It’s time for Colorado football fans, former players, boosters, insiders and even some members of the media covering the program to calm down, take a step back and watch things unfold.
Coach Dan Hawkins has to find a way to win all four of the remaining games on the 2009 schedule to keep his job. Three wins might do it, as long as one of them is against Nebraska.
I know everyone has read in recent days that the athletic director and chancellor say they support Hawkins and are not ready to make a coaching change. And that is true in early November with four games left or in late October, when they were actually asked, with five games left.
That’s the way this works at the college level. This isn’t professional sports where midseason coaching changes occur frequently. In the college game, they almost always happen after the season or right near the end with a game or two left at most. The exceptions to this rule almost always involve some sort of ugly allegation or behavior off the field, which hasn’t happened here.
It is just the way it is done in college sports, and considering there are 18, 19 and 20-year-olds involved, it’s the right way to handle it.
Given those facts, what else would we expect the AD and chancellor to say? Of course they aren’t going to come out at this time of year and admit they are considering a coaching change. What message would that send to the current team about finishing the season? What message would it send recruits considering joining the program?
It’s not like we don’t have some history here from which to learn.
This is a school and the same AD who offered a former coach Gary Barnett a contract extension at roughly this time of year in 2005 only to fire him a month later. What was athletic director Mike Bohn saying publicly late in the 2005 season as things fell apart and as a team that was ranked in the top 25 ended up losing its final two games by the combined score of 100-6? He was saying that he supported his coach.
What were they saying when they allowed former men’s basketball coach Ricardo Patton to enter the final season of his contract without an offer for extension?
We support the coach but we’re just not ready to offer an extension. Coach Patton ultimately announced his resignation and Bohn will tell you now that one of the decisions he wishes he had back was allowing Patton to continue as a lame duck for an entire season.
The point is, this situation is really no different.
Did Bohn and chancellor Phil DiStefano want it to come to this? Of course not. Just a month ago, they were thinking things would turn around and Hawkins would eventually get the ship righted. But even they had noticed changes in the coach’s demeanor over the past year and in particular during the past six months.
That change in demeanor and attitude was affecting a lot of people and relationships, not just those with the media. Hawkins came out of that shell a week ago, obviously trying to repair some of that damage. Why do you suppose?
Here is what Bohn said about it at the time: “There is no question the challenges that Dan faces in the management of the football program are significant,” Bohn said. “And I know he recognizes he has room for improvement, room for adjustment, room for change. It`s been refreshing to watch him over the last several weeks embrace that.”
That doesn’t sound like the same AD who was firmly in the coach’s corner throughout the offseason.
Firing Hawkins will be a expensive decision that could cost between $3 and $3.5 million. It’s not a comfortable decision to make, but it might be the smart one in the long run if keeping him leads to a drop in ticket sales, sponsorships and optimism. Let’s face it. Is anyone really optimistic that this program is going to get significantly better next year when it faces CSU in Denver, Cal on the road, Georgia at home, Oklahoma on the road and Big 12 North foes Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska on the road?
Can the department and school afford to fire Hawkins? No. But it’s also getting to the point where they can’t afford not to. There were more than 8,000 empty seats at last week’s homecoming game. Yeah, homecoming.
There are still more than 8,000 tickets available for this weekend’s tilt with Texas A&M. There are ways of handling the cost of a coaching change. They take the hit and build the financial blow into the budget over the next several years. Not ideal, not what they had in mind, but necessary unless a tremendous four-game run turns this into a .500 team.
Hawkins’ stubborn refusal to play the best players on Saturdays bothers the powers that be just as much as the average fan.
The slow starts and appearance that the Buffs are unprepared to play bother the powers that be just as much as the average fan.
The attrition rate in Hawkins’ program bothers the powers that be just as much as the average fan.
The never-ending excuse about the youth of the team while other young teams around the country are finding success bothers the powers that be just as much as the average fan.
The handling of the quarterback situation and the lack of player development atthe position over 31/2 years now bothers the powers that be just as much as the average fan.
The team’s inability to win on the road under Hawkins bothers the powers that be just as much as the average fan.
Seeing Dan Hawkins handle news of Darrell Scott’s decision to transfer this way on Tuesday bothered the powers that be just as much as the average fan.