Carpenean - AP

If I could type the sound of vomitting, it would be very fitting in this space. Wyo wins 44-0 in 2010 (Andy Carpenean - AP)

Will the Rams find revenge? They better. Wyoming saw a couple good, young quarterbacks transfer after living in Laramie for a while, but are not necessarily in a rebuilding year. The Cowboy’s return a handful of returning starters on both sides of the ball. After last year, things like that shouldn’t matter. This one is for pride and a winning season. This one may be for Fairchild’s career. Excuses coming from the head coach will ring hollow if the Rams let the Cowboys keep our Bronze Boot for another year.

So there ya go. I have the Rammies going 7-5 this year, finishing 3-4 in the Mountain West and going bowling, which should allow Fairchild to keep his job for another year. Not making any promises on the whole smiling thing though.