After almost five years of futility Dan Hawkins was let go today after the debacle that was the KU game (45-52 loss after blowing 28 point 4th quarter lead). His termination was not about one single game though, it was about a 19-39 overall record and an 8-22 record over the last 30 games. This is a program that was sinking fast and Hawkins could not right the ship. Longtime linebackers coach and recently named associate head coach Brian Cabral will be the interim head coach for the rest of the year. I’m sure many fans are happy that Hawkins is now gone but questions remain about this season and the future of CU football.
The most pressing question is how the team will respond this year. The players didn’t give up on Hawkins even after a string of tough losses so it was not a matter of effort. I believe they will give the same effort for Coach Cabral, but what about quarterback Cody Hawkins? He’s the only healthy quarterback on the roster and CU just fired his Dad. I’m sure he has thought about quitting, but with only three games left in his senior year I’m certain he will stay. The big question is how invested will he be in the rest of the season and how awkward is senior day going to be with or without his Dad escorting him onto the field? Hawkins and the other players will be ok. I think they will win one more game but they won’t pull off three wins in a row to end the season.
The biggest question for the CU program is: what’s next? Since Bill McCartney retired in 1994 the Buffs have hired Rick Neuheisel (the hotshot assistant), Gary Barnett (highly successful at institution with tough academics), and Dan Hawkins (the hot coaching candidate) and none of them has been able to sustain any kind of success. I believe they need an experienced coach with ties to the west coast (and Texas if possible) who is going to rebuild the program so they can compete in the newly formed Pac 12 South. Here are two candidates I have heard bantered about on talk radio:
1) Bill McCartney – I have heard a strong desire to bring back Bill McCartney. The word is that he is just waiting for a phone call but I don’t think that’s such a good idea. It is natural after having struggled for so long to bring back the last coach who had sustained success at CU which included a National Championship. It has worked recently for K-State but I’ve seen it blow up to many times like at USC with John Robinson and is only a short term fix. Also, the game has changed both on and off the field. In McCartney’s day most teams in the Big 8 were running the triple option not the wide open spread offenses like we see today. McCartney pulled most of the talent for his teams from Texas. With CU’s move to the Pac 12 a new emphasis will have to be placed on recruiting in California because those are the teams they will be competing with now.
Analysis: If all else fails… please come back
2) Mike Leach – The former Red Raider maverick is another name I’ve heard bantered about but I don’t really see it. He would certainly bring a swagger to Boulder but also a lot of baggage. I’m not sure his in-your-face style would mesh well at CU and while he could recruit Texas, he has many ties to recruiting in California.
Analysis: No thanks!
Now, here are three I haven’t heard much buzz about but I think would be good fits:
1) Pat Hill – The current Fresno State coach has been highly successful but in recent years has been eclipsed the Boise State in the WAC. He’s a good coach who runs a clean program and competes with the Pac 10 schools for recruits in California every year. I think he’s looking for a new challenge and competing with USC and UCLA in the Pac 12 South would get him fired up. He hasn’t been as successful at Fresno State lately and he has no real Texas recruiting ties.
Analysis: Strong possibility, team him up with a good Texas recruiter and it could be a good match
2) Mike Price – The current UTEP coach knows a thing or two about winning in the Pac 10 having taken Washington State to the Rose Bowl in 1998. He did such a great job Alabama hired him and subsequently fired him after an incident at a strip club which is why he’s coaching UTEP. UTEP is 6-4 this season and is looking for its first winning season since 2004 (Prices first year) which is not exactly a confidence booster but the guy knows how to win in the PAC 10 and has strong recruiting ties in California and Texas.
Analysis: Maybe to controversial at this point but otherwise a solid fit
3) June Jones – If you want a coach who has turned around abysmal programs, you want June Jones. He has turned two perennial losers in Hawaii and SMU into winning programs, even taking Hawaii to a BCS game in 2007. He has a wide open entertaining passing attack usually referred to as the run-and-shoot which would jibe well with high scoring Pac 10 teams. Finally, the former Oregon quarterback has heavily recruited California and Texas and in my estimation would be a perfect fit for CU.
Analysis: Almost perfect fit if they can lure him away from SMU which may be a problem as he doesn’t like to jump from job to job
It was past time for Hawkins to go. I believe you have to give a college coach at least four years so there recruiting classes can mature and develop on the field. If they can’t win at that point, it’s just not going to work and both parties need to move on. CU does need to act quickly because in home recruiting visits start on Dec. 1st, but more importantly they have to act wisely. They can’t afford another Hawkins or they risk losing fans and donors.
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Written by Matthew Stiles