Steamboat Springs Mike Bohn, athletics director for the University of Colorado, is in Steamboat Springs for the NCAA Skiing Championships, but it was football that was on his mind Monday morning.
Bohn spoke to about 20 supporters gathered at the Hampton Inn on Monday for breakfast.
"You might be thinking, 'I'm not a huge donor, I'm just a proud Buff,'" Bohn told the audience, most of them CU alumni. "That's what this university really needs you to be -- be a proud Buff. Talk to people about our ski team or the great attributes of a diploma from the University of Colorado. ... Take that message out, and let people know that the University of Colorado is a proud program and that we are all excited about that."
Bohn spoke at length about efforts to repair the university's tarnished reputation in the wake of recent scandals surrounding the football program.
Spring football practice starts in less than a week.
The Buffs ended last season by firing embattled coach Gary Barnett. He has been replaced by former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins.
"Attitude on campus associated with the football team has changed dramatically," Bohn said. "That all starts with Dan Hawkins. As you get a chance to hear from him and meet him, you will see why that is. He brings an incredible, positive attitude to his coaching style and to this team. He pushes the players in a different way. It's all with coaching and teaching, and he takes great pride in helping develop young men. He loves our kids."
Bohn said Colorado has a great recruiting class and that he thinks the national media made too much about the university not being in the top 50 for recruiting and not having any five-star players among its recruits.
"The last time I checked, where (Hawkins) came from, he didn't have any five-star kids either, and they were always in the top 25," Bohn said. "I think too much is made of that. I think as long as you have good players and good young men that bond as a team, they will do a good job.
"(Hawkins') philosophy is he wants to recruit players with three characteristics. First, he wants them to have a desire to graduate from the University of Colorado. Second, he wants to ensure that they are good young men and they are a good fit for Boulder. And his third criteria, and the one he features the most, is he wants young men who want to win a national championship."
Bohn said the university is working hard to change the football culture that led to many of the scandals the school has faced in the past two years.
"We have numerous endeavors that are specifically designed to build a long-term relationship with the constituent groups that are important to us," Bohn said.
He cited Chauncey's Kids Roundup and Ralphie's Kids as ways the university is reaching out to young people in Colorado. Both programs offer free game tickets to youths to expose them to the institution and help them understand it.
Bohn said the people of Colorado also should expect a more open and user-friendly athletics department that will aggressively share information with the media, faculty, student leaders and constituents.
"The emphasis on recruiting is dramatically different than it was before, and we believe that is an important part of building a championship team," Bohn said. "I want to represent this state, this institution and this conference with a first-class program. Obviously, we want to be a first-class program from top to bottom."
This week, the school is hosting the NCAA National Skiing Championships, which are in Steamboat for the first time since 1993.
Bohn also mentioned the University of Colorado's men's basketball program, which is drawing record crowds in Boulder and hoping to earn a berth into the NCAA basketball tournament.
Bohn admits that the problems with the football program have overshadowed many of the school's other attributes, and he said it's been a long road of rebuilding the tradition that fuels Buff pride.
But he also thinks the university is moving in the right direction, and with the addition of coach Hawkins, is hoping to put the past where it belongs -- one breakfast at a time.