The Cowboys might be first after all.
University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg's hire of consulting firm Collegiate Sports Associates to evaluate Wyoming's football and men's basketball programs is unusual in collegiate athletics, Paul Swangard, managing director of the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, said.
Sternberg reached an agreement with Collegiate Sports Associates on Sept. 6.
The purpose of the consultation was "to improve and sustain the University's football and men's basketball programs' competitiveness," according to the contract, which was made available by Sternberg to the Star-Tribune on Thursday.
The university agreed to pay Collegiate Sports Associates $35,000 for the assessment. The payment was to be made in two parts: $15,000 upon execution of the consulting agreement, and $20,000 upon the university's acceptance of the final report. Travel costs would also be covered.
The assessment was funded with Section I state dollars in the UW president's budget, Sternberg said.
While he's familiar with athletic departments hiring consultants to review compliance practices, hiring standards, marketing, development and possible facility upgrades, Swangard said he cannot recall a consultant being brought in to assess a program's "competitiveness."
“Coming in and trying to define what would make a program more competitive, I would say that’s a fairly recent phenomenon, not something I’ve heard a lot of examples of over the years,” Swangard said.
The Star-Tribune contacted reporters, school officials and coaches at major conferences throughout the country. All of them supported Swangard's belief that a review focused on competitiveness is unique to college athletics.
The contract between the two parties states that "CSA agrees to develop a team to conduct an assessment of the operations, organizational structure, facilities, and financial resources that support the University's football and men's basketball programs."
That team was made up of CSA president and founder Todd Turner, CSA senior consultant and former UNLV athletics director Jim Livengood, former Notre Dame and Washington head football coach Tyrone Willingham, and former Wake Forest and South Carolina head basketball coach Dave Odom.
Swangard said that Turner, specifically, has garnered a national reputation.
"Todd Turner, who’s the president, is someone we all know reasonably well in college athletics," Swangard said. "He was a very successful athletic director. He certainly has a good pedigree of working with successful athletics programs over the years.”
The consulting team performed its two-day campus visit on Oct. 2 and 3. At that time, it spoke at length with athletic director Tom Burman, football coach Dave Christensen and basketball coach Larry Shyatt about their programs.
“I met with them for a few hours, I would say, during those two days," Burman said on Wednesday. "And they met with multiple staff members and multiple constituents across campus and in the community. But as far as how it went, I think it went very smooth.
"I haven’t seen the final report at this point, but my gut feeling is it will be a very favorable report. I feel very confident in how we operate. Obviously, we want to be more successful competitively, but I would be surprised if the report found anything negative in how we operate our programs.”
Both Christensen and Shyatt declined to comment on Thursday morning.
The purpose of the campus visit, according to the contract, was to "tour facilities and interview campus officials, coaches and other key individuals as may be necessary to gain an understanding of the practice and competition facilities, operating budgets, support systems, operations, and staffing currently in place to support these programs."
Burman said while the university has hired consultants in the past to evaluate many different aspects of the athletic department, this was the first time the assessment focused solely on the competitiveness of the football and men's basketball programs since he became athletic director in 2006.
“I wouldn’t say it’s routine by any stretch of the imagination, but there are multiple organizations that do reviews and analysis of intercollegiate athletics departments," Burman said.
"Sometimes they focus on development, sometimes they focus on competitive opportunities, sometimes they focus on Title IX and gender equity. So there’s lots of people who operate in that business.”
Sternberg and Burman discussed the possibility of bringing in outside consultants "at length multiple times," and Burman said he thinks allowing someone with expertise to analyze the athletic department's operations is a valuable tool to use.
That doesn't mean they'll enforce all recommendations, though.
"It doesn’t mean we have to implement all their recommendations, or any of their recommendations, but I’m sure there’s going to be some really good thoughts and ideas," Burman said. "Most of them we have thought about in the past.
"Most of them will probably involve some price tag, and that’s going to be the challenge.”
Sternberg said that while he did not seek the approval of Wyoming's Board of Trustees before hiring the consulting firm, it was apprised that the assessment would occur.
“Dr. Sternberg has discussed with the board, over time, analysis of programs and evaluation of programs, and the board is fully supportive of evaluating the programs using the tools that are there," Wyoming Board of Trustees President David Bostrom said Thursday.
Bostrom also said the decision to hire outside consultants was considered heavily by both Sternberg and the board.
“The bringing in of someone to give views from the outside is not something that is taken lightly in any way," Bostrom said.
"It’s a look at Wyoming athletics, with the intent of being able to provide a look -- and it’s not saying that anything is currently bad or wrong -- it’s a matter of attempting to improve the overall performance, both from a win-loss standpoint and an academic standpoint.”
The contract states that CSA must deliver the final report to the university by Nov. 15.
Regardless of its recommendations, it seems that hiring a consultant firm to assess a program's "competitiveness" is somewhat rare collegiately.
“This particular announcement today at Wyoming, I think it’s relatively new territory,” Swangard said.