Colorado State President Tony Frank has fired athletic director Paul Kowalczyk and replaced him with former Rams quarterback John C. “Jack” Graham.

Graham, who played for CSU from 1973-74, will evaluate all athletic programs and meet with donors and supporters.

“In Jack Graham, we have the perfect combination of dedicated Ram fan, stand-out athlete and experienced business leader with the skills and business acumen to energize and advance our overall athletics program,” Frank said in a statement on Thursday. “I am excited about the enthusiasm he will generate among our students, coaches, alumni, donors and fans. He brings high standards, high expectations and a passion for winning that is infectious.”

Graham graduated from CSU in 1975 with a degree in history and went on to become an international businessman.

Kowalczyk’s departure after six years in charge of the Rams athletic department comes as a surprise. Just last year he signed a five-year contract extension through 2015.

“Paul has brought high standards, integrity and immense commitment to the Rams athletic program, and we’re very grateful to him for his service and leadership during his years at Colorado State,” Frank said in a statement before a news conference to discuss the change in leadership.

Since his arrival in Fort Collins in 2006, Kowalczyk, 53, was instrumental in the upgrades of the Rams’ training facilities, but the affable athletic director had a hit-and-miss record with coaching moves.

Kowalczyk’s most debatable decision was his firing of longtime football coach Sonny Lubick in 2008 after a fourth consecutive non-winning season that came on the heels of a decade of unprecedented success.

He replaced Lubick, whose name adorns the football field at Hughes Stadium, with Steve Fairchild, who has had a hard time turning the program around. A loss Saturday to Wyoming would leave the Rams with their third consecutive 3-9 finish under Fairchild, who has a year and $750,000 left on his contract.

His hiring of men’s basketball coach Tim Miles in 2007 has turned out well. After a couple of injury-filled seasons, the Rams have gone 40-31 over the last two-plus seasons and on Wednesday night beat archrival Colorado 65-64.

In 2009, CSU opened a training facility that includes an indoor football practice field and basketball and volleyball courts next to Moby Arena and an academic and strength and conditioning center next to McGraw Athletic Center.

He also helped usher in upgrades at Hughes Stadium, including a $2.5 million landscaping initiative last year and oversaw improvements to several other facilities. He spearheaded a $1 million project to furnish Moby Arena with new video boards and last year the school opened a $2 million tennis facility.

He also worked with the University of Colorado to keep the annual Rocky Mountain Showdown football game at Sports Authority Field in Denver where the Broncos play.