“It’s great to be back.”
The first words from Curt Apsey’s mouth after being officially introduced as Boise State’s fifth athletic director were echoed by many Tuesday.
President Bob Kustra, with whom Apsey worked regularly in his stint as the Broncos’ senior associate athletic director from 1998 to 2014, knew right away who he wanted to replace Mark Coyle, who left Friday for Syracuse.
“All along, it kept coming back to the same person,” Kustra said.
Apsey left Boise State last fall to become the athletic director at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. “Not really” did he think about the possibility of returning to Boise State, but things tend to work themselves out.
Coyle told Kustra last week he had begun to be distracted by schools hoping to speak with him and was no longer taking any calls. Syracuse, where he interviewed before that, came calling with an offer. Apsey was unaware of the situation. When Kustra called Apsey on Friday night, “I knew that I had completely caught him off guard.”
“Surprised that Mark left, not going to lie there,” Apsey said. “... It’s rare when you get a call from somebody who says, ‘It’s you and nobody else,’ ” Apsey said.
The State Board of Education approved a five-year contract for Apsey, nearly identical to Coyle’s, which will pay him a base salary of $331,500 per year.
From Kustra to coaches to boosters, it was clear Boise State was eager to find an experienced candidate who knew the department well. Apsey, looking back to his start at Boise State 17 years ago, said “I never thought I’d say this, but we recruit against everybody in the country now.”
“I don’t think we’ll miss a step,” men’s basketball coach Leon Rice said. “It’s so important to understand where we’ve come from and what we’re building. Curt understands all that.”
Kustra said the timing was ideal to get someone like Apsey as the athletic director. He noted hiring an outside candidate in Coyle, from Kentucky, in late 2011 was important because the school was dealing with NCAA sanctions for compliance deficiencies.
“My options were either do this national search ... no matter what they told me, they could be thinking, ‘I’ll be here for three years and I’m heading off to a (big conference school),” Kustra said. “... Is that the perfect candidate, or is it someone we know, someone we trust?”
When Apsey officially starts his new job Aug. 1, one of his immediate tasks will be to continue to do what he excelled at in his first go-round: fundraising. Among Mountain West schools, Boise State gets a lower percentage of its budget from the state than any other, Kustra said.
There won’t be the need to take time to foster relationships with boosters as Coyle did. Apsey, who called the fan base “the heart of this place,” spearheaded projects like the Stueckle Sky Center, in which he was introduced Tuesday.
“It’s a natural fit, he wants to be here and is going to strengthen Bronco Nation more,” said Jay Larsen, Bronco Athletic Association Board President. “Curt, he’s a proven commodity, he’s someone that people already know and are excited to see again.”
Apsey said his initial focuses will be on the student-athlete experience – ensuring they graduate and are connected to the program afterward – and continuing to give coaches the resources they need to succeed.
“For years, Curt’s been ready,” former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier said. “... He understands the politics of athletics and the university, and his people skills are second to none.”
About a half-dozen times during his 16-year tenure as the No. 2 man in the athletic department, Apsey was a serious candidate for another AD job. He said a couple had been offered to him, but he thought about what Boise State had done for him and opted to stay.
“The best thing I ever did,” Apsey said.
Both his daughters teared up on the phone because he was coming home. On the podium, he fought back tears himself – “I cried before when I was (just) thinking about it,” he said as he thanked his family. After initial contact, Apsey told Kustra, “Boy, does (wife) Teresa miss Boise.”
Emotional as his return was, Apsey looked at Teresa during his introductory news conference with the city of Boise behind him, and thought about what lies ahead.
“We’re great, but I think we can be greater,” he said. “... we’re going to make things happen, for sure.”
Here is Boise State’s official release:
Boise State University announced Tuesday that Curt Apsey has been named the university’s new athletic director.
