BOULDER — Not many envy Mike Bohn’s task as the University of Colorado’s new athletic director, but this is a duty even his mother struggles to embrace.
Although Bohn is upgrading conferences and returning to his native town, the idea of restoring a program battling declining attendance, a light budget and the scars from a four-year recruiting scandal
can be tough to digest.
“I love having him at home, but the challenge is huge,” said Marlyn Bohn, Mike’s mother, from her home in Boulder. “So I have mixed emotions, but he’ll get it done.”
Bohn, who has been the AD at San Diego State for just over a year, finalized a five-year contract with CU on Monday and will be announced as the school’s new permanent AD at an 11 a.m. news conference Wednesday — a move that may clear the way for the school to hire Kevin Borseth, from Wisconsin-Green Bay, to replace retired women’s basketball coach Ceal Barry.
Although he faces many immediate challenges at CU, Bohn, contacted by telephone Monday evening, said he isn’t daunted by the road ahead.
“I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to build things,” he said. “I think our first task is to unite our fan base, faculty and students to build a program we can all be proud of.”
A Boulder High School graduate, Bohn, 44, has already displayed his abilities within Colorado.
He served as the assistant athletic director for the Air Force academy from 1984 to 1992 and served as the associate athletic director at Colorado State from 1995 to 1998, where he was instrumental in the construction of the Fum McGraw Athletic Center.
He almost came to CU as a player in the late 1970s, earning a scholarship in football and baseball, but went to Kansas when Buffs coach Chuck Fairbanks withdrew the offer.
He said moving back home factored into his decision this week, but was far from the only lure.
“It has always been a goal to be a leader of a program that is in position to compete for a national championship in a great conference,” he said. “With that said, moving home was a huge plus.”
Bohn’s compensation is expected to compete financially with other Big 12 ADs, and be more than the $175,000 annual base salary of former AD Dick Tharp, who resigned under pressure last fall. The five-year deal is the most allowed a state employee by Colorado law.
Bohn is also expected to be freed of some of the restrictions imposed on Tharp in the wake of a since-dismissed lawsuit filed against the university by two women who said they were raped by football recruits at an off-campus party in 2001.
Before he was hired at San Diego State, Bohn spent five years at Idaho, where he oversaw the Vandals’ move to Division 1A and balanced the department’s budget after inheriting a program more than $1 million in debt.
After Monday’s spring practice, head football coach Gary Barnett said he hadn’t met Bohn, but that he came highly recommended from Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry and CSU coach Sonny Lubick.
“They told me he’d be great for us, that’s really all I know,” Barnett said.
Bohn will take over for Jack Lengyel, who has served as the interim AD since Tharp’s resignation.
Lengyel said he will stay on as an aid to the new athletic director for as long as it takes in order to create a smooth transition.
Although hired as a patchwork AD, Lengyel, who came out of retirement in December to take the position, earned the athletic department’s respect for his ability to open lines of communication and move the school through a rough period.
“Jack has done a great job. He took off with us where we needed to go,” Barnett said. “You don’t like to be without anyone in that position for long, but Jack Lengyel is one of those guys that could have gotten you through no matter what the transition period was.
“I’m sure it’s best for everybody that it’s shorter, but we were fortunate to have somebody capable of taking it longer term if we needed it.”
Lengyel’s last order of business could be to announce the Buffs new women’s basketball coach, whom he helped attract.
According to published sources, Borseth, who has 18 years of experience and led Wisconsin-Green Bay to the NCAA tournament last month, could be hired as soon as Thursday.
After more than two decades as the CU women’s coach, Barry resigned this winter, accepting a job within the University as an associate athletic director for student services.