Ramsey: CC hockey program should look at how Air Force football replaced coaching legend

April 24, 2014 Updated: April 24, 2014 at 9:00 pm
photo - Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun signals for a touchdown for his team against UNLV in the second quarter of an NCAA football game at Air Force Academy, Colo., on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun signals for a touchdown for his team against UNLV in the second quarter of an NCAA football game at Air Force Academy, Colo., on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

A respected coach who built an impressive mountain of victories has departed Colorado College. Same thing happened in 2006 at Air Force.

As CC athletic director Ken Ralph searches for a replacement for Scott Owens, he should examine the example of Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh.

In the final days of 2006, Mueh faced the colossal task of replacing Fisher DeBerry, who had resigned.

Mueh embarked on a subtle and successful pursuit of his No.?1 candidate. Mueh wanted Houston Texans offensive coordinator Troy Calhoun to return to his alma mater to coach the Falcons.

And that's when the challenges began. Mueh asked Calhoun to take over a program that had lost 25 of its previous 41 games. Mueh asked Calhoun to take a pay cut from his lofty salary with the Texans. And Mueh asked Calhoun to discard, or at least delay, his hopes of becoming an NFL head coach.

Mueh proved a master salesman. He declined to seem overly eager, always a mistake in romance or when chasing coaching prospects. When Mueh first met with Calhoun, the AD told the coach all about the upside of returning to coach on the edge of Colorado Springs. Mueh acted as if he were selling a primo job because that is what he believed.

He was in no hurry. Mueh did not immediately offer the job. He asked Calhoun to think about the possibilities.

This soft sell worked. For days, Calhoun kept telling himself he was not going to return to the academy. He tried to believe he was content with the Texans.

His heart was heading in another direction. A few days after Mueh's understated sales pitch, Calhoun awakened in the middle of the night. His wife, Amanda, woke up, too. She could tell, instantly, he had his eyes on returning to his college home to revive the football program. Mueh's wait-it-out approach allowed Calhoun's inner wishes to slowly climb to the surface.

In many ways, Owens and DeBerry are vastly different characters. Owens grew up in Madison, Wis., in the northern limits of our vast nation. He talks in the flat voice of the Midwest, and he's careful in his pronunciations.

DeBerry hails from South Carolina, and walks through life as a southern-fried creature. He talks in a drawl, and his pronunciations are filled with baffling journeys to strange destinations.

But Owens and DeBerry share an understanding of how to win the right way. In their primes, both teams were masters of collecting victories at academically demanding institutions. DeBerry twice flirted with national titles, and Owens won more than 25 games four times.

DeBerry left a huge hole in the Air Force football program. Owens leaves a crater of similar size.

Ralph, as he seeks to fill that crater, should follow Mueh's lead.

Ralph should show the same ambition and boldness Mueh displayed in pursuing Calhoun. There were dozens of solid reasons, many of them financial, for Calhoun to remain with the Texans, but Mueh slowly tore down all those reasons. Mueh, against the odds, landed his No.?1 candidate.

Ralph should show the same confidence and patience Mueh employed. When in pursuit, it's tempting to discard all pride and start begging. Mueh declined to grovel. His bold yet subtle sales pitch helped break down an initially reluctant candidate.

Ralph has plenty to sell to an elite candidate. The Tigers play in the spacious Broadmoor World Arena.

Colorado Springs offers a better blend of sun and scenery than any other destination in college hockey. This is a tempting offer to a wise candidate.

And, maybe, a rapid turnaround will follow Ralph's upcoming hire. Calhoun revolutionized the Falcons, leading them to 34 victories in his first 52 games. The Tigers won seven of 37 games this season. A bright, gifted, ambitious hockey coach will seize the chance to lead an upward march.

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