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Pause. Pause. Pause. "It's an embarrassment for our football program to be in the condition this one is."
How good is Colorado?
Pause. Pause. Pause. "Not very good."
And when the athletic department made the panicky move last April of stopping all spending—President Weber told Crowder, "You put the clamps on, and if you don't, I'll really have the red ass"—Fairbanks donated two months' salary, about $7,500 based on his $45,000 yearly wage, to keep recruiting going. The good ol' Flatirons Club, which has contributed around $2 million to Colorado football over the last 15 years, kicked in another $50,000.
Fairbanks seems to have a knack for getting zapped on trivial matters. Like wearing those new shoes last year. Nobody knows why. "He thinks that's what going first class means," one Colorado fan suggests. He also, according to a locker-room source, insisted on wearing a coaching shirt only twice. Not twice before washing. Twice in his—and its—lifetime. Then there was the matter of the futuristic buffalo emblem he wanted designed for the helmets. When it was done, he didn't like it, but it still cost $1,600. So the helmets remain buffalo-less. Says one administration source, "Whatever Chuck wants, Chuck gets, and Chuck wants a lot. He has no limits unless somebody tells him." Fairbanks sniffs, "The football program is the foundation of this corporation. So you must insure the success of the bell cow."
When Weber called Fairbanks in to talk budgetary matters, Weber recalls that "I told him everybody has to accept fiscal discipline, including the football coach. I can't say he showed signs of exultation." This year's football budget is about $1.59 million, some $300,000 less than last year's. But Weber was quick to refute the notion that Fairbanks' ego might not fit in any room on the Colorado campus: "I reject that idea. Coaches, like faculty members, do have strong egos. The trick is to use those egos and not let them use you."
Still, it seems incongruous that in the face of severe cost-cutting, of watching every penny slavishly, Fairbanks last week was pulling out an architect's drawing of—you guessed it—a stadium expansion. It would add 10,000 seats (to the present 52,005) and would cost $6 million. Fairbanks says the seats will be needed because "without being egotistical, there are people who believe I can rebuild."
Weber places the blame for the Colorado catastrophe on three things. The first is the cost of women's athletics (around $500,000 last year), and it is in this area that the $10 student's fee will be applied. The second is the cost of paying off the new $7.75 million Events/Conference Center, which is primarily for basketball. When an ill-fated fund-raising drive rounded up only $200,000 toward the cost of the building, the bill was dumped on Crowder's desk. That meant another $350,000 a year. Both of these big expenditures hit for the first time last year. The third is what Weber calls a "lack of managerial controls." That points the finger at two people, former president Roland Rautenstraus, whose philosophy wasn't to say no but to wait until tomorrow, and at Crowder.
Crowder coached the Buffaloes from 1963 through 1973, including the glorious 1971 season when Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado were ranked 1, 2, 3 in the nation. Crowder was a tremendous recruiter, which is how it happened that the Buffs were always right at the top when it came to getting players drafted by the pros. Understandably he is ticked at the fire-Eddie mutterings. He takes a big puff on a big cigar and says, "When I came here in 1963 and they were dead broke and I worked 18 hours a day and made them money, they liked me fine. And they thought I was fine for 15 years. Then they loaded my back till it broke—mainly Title IX [women's athletics] and the Events Center—and now it's open season on me."
Sure is. Boulder real estate executive and sports fan Ken Penfold says, "Crowder brought on the mess, and you don't have to look any further. Our athletic program is the laughingstock of the country. He has shown no ability whatsoever to administer." Management Professor Dale Meyer, who was on a committee looking into athletics, says, "Somebody has to be responsible, and that's Crowder. He has to stand up and be counted."