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Bold New Era. Those three words have come to define the vision, direction and accomplishments of John C. "Jack" Graham's tenure as Director of Athletics at Colorado State University, since his hire on Dec. 1, 2011.
A successful business leader and former Rams quarterback, Graham was chosen by CSU President Tony Frank to lead the institution's athletic programs, and more importantly to apply the vision and drive necessary to produce excellence in every aspect.
"In Jack Graham, we have the perfect combination of dedicated Ram fan, stand-out athlete and experienced business leader with the skills and business acumen to energize and advance our overall athletics program," Frank said upon announcing the hire. "I am excited about the enthusiasm he will generate among our students, coaches, alumni, donors and fans. He brings high standards, high expectations and a passion for winning that is infectious."
Graham immediately went to work re-shaping the department, beginning with the hire of Jim McElwain as head football coach on Dec. 13, 2011, from his offensive coordinator position at Alabama, which was on its way to a second national championship victory in a three-year span.
That move provided the first glimpse of what the Bold New Era would mean for Colorado State, and was followed by the high-profile hire of former national coach of the year Larry Eustachy in men's basketball, and the hire of Ryun Williams to lead the women's basketball program.
"We have the same expectations for excellence in our sports program that we have for all areas of the university," Frank added. "With Jack's leadership, I see no reason why CSU athletics cannot and should not compete at the highest level. To get there, we have to dream big, work hard and settle for nothing less than excellence."
Immediately upon his appointment, Graham also announced he would drive a process to secure approval to build an on-campus football stadium at Colorado State to replace 44-year-old Hughes Stadium, located several miles from the school's Fort Collins campus.
Graham succeeded in leading an ambitious process that by early October 2012 secured the unanimous recommendation of Colorado State's Board of Governors to Dr. Frank to allow the athletics department to begin the fundraising process for the stadium. It was another major achievement in just Graham's 10th month on the job.
More illustrations of Colorado State's Bold New Era came in the form of two significant business deals brokered by Graham and his senior leadership team in November 2012. The first was an announcement that Colorado State's athletic programs were entering into a partnership with Under Armour to provide apparel and footwear beginning in July 2013. The second came four days later when Graham announced a five-year partnership with 105.5 ESPN Radio to be the radio home for the Rams' football and men's and women's basketball games and coaches' shows.
In January 2013 the decision was made by Graham to add the sport of women's soccer for the 2013 season. The addition drew widespread praise for recognizing the popularity of the sport not just in Colorado, but nationwide, and veteran coach Bill Hempen was named the program's first head coach.
Graham also has set forth a clearly-defined set of standards for Colorado State's student-athletes, to go along with his commitment to providing the absolute best student-athlete support. His motto for all Rams is to "Do it All." The three key expectations are to succeed academically and graduate, be people of great character and to win. Achievement in anything less than all three areas doesn't meet the expectations for a Colorado State student-athlete.
CSU's athletics department supports approximately 400 student-athletes competing in 16 varsity sports.
"Athletics play a critical role at CSU," Graham said at the time of his hire. "Our teams can and should be leaders in defining our university's traditions, and they can be catalysts that unite our students and community. I am honored to return to CSU and believe our success in athletics can and will send a signal about the overall quality of CSU's leadership, our standards and our talent. We are committed to winning while maintaining the highest level of integrity and student success."
Graham played quarterback for the Rams from 1973-74 and graduated from Colorado State in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in U.S. history. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. Graham went on to a successful 30-year career in the international insurance and reinsurance markets, where he was known as an innovator and effective leader.
In 1998, Graham founded ICAT Managers, a leader in catastrophic risk insurance products. He sold ICAT, including its Lloyd's of London business, in 2010 and remains on the company's board of directors. Graham also sits on the advisory board of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.