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Fairchild, Rams seek return to college football's national scene

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator
Steve Fairchild needed Sonny Lubick's blessing before pursuing the
Colorado State opening.

Turns out, one of Lubick's last requests after he was ousted was
that the school consider Fairchild for the position.

The university heeded Lubick's advice, awarding Fairchild the
job and offering him a five-year deal worth $700,000 annually. The
deal could bring up to an extra $475,000 if he would reach the
incentives in his contract.

Fairchild was thrilled that Lubick backed him.

"Sonny is a dear friend of mine," Fairchild said Thursday in a
teleconference call from Buffalo. "He has been a mentor of mine.
The more we talked, the more I thought about it, and it started to
become something that was an interest of mine."

Fairchild, a former Rams quarterback and assistant coach, knows
he has big shoes to fill in replacing Lubick, who in 15 years led
the Rams to nine bowl games and at least a share of conference
titles in six seasons.

That's just the way he prefers it.

"If you don't ever raise the bar high, then you are going
through life just going through the motions," Fairchild said.
"This is an opportunity for me and it is a big one. It is a
challenge and I think that's how you live your life."

Colorado State athletic director Paul Kowalczyk gave Fairchild a
hefty pay increase to lure him back to town. Fairchild will make
$150,000 more than Lubick did last season. Kowalczyk also gave
Fairchild $1.15 million to spend on his coaching staff, an increase
of $300,000 from the budget Lubick had to work with.

The message from Kowalczyk is clear -- the Rams want to be
contenders. Not just in the conference, but on the national scene.

"When you're on the outside of the BCS looking in, as we are,
it's a struggle," Kowalczyk said. "But look at Utah, Boise State
and Hawaii: What do those programs have that we don't have? I think
Steve would be cheating himself if that wasn't something he wasn't
aspiring to."

The clauses written into Fairchild's contract allude to Colorado
State's lofty ambitions. Fairchild could make an extra $100,000 for
appearing in a BCS game and $250,000 if the Rams are ranked No. 1
in the final BCS ranking.

Fairchild also has incentives kick in if he wins the conference
title ($25,000), is named the conference's coach of the year
($20,000) or guides the Rams to a non-BCS bowl game appearance with
a minimum 7 regular-season wins ($20,000).

"Boise State has set the bar as far as schools flirting and
getting into the BCS," Fairchild said. "So it can be done. It's
been done at CSU, as far as competing year in and year out for the
Mountain West championship. That would definitely be a goal of
ours."

Fairchild has already started lining up assistant coaches,
bringing in Larry Kerr as assistant head coach/defensive
coordinator, and Marc Lubick in a role to be determined. Fairchild
will also keep Tom Ehlers in the position of director of football
operations.

"I would say there wasn't 30 seconds that went by after I hung
up with Paul that I was doing one of my best recruiting jobs on
Larry Kerr," said Fairchild, who, along with Kerr, was on the
original coaching staff brought in by Lubick. "I cannot say enough
good things about Larry."

When Kowalczyk fired Lubick after the Rams' 3-9 season, he was
one of the most despised people in Fort Collins for the way it was
handled.

However, the hiring helps soothe the wounds.

"I haven't quite gone from the outhouse to the penthouse yet,"
Kowalczyk said with a grin. "But the reaction has been
favorable."

The players like the hiring of Fairchild, especially considering
his ties to the school and Lubick.

"It's one of the best things they could've done," Rams
defensive end Tommie Hill said. "A lot of people were loyal to
Sonny, so bringing in someone who was under Sonny will get a lot of
support."

Still, it took Lubick's sincere blessing for Fairchild to throw
his name in the hat for the job.

"He was very happy for me," said Fairchild, who will finish
out the season with the Bills before joining Colorado State. "I
have more respect for him than just about anybody I've worked for
in the profession. I will continue to use him as a friend and a
mentor, as long as he'll answer my phone calls."

Kowalczyk flew out to Orchard Park, N.Y., last Friday to
interview Fairchild. He pretty much knew on his flight home that
he'd found his next coach.

"He's a sharp guy," Kowalczyk said. "He's a straight arrow,
an old-school guy. I respect that. He's definitely the right guy
for the job."

Kowalczyk has one more big task -- convincing Lubick to come back
as an ambassador for the school.

"With having Larry Kerr back and Marc on staff, I think that
decision is easy for Sonny to make," Kowalczyk said. "He's our
biggest asset. He'll be welcomed with open arms when he makes that
call. But if he decides to retire to Boca Raton, then God bless
him. But he's always a Ram."

Fairchild couldn't agree more.

"The eight years that I spent with coach Lubick were the best
and most enjoyable and rewarding years that I've had in the
coaching profession," he said. "I just hope to continue to build
on the program that he has established at CSU."