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Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Lubick relieved as Colorado St. coach; no word on future

Associated Press

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick shed tears, thanked players and coaches and joked in a farewell news conference Tuesday about how he has to do the dishes now.

Lubick, 70, showed no hint of bitterness toward the school that had just let him and his coaching staff go.

"I'll be a Ram until the end of time," Lubick said. "This episode over the last few days doesn't change anything for me."

Sonny Lubick


Lubick was asked by athletic director Paul Kowalczyk to step down a few days before the Rams' season-ending win over Wyoming last Friday.

But he wouldn't quit on his team, so he refused to step aside. The Rams finished 3-9 this season and he wanted a chance to turn it back around.

"He told us he wanted to come back," Colorado State senior quarterback Caleb Hanie said. "He said, 'I would never quit on you guys.' That's what we wanted to hear from him."

Hanie said it was difficult listening to Lubick's farewell speech in front of more than 200 friends, faculty, players and supporters.

"I think he deserves to leave whenever he wants," Hanie said. "He earned that right. But you can see where the school is coming from. That's what the game has evolved to, it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of thing. Sometimes, you forget what coaches have done for you."

There were some former players outraged over the Rams' decision to oust Lubick and his staff. Lubick has been the face of the Rams for the past 15 seasons. He led the Rams to nine bowl games and at least a share of conference titles in six seasons, compiling a 108-74 record along the way.

"I'm [expletive] about the way things were handled," former receiver Pete Rebstock said. "I'm not happy with the way it all played out."

Kowalczyk extended an olive branch to Lubick, attempting to bring him back as a fundraiser and goodwill ambassador.

However, Lubick isn't sure what he wants to do yet.

"I have no plans. It's too early to speculate," Lubick said.

Lubick became highly emotional when he talked about his assistant coaches, who were all dismissed except for director of football operations Tom Ehlers, who will be kept on to oversee the transition period.

He recounted stories about how offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt was offered a position once at Louisville and how secondary coach James Ward was being courted by California.

Yet both coaches elected to stick by Lubick's side.

"How can you not be loyal to guys that give up their whole damn life for you?" Lubick said, fighting back tears as his wife, Carol Jo, comforted him. "The wins and losses come and go, the relationships will not."

Lubick certainly made plenty of friends along the way.

"He is a very class guy," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said Tuesday. "He has done a lot for football."

New Mexico coach Rocky Long said the conference is losing one of its finest coaches.

"We fashioned our program after Colorado State because he did it without all the bells and whistles," Long said. "He did it by recruiting good people and players who played hard. They won championships and they won with class. He's a great coach."

Kowalczyk has no timetable for hiring a new coach. He's already received calls about the vacancy, but wouldn't reveal any names. Kowalczyk said he would like to consult with Lubick before hiring a new coach.

"I'd be foolish not to," he said.

Before his news conference, Lubick was in the hallway, giving his players pep talks as if it were game day. He called over freshman running back John Mosure and hugged him.

"You're going to be a good one," he said.

That's just typical Lubick, trying to comfort players until the very end.

"Everybody got to shake his hand and give him a hug and let him know how much he's meant to us," Hanie said. "I don't think you find anybody to fill his shoes. They're not going to be able to, as far as being a coach and mentor to everybody."

Lubick was asked if he was bitter over the way things went down at the end. He simply said, "What's done is done. It's over and down the road. That's the way she goes. I'm not going to get caught up in that."

Lubick had his chances to bolt Colorado State. Schools like Miami, where he was defensive coach on two national champions, Minnesota, Kentucky and Oregon State all tried to talk to him at one point in his tenure with the Rams.

However, the city had grown on him and his family. He couldn't leave.

"It was, for me, the perfect fit," Lubick said.

On Tuesday morning, he got up early to work out, went to his favorite coffee shop in town -- where he was given his traditional free cup -- and bantered with some locals, one even offering him his vacation home in Hawaii for a week.

He began to choke up talking about how good the town has been to him.

"I walk downtown and people say, 'Coach, coach, coach,'" Lubick said. "That's good. That's good."

His players, like the town, thought the world of him.

"This is hard for me because I came here from Miami because of him," junior running back Gartrell Johnson said. "He has been more than a coach to me."

Lubick was given a two-minute standing ovation before his speech. The applause grew even louder when he was finished.

"When I took this job, every year after the first year, I kept pinching myself saying, 'When is the bubble going to burst?'" Lubick said. "The players kept getting better and better, and playing better and better, and we kept going on. But you're not going to keep everything going on forever."

Now, it's on to other things -- like dishes.