Along the dirt trails deep inside the Gore Range of the Rocky Mountains, where cell signals can't reach and vehicles aren't permitted, Creighton's 27-year athletic director decided it was time to retire.
Bruce Rasmussen's not sure at what specific point on his hikes earlier this month that he definitively reached this conclusion.
But during his family's annual summer vacation to Colorado, Rasmussen spent his days walking and thinking — fully submerged in nature's majesty for 10- to 12-mile treks as he examined his priorities and his purpose.
"It's pretty rugged out there, but it's stunning," Rasmussen said by phone Tuesday. "And it gives you a different perspective on things. You start thinking the universe revolves around you and what you're doing — then you get back in there and you find out that's foolish."
He realized something else in those mountains: He's ready to move on from Creighton.
Rasmussen announced Monday that he'll retire on Aug. 16.
He granted an interview request Tuesday, discussing a wide range of topics during a 30-minute conversation with The World-Herald.
He cited an African proverb and quoted Henry David Thoreau. He joked about his age — he'll be 72 next month. He downplayed his role in the countless successes of Creighton's athletic department during his tenure. He expressed confidence in the future for the Jays, who just completed their eighth athletic season as a member of the Big East Conference.
"I think we're in the best spot at Creighton that we've been in my 41 years," said Rasmussen, who was a women's basketball coach and an associate athletic director at CU before accepting the A.D. job in 1994. "We've got some great, great people on our staff right now. It makes it easy to step aside."
He'll still be around. He's certain of that.
Whether Rasmussen will be involved in the process of naming his successor is unclear, though. Creighton President Daniel Hendrickson said in a statement Monday that a national search for a new A.D. will begin in the "coming weeks."
Rasmussen said he'll understand if he's not consulted.
When Dana Altman left Creighton in 2010, Rasmussen said he declined a request from the program's all-time winningest coach to provide input in the search for a replacement.
However, Rasmussen did indicate Tuesday that he believes in the potential of several individuals currently in the CU athletic department. He did not mention anyone by name in regard to a question about his potential successor.
"I just think we've got some extremely talented people on our campus right now who have earned the opportunity to step into this office," he said. "I hope that's what happens."
Rasmussen still does have one more month on the job. He suspects he'll be as busy as ever.
There is some relief, he admitted, now that Creighton has emerged intact after managing COVID's yearlong financial quandary and now that the NCAA's investigation into the men's basketball program has been completed. He did not indicate Tuesday that either of those challenges directly influenced his decision to retire.
But for nearly three decades, his duties as athletic director have consumed nearly every available minute of his time, Rasmussen said.
(That's what he preferred, by the way. To do the job well required an all-in approach.)
He said he's eager to pursue other passions now, though, while he still has "enough energy, desire and health."
Enjoying time with family. Hiking and camping. Working more extensively with local nonprofits.
"It really has been a labor of love for me at Creighton," Rasmussen said. "I've been unbelievably privileged to be involved with Creighton University, with the community of Omaha, with thousands and thousands of 18- to 21-year-olds who are amazing.
"But I think it's the right time to step aside and provide an opportunity for some new voices."
A few other items of note from Rasmussen are below:
» Rasmussen did not comment specifically Tuesday on his role in Creighton's NCAA violations — the committee on infractions determined that he committed a Level II violation for failing to immediately report potential wrongdoing. A fine, probation and recruiting restrictions were among the sanctions for CU's first-ever major NCAA violation in its athletics history.
Rasmussen on Tuesday vouched for assistant coach Preston Murphy, who the infractions panel determined breached an unethical conduct bylaw and committed a Level I infraction. Murphy has not coached since resigning from his CU job in 2019 — and now he faces a two-year show cause penalty.
"I feel so bad for Preston Murphy," Rasmussen said. "Someone who's extremely passionate, intelligent, of high character — people have drawn conclusions about him based on their level of information. They haven't heard the entire story. And maybe they never will. ... But it's unfortunate. I really feel terrible about that."
» Rasmussen indicated that he was moved Monday by the thoughtful messages he received after announcing his decision to retire. Folks were too kind, though, according to Rasmussen.
In his position as A.D., he said he's relied on so many people. CU presidents, the board of trustees, faculty and staff, coaches, administrators, athletes, donors and sponsors.
One individual often gets too much credit, Rasmussen said. He said that's the case here.
"I don't know of a job that's more dependent on others than an athletic director," he said. "We wouldn't be successful and I certainly wouldn't have been successful without the faithfulness, the loyalty, the dedication of so many people that are in the background, that don't get recognized."
» The landscape of college sports is changing, particularly with the new name, image and likeness opportunities available to athletes, Rasmussen said. It's one of the reasons the timing of his departure makes sense to him.
A new way of thinking may be required to help Creighton properly navigate this new frontier.
"I'm a digital immigrant," Rasmussen said. "I don't really understand the language and I don't understand the culture. But we've got these talented young people on our staff who are digital natives. They understand the environment."
He did add, too, that he thinks the conversation around NIL has been a bit misguided lately.
Instead of focusing on athletes' potential earnings, Rasmussen would like to talk more about the possible scholastic opportunities that schools should now be pursuing.
"It's a great opportunity for universities to educate," Rasmussen said. "How do you use social media? How do you use marketing? How do you build your brand? What are the tax implications? What about time management? What about selecting an agent?
"Every school has an opportunity to develop a program on their campus that not only can help students who're athletes, but it can help students."