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Ramsey blog: Air Force athletic director Jim Knowlton leaves behind many challenges he inherited

April 9, 2018 Updated: April 9, 2018 at 4:40 pm
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Air Force athletic director Jim Knowlton introduces Chris Gobrecht as the new Air Force women's basketball coach Tuesday, April 21, 2015, during a press conference at the Air Force Academy. Gobrecht coached at Yale, USC, Florida State, Cal State Fullerton and the University of Washington before taking the job at the Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Jim Knowlton's most memorable effort during his short tenure as Air Force Academy athletic director?

Easy answer.

Oct. 15, 2016, when the football Falcons traveled 754 miles to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for a "home" game. Knowlton sold the game - and we're talking literally here - and hoped his team would show the same fire and discipline it typically displays at real home games at Falcon Stadium.

His gamble didn't work. Air Force lost, 45-40, to New Mexico in one of the academy's worst defensive performances of the 21st century. (It also ranks among the worst defensive performances of any college defense in the 21st century. New Mexico rushed for 208 yards . . . in the first quarter.)

The trip did much to reveal Knowlton.

He wasn't afraid to defy his coaches, in this case football coach Troy Calhoun, who was furious about the home game taken far, far south.

He wasn't afraid to try something new. Knowlton sold this home game, a mistake, but he also opened Falcon Stadium to concerts, a brilliant move.

He wasn't afraid to chase revenue, even if it cost him and his team competitive advantage.

And he wasn't afraid to talk about his decisions. After the defeat at the Cotton Bowl, Knowlton could have gone into hiding, or he could have answered questions in vague monosyllables. Instead, he answered all questions at length.

He leaves behind many of the challenges he inherited.

Here's the biggest, most stubborn challenge:

Tiny crowds at Falcon Stadium were the prime inspiration for Knowlton's decision to sell that home game in 2016. The new athletic director's most pressing task is to turn those tiny crowds to big crowds.

Good luck on that one.

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Air Force coaches on the departure of athletic director Jim Knowlton

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