The men and women who run college sports programs are called "athletic directors" but, in this day and age, they are corporate chief executive officers.
And with recent changes dictated by the so-called Power Five conferences of big-time college athletics, there will be added pressure on athletic directors at midlevel universities such as Fresno State. These leaders must concentrate even more time and attention on raising many millions of dollars for the football and men's basketball programs that pay the freight for other sports.
This brings us to Thomas Boeh, who was reassigned at Fresno State to an adviser's role after a nine-year run as athletic director. To borrow a line from the corporate world, Boeh had outlived his usefulness.
He had been hired to clean up Fresno State's troubled athletic program and balance the bottom line. This meant enforcing the NCAA rules, even the arcane, seemingly inconsequential ones that powerhouse schools routinely ignore. And it meant paying extra attention to Title IX, which mandates gender equity at any school or institution receiving federal funds.
Boeh also completely changed how Fresno State raised money for sports. In the eyes of many boosters, he took the fun out of it and, coupled with the decline of the football team's success under Pat Hill, donations declined by millions of dollars annually.
Boeh made an outstanding hire in Tim DeRuyter as Hill's replacement, and another of his hires, men's basketball coach Rodney Terry, appears on the verge of molding the men's basketball program into a success.
But, with mounting pressure on Fresno State to keep pace with football budgets and plush training facilities constructed by their peers — never mind the grand stadiums of powerhouse programs — it was clear that Fresno State needed a new athletic CEO.
The NCAA also had a subtle hand in pushing Boeh out the door. It is much less inclined to severely punish programs for rules violations than it was just a few years ago. In fact, the organization — one in which its top-tier universities pay successful coaches as much or more than their counterparts in the professional ranks — appears focused almost entirely on financial success these days.
Fresno State is now engaged in a national search for a rainmaker who will bring new money into the program. Boeh's replacement likely will enjoy a honeymoon period, but the reality is that the San Joaquin Valley lacks the major corporations and fabulously wealthy individuals who typically make huge contributions to athletics.
To succeed, the new Bulldogs sports CEO will have to tap a whole lot of smaller donors. This will require, to a large degree, bringing back disillusioned boosters — and treating fans like they're important, an aspect that went AWOL while Boeh was enforcing the rules and dotting the "i" in Title IX.