For all the wonders and magic of the internet’s ability to disseminate information in real-time, with it comes the unfortunate consequence of the media’s (both traditional and social) need to jump to conclusions and cast blame regarding newsworthy events before facts are uncovered and time has had a chance to reveal something that resembles the truth.
So it goes with the recent frenzy over the firing of Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier by BSU President Bob Kustra. Like everyone else in Boise, I’ve read the articles and observed folks in the social media stream give Kustra “the business” over firing the man who we all know has done so much to build the Boise State athletic department into what it is today.
I don’t claim to understand what happened to precipitate the firing of Gene Bleymaier, nor do I suspect we’ll ever really know. I know however what kind of man Bob Kustra is. I’m fortunate that I’ve gotten to know him well over the last decade and for my money, no one has had a greater positive impact on Boise and the State of Idaho in the last ten years than he has. I feel lucky to call him my friend.
In just eight years, he’s led BSU through its greatest period of dynamic growth in its history. His administration has been marked by an emphasis on research, upgrading admissions standards, improving the undergraduate experience, and increasing the number of graduate and doctoral programs (especially in the increasingly important science and engineering disciplines). Faculty awards and grants for research at Boise State have nearly tripled during his tenure to $50 million. Bob also led the most ambitious fundraising campaign in university history that reached its goal this year. Destination Distinction raised more than $175 million in private support for faculty, student scholarships, programs and campus infrastructure. Most importantly, he’s been able to do this during a period of declining State revenue and difficult economic climates. Few people have an inkling of the complexity and difficulty of negotiating on behalf of education with our State Legislature. I shudder to think of where we’d be today if not for his efforts.
I also know Gene Bleymaier and he is a very good man, a true legend in the Boise community. Unfortunately, there’s no graceful way to fire a legend. That doesn’t negate the fact that sometimes, legends need to be fired (see Bobby Knight). Those that know Bob know that he wouldn’t do something like this if he hadn’t done his homework before taking action. I think Bob Kustra has earned our respect as a community enough to give him some benefit of the doubt on this one.