Apsey returns to Idaho after nearly a year as the athletic director of Carroll College in Helena, Montana, but he has a long history at Boise State. He was Boise State’s senior associate athletic director for 16 years, as well as interim director for the final months of 2011.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be home,” Apsey said. “Looking at the high level of performance across all sports on the field and in the classroom, it is clear that Boise State Athletics has never had a more promising future. I look forward to working with our coaches, student-athletes, athletics leadership team and the university in continuing to build one of the most admired programs in the country.”
While at Boise State, Apsey’s responsibilities included management of the external fundraising efforts, working in conjunctions with the executive director of the Bronco Athletic Association. He oversaw media relations and sports information, marketing and promotions, the Athletic Ticket Office and the Stueckle Sky Center. He supervised several sports, including football, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s golf.
“Curt is one of the main reasons Boise State University has achieved the incredible athletics success it has enjoyed for more than a decade,” Boise State University President Bob Kustra said. “He understands how we got to where we are today, and knows where this university needs to go in the future. I know that our coaches, players, fans and supporters will be as glad as I am that he is back.”
Apsey’s contract was approved Tuesday by Boise State’s trustees on the State Board of Education. It largely is the same as his predecessor’s, with a base salary of $331,500 plus a series of incentives that kick in if the university earns a high academic progress rate (APR); posts student-athlete grade-point averages over 3.0; ranks highly in the National Association of Directors of Collegiate Athletics Director’s Cup; or achieves on-field milestones like winning certain conference championships, reaching post-season play or playing in a bowl game.
Apsey’s former colleagues were quick to welcome him back.
“Our motto as a program has been to ‘Embrace the Past and Attack the Future’,” Boise State football head coach Bryan Harsin said. “Having been here for 16 years previously, Curt is a guy that understands that. He’s been here when we’ve have had tremendous success, he understands the Bronco way and it is great to have him back with the Boise State family.”
“I am beyond thrilled about the hiring of Curt Apsey for a number of reasons,” Boise State women’s golf head coach Nicole Bird said. “I think it’s great to bring back someone who understands our culture and who was so instrumental in a number of major changes for Boise State Athletics. Having had Curt as my sport supervisor previously, I know the high standards he held my program and me to both athletically and academically. I know he will have those same expectations now for every sport.”
“I’m excited for us to get Curt back,” Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice said. “He was a big part of me coming here five years ago. He understands this place and we’re very fortunate to have a guy like Curt to turn to.”
Apsey is finishing a successful academic year with Carroll College that saw the
Fighting Saints capture the Frontier Conference’s Bandy Memorial All-Sports Trophy, winning conference championships in both football and men’s cross-country.
In addition to the outright league title, Carroll’s football team earned the No. 1 seed in the NAIA Football Championship Series, advancing to the quarterfinals. The men’s and women’s cross country teams each finished in the top 10 at the NAIA National Championships — the highest finishes in program history — and the women’s basketball team advanced to the NAIA Division I Championship.
Apsey oversaw the first men’s soccer and softball seasons in Carroll College history.
Of the department’s 15 programs, 14 recorded grade-point averages above 3.0, and the nearly 400 student-athletes combined for a department GPA of 3.24.
In his time at Boise State, Apsey worked with both corporate and individual donors to make long-lasting improvements to Boise State Athletics and athletics facilities.
Apsey headed the “Initiative for Athletic Excellence” capital campaign to improve and expand athletic facilities that included the Caven-Williams Indoor Sports Complex ($10 million, 2006), the Stueckle Sky Center ($37 million, 2008) the new Arguinchona Basketball Complex ($3 million, 2011), and the football center ($22 million, 2012).
Before initially arriving at Boise State, Apsey served as assistant director of athletics at California State University — San Bernardino for four years. Prior to that, he was the assistant director of development at Cal State-Bakersfield from 1990 to 1994.
Apsey earned a degree in physical education from Cal Poly in 1988. He was a four-year starter for men’s soccer where he set the school’s career record for most goals scored and served as assistant coach for six years. He and his wife, Teresa have two children, Sofia and Madison.
Apsey is set to begin at Boise State on Aug. 1. Until then, John Cunningham, senior associate athletic director for external relations, will serve as interim director.