Arnold: Spicer a good fit for Mesa
Sometimes, you’ve gotta go get the right guy for the job.
Tom Spicer was not one of the five finalists who interviewed for the athletic director position at Colorado Mesa University.
He is, however, the athletic director the university needs.
When Butch Miller resigned this past fall, two names immediately came to mind of who would be perfect fits for what the university needs in an athletic department leader. Spicer was one.
For whatever reason, none of the men who came to campus a couple of weeks ago were hired.
Instead, CMU President Tim Foster made a phone call to Golden, and last Thursday, Spicer, the athletic director at Colorado School of Mines, was on campus interviewing.
Shortly after noon Friday, the Mavericks had an athletic director.
Spicer wanted this job, and it didn’t take long for him and Foster to come to an agreement.
“I don’t move very often,” Spicer said in an exclusive interview with Daily Sentinel sports writer Allen Gemaehlich and me after accepting the position.
Spicer and his wife, Kathy, will be back in Grand Junction today, watching the Mavericks’ women’s basketball team play for its first regional championship. He’ll be introduced as the Mavericks’ next athletic director at halftime.
He plans to start his new job by June 1, and knowing Spicer, he’ll have a blueprint of what lies ahead before he moves into the corner office at the Maverick Center.
He won’t, however, talk about the direction the athletic department will go until he has all of the information he can gather.
“I need to have time to get on the ground, to visit with a lot of people, not only within the faculty and staff here, I need to visit with community people, to get their insight as to what their perception is, what’s happening, what needs to happen,” he said when asked what direction the department needs to take.
“At that point in time collectively, hopefully, we’ll come up with a plan to move forward and enhance what’s happening here. That’s a good question, but in reality, I’m not going to give you anything that’s pie in the sky because I can’t tell you at this point.”
Snap decisions aren’t his style. Spicer is a straight shooter who simply gets things done and will fight tooth and nail for his coaches and programs.
The 62-year-old who has no designs on retirement — “I have too many things to do,” he said — grew up outside of Hays, Kan., on a cow/calf ranch. He’s just as comfortable in a coat and tie as he is in his cowboy boots.
He loves to hunt and fish and will take advantage of those opportunities on the Western Slope, but his first order of business is getting the athletic department at Colorado Mesa moving in one direction.
“Here at Mesa they’ve got a great staff, a good mixture of seasoned veterans who know what was and what is and where it needs to go, to good, young professionals who are going to have great ideas and concepts,” he said.
I’ve known Spicer for roughly 20 years, dating back to when he was the athletic director at Fort Hays State. The Tigers were members of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and had powerhouse teams in nearly every sport during his 15-year tenure at his alma mater.
Since 2001, when Spicer was a finalist for the same job at Mesa, the school has had five athletic directors, including an interim.
“It wasn’t meant to be. This time was meant to be. I believe in that,” he said. “There’s a purpose and reason for everything. We’re going to come over and dive into it and hopefully get a lot of people energized and move the thing forward and have some fun.”
In the past nine years, he’s led the Orediggers’ transformation from being near the bottom of the league in nearly every sport to winning conference titles and competing on the national level.
Facilities have received a major upgrade, scholarships were boosted and the culture changed at Mines, one of the toughest academic institutions in the country.
When asked what he considered his greatest accomplishment at Mines, Spicer didn’t have to think.
“That’s really easy,” he said. “Proving to people, not just in the Mines community, but proving to people that it is absolutely OK to be exceptionally smart and competitive in sports. There is no reason why those two components can’t go together. We’ll do the same thing here.”
Or, as he said, “It’s OK to be smart and good. Or reverse that, it’s OK to be good and smart.”
It was a good and smart move by Foster to hire Spicer, one that sends a message CMU is serious about being the power school in the RMAC and beyond.
Associate Athletic Director Kris Mort told me over the weekend about a conversation she had with Foster when he told her of his plan to try to hire Spicer away from Mines.
“I told him I’d never been prouder to be a Maverick,” she said.