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Tuesday, Jul 15 2014 10:14 AM

The Roadrunner Connection: Reflecting on leadership change at CSUB athletics

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Corey Costelloe

Change is the norm in this business. And I use the term "business" on purpose. For all the fun and games we participate in as administrators in intercollegiate athletics, deep down this is a business, and business decisions create change.

Our Athletics Director at CSUB, Jeff Konya stepped down last week, he's taking the same position at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Can't hardly blame him, the school is just a few minutes away from his birthplace in Royal Oak, Michigan. Hard to compete with home.

Oakland has a larger athletics budget, better facilities and no doubt Konya will help make them more competitive in the Horizon League. It's just in his nature.

There's been some grumbling in the community about his exit after three-and-a-half years. Considering his predecessor was here for more than 30 years, but that was the NCAA Division II days and times were different. At the Division I level its business, it's career-driven and it's about results. Can't fault someone for following a career path and taking a great opportunity when it comes their way.

He's left this place better than he found it, way better. When he and I first started discussing my hiring at CSUB in 2011 he once asked me "you think we can change this place?" I answered "We have to, we don't have a choice."

And change it he did, tough decisions made as well along the way. But CSUB Roadrunner Athletics today looks nothing like CSUB Roadrunner Athletics in November of 2010 when he was hired. We're better staffed, we've made several facility improvements, our student-athletes have academic and compliance support live never before, a state-of-the-art student success center and so on. It's shaping up to be a legitimate NCAA Division I, yet there is still work to be done.

We've made strides in marketing where some of the things we've pulled off garnered national attention. Blue basketball floor? Check. Award-winning marketing campaign? Check. Pedigreed coaches? Check.

It's all part of this process to build this program up to be more competitive at the Division I level. We're getting there and it takes a lot of time, sometimes more time than one person is able to give.

While the next leader of this program will have some challenges the groundwork has been established to help guide that person along. We had a lot of coaching turnover this past year, including nearly all the Fall sports that will begin anew with fresh leadership faces come their season; probably about the same time a new Athletics Director takes the helm, should be an interesting dynamic.

Jeff Konya left this place in really great shape. He hired some of those aforementioned coaches and we'll see them shine in the next couple of seasons. His focus on multimedia has made my job fascinating over the years and I'm sure that trend will continue. We're more visible than ever before thanks to our focus on the external perception of our program.

We landed in the Western Athletic Conference thanks to his efforts which included as much political lobbying as anyone on Capitol Hill. He worked the phones, the relationships and sold our program as the valuable member we proved to be just one year in.

Loss is loss and change is change. We'll see where the future takes us but thanks to the efforts of our previous leader, that direction is most definitely up.

COREY COSTELLOE, a Tehachapi High graduate, is Assistant Athletics Director for Communications for California State University, Bakersfield.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Congratulations to Corey Costelloe on his promotion. See next week's edition for a related story.

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