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Q and A with Colorado athletic director Rick George

By: Paul Klee
August 3, 2013 Updated: August 4, 2013 at 5:04 pm
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DENVER - Colorado moved the Flatirons - and former athletic director Mike Bohn - to lure Rick George to Boulder.

So who is the new AD at CU?

He's a jogger, although a recent knee surgery put him on the DL for now.

He's a Fighting Illini, a former football player at Illinois. He's a Buff, a former recruiting coordinator for Bill McCartney.

He's businessman. The days of everyone in Boulder with an oak desk getting a say? Hopefully, they're over.

"I'm not one that manages," said George, whose contract includes an annual salary of $700,000. "I try to lead."

Who is Rick George?

Exactly what CU needs, columnist Paul Klee believes.

In a Q&A with The Gazette, George shed some light on his career and what he hopes to accomplish when he officially becomes AD on Aug. 12.

The Gazette: I know you were part of some very good high school teams in Collinsville (Ill.). How was Rick George the basketball player?

Rick George: "Just like I was as a football player and just like I am now. All-out, play hard, never stop and trying to win.

"I was the point guard in Virgil Fletcher's last two seasons (at Collinsville). We were 32-0 my junior year. Then I think we think we finished third in the 1977-78 season. I was the point guard on that team (with Vanderbilt coach Kevin) Stallings, Steve Ray (who later played at Tennessee), John Belobraydic (Arizona) and Don Osborne, who just built everyone's house in Collinsville. We had a powerhouse. We were pretty doggone good."

Q: Your career path is unusual - from nonprofit work to the PGA Tour to Major League Baseball to college athletics. What is the common thread there?

A: "I think sport, just like it is with business, is about relationships. It's about how you treat people and having a plan and setting up goals and objectives and achieving those. It's about getting everybody to pull the rope in the same direction. That's been my philosophy from job-to-job. I've had to learn different nuances when you're working with a not-for-profit and how that works. And then going to the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour, it's much different.

"I didn't know anything about the different entities of golf. Then going to Major League Baseball, that's very different. But one thing that doesn't change is how you treat people and your business principles and setting up a strategic vision and having a game plan. In that way, it's very similar."

Q: How much did you work with Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour?

A: "Quite a bit. One of my roles was overseeing player relations. So I worked with the players on a daily basis. When I would go out to a golf tournament, typically I would fly out on a Tuesday morning and spend all day with the players and hearing what their concerns are. Then on Wednesday I would spend the day with the CEOs that were playing in the pro-am. Then on Wednesday night, we would take a group of young players and older players out to dinner, just to hear their perspective on things.

"So I had a lot of interaction with the players, which was good. That's something in Major League Baseball that you miss, because you really don't have any interaction with the players. So I'm actually really excited to get back to CU and start interacting with the student-athletes and can't wait for that. That's where I do a pretty decent job. I dealt with all the players, from Phil and Tiger to Hale Irwin, when I dealt with the senior tour."

Q: Who was your mentor?

A: "I've had a lot of mentors. Coach (Bill) McCartney was a pretty strong mentor when I was at Colorado. The bosses and the people I've worked for kind of shaped me. The commissioner of the PGA Tour, Tim Finchem, kind of shaped me. I learned a lot from Tim. I'm not one that manages. I try to lead."

Q: What did you learn from (McCartney)?

A: "You've got to have the right coaches with the right passion and the right energy. And I think we have that. I like Mike MacIntyre in the short time that I've met him. And I think he's the right guy. Now what we've got to do is support him. It's not going to be easy every week. There may be peaks and valleys as we go forward in the next year or so. But I think, having confidence in Mike, we've got the right guy and the right staff. Let's face it. We've got to have the right student-athletes for that to work. And I have confidence that Mike will have the right student-athletes to accomplish the goals we'll have."

Q: He's not 'your guy' as they say. But what is your impression of the new Coach Mac?

A: "I'm impressed by Mike. We have a lot of mutual friends. I've kept in contact with a lot of people in the college business and the professional football business, and Mike has a great reputation. I think he'll be terrific."

Q: Why do you think it has it been so difficult to raise money at CU?

A: "You know, I don't know. It's something I'll have to look at. At the end of the day, I think there's a commonality among potential donors, the donors, the alumni and the staff and me. That's the love for the student-athlete and the love for CU. It's a love for the athletic department. That's the common denominator that we all have. We have to remember that. The reason we're doing that is the compassion we have for the student-athlete and what they do for the university and what they do for the athletic department.

"When we sit down to identify our goals, those goals are going to be based around the fact that we want to create a whole experience for the student-athletes. We want to graduate our student-athletes. We want to have a successful department that wins championships. And we want to do it in the fabric of the university in a very inclusive group. That's what we're going to do. Once a Buff, always a Buff, and we want people involved and moving in the same direction."

Q: You're a baseball guy right now. CU doesn't have baseball. Would you add a baseball program?

A: "Heck, I don't know. I'd like to certainly look at it at some point and see if there's a fit. I do love baseball. I love all sports. I want all of our teams to be successful. If baseball's something that fits down the road, we'll certainly consider it. But I need to know the landscape better before we start adding things. We need to do what we do now very well before we decide to start to think about addition."

Q: Can CU win a national championship in football?

A: "I do. I wouldn't be there if I didn't believe that. I think all of our sports can win a national championship. That's the mindset we have to embrace. It's going to be hard work and it's going to be (about) having the right student-athletes. Can it be done? Absolutely."


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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