July 11, 2012
A group hoping Colorado College brings back its football team has the same passion for the cause that it did three years ago when the program was dropped.
The Washburn Foundation, which was formed to support CC’s varsity sports and reinstate football, has kept voicing its opinion to the school, reminding it that when football, women’s water polo and softball were discontinued in 2009, then-president Dick Celeste said the decision could be reviewed in three years. A CC board of trustees strategic project team will meet this weekend and review the matter. The Washburn Foundation isn’t too optimistic about the outcome.
Members met with current CC president Jill Tiefenthaler on June 27, according to Washburn Foundation president Rich McDermott, and came away discouraged. Many of the same people on the board of trustees team were involved in the decision to cut the sports. The foundation won’t have representation at the meeting. And the conversation with Tiefenthaler didn’t give them much hope.
“We need to work with them and we’ve been patient and polite,” McDermott said. “They want us to go away, basically.”
The decision to dump the three sports was presented as a financial decision, saving the school more than $600,000 a year. According to McDermott, Tiefenthaler said it would cost about $600,000 annually for football alone to return. Three years ago McDermott got alums to pledge $1 million over 10 years to help with the costs. Although those pledges were made three years ago, McDermott said he thinks he could still raise a significant amount.
“If she said, ‘If you guys can raise $200,000 of the $600,000,’ we could get that in fairly short order,” McDermott said. “We have former football players who are well off and would contribute significantly.”
The Washburn Foundation members haven’t gotten any clear reason to believe football is coming back. McDermott shared letters of correspondence with CC officials that passionately stated the reasons to bring the football team back. They cited: 127 seasons of history dating to 1882, the diversity the team brings to campus, the sense of community having a football team builds and the fundraising opportunities other schools with Division III football teams have taken advantage of.
But the meeting between four members of the Washburn Foundation and Tiefenthaler last month didn’t yield many results. McDermott said at the end of the conversation she noted that even if football came back, it wouldn’t be for many years.
“I felt it was a perfunctory gesture to say they met with alumni,” said Lorna Kollmeyer, who is the all-time leading scorer in CC women’s basketball history and a member of the Washburn Foundation. “There was no openness toward looking into any real problem solving to save the program.”
CC said Tiefenthaler was unavailable for comment because of the trustees’ meeting this weekend.
“In 2009 our president at the time suggested the decision to drop football and two other sports be in place for at least three years before any further discussion,” CC spokeswoman Jane Turnis said. “That was three years ago. The board is meeting this week and they will discuss it then.”
The foundation believes the review this weekend is based only on Celeste’s claim when the sports were cut.
“A review should be a comprehensive look at whatever it would take to bring the sport back,” said Kollmeyer, who kept using the term “infuriating” when discussing the progress of reinstating CC football. “That’s what they said they would do. They’ve fallen dismally short in that responsibility.”
Those who want to bring CC football back will keep trying, no matter the answer that comes out of this weekend’s meeting.
“They want us to go away, but I don’t think we’re going away,” McDermott said.
Contact Frank Schwab: 476-4891
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