I’ve asked to speak with Mike Bohn more in depth and on the record in the weeks since the school announced it was keeping coach Dan Hawkins around for a fifth season to coach the Colorado football team.
Bohn finally agreed late last week to sit down with me today (Tuesday) for an in-depth interview regarding what happened leading up to the decision, how it was made, whether it was forced on him or not, where the athletic department and the football program go from here and how he deals with the ramifications.
Then Monday morning Bohn called to cancel. He said he thought the story was old news at this point and didn’t want to bring it up again by talking more about it. I told him I would have to write that and he said he understands I have a job to do.
Silence is a different approach for Bohn. He is normally very willing to engage just about anyone who has any question about CU. He returns phone calls and doesn’t hide from you across the room, the field or the arena like other administrators I have known.
He also mentioned a story I did over the weekend interviewing president Bruce Benson’s spokesman and said it wouldn’t do anyone any good for him to discuss the subject further publicly. The president’s spokesman put the decision to retain Hawkins completely on Bohn and chancellor Phil DiStefano, saying it was made totally at the campus level.
I’ve heard otherwise. I’ve been told by people I trust and who have given me good information in the past, that this was a decision made by Benson in order to preserve some credibility in lobbying the state for more money for higher education. They say Benson didn’t want to face critics who would have asked how the school could afford to pay a coach $3 million not to coach but needs to cut classes or professors or janitors unless it gets more money from the state. The president’s spokesman says that just isn’t true.
All I can do is ask people the questions and write down the answers. If Bohn isn’t going to talk about it any more, then I guess the Q&A he did with the Camera on Thanksgiving will have to suffice as his explanation for now. I should point out that Bohn took at least some responsibility for the decision saying in the Q&A that he never makes any major decision without consulting other campus and CU leaders.
I asked Bohn where he goes from here, and he said he will be working closely with coach Hawkins to make sure the program puts the best, most well-prepared and well-coached team possible on the field next fall. What that will entail is yet to be seen and might not fully unfold until February or even March.
Bohn said he also has some things he is working on to hopefully help repair some of the wounds that have been opened during the football season and in the immediate aftermath of it. He is well aware of how many Colorado fans are disappointed or flat out angry about how the season went. I think he understands he isn’t going to get some of them back until the program begins to win consistently with the current coaches or hires new coaches.
But I also think he and his bosses are mistaken to believe they can just decide not to talk about something and it will go away. That approach never works. In some respects, it was tried here just a few years ago and it led to a new president, chancellor, athletic director and football coach. Though the issues were much more serious than a 16-33 coach keeping his job.
By the way, back in 2005 when all those people were replaced, weren’t we promised a new way forward? I seem to recall transparency being the buzzword at the time. Is this transparency?
We know Bohn was clearly leaning toward making a change in football coaches before he left for Hawaii with the men’s basketball program in late November ( a long-planned trip). Just two days before he left, he assured a group of reporters in the press box at Oklahoma State that no decision about the coaching staff would be made until after the season. He even pointed to the fact that he would be out of town as one reason it didn’t make sense to make any change before the end of the season.
Then he comes back from Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day one day before the Buffs hosted Nebraska and officially announces Hawkins is being retained? He explained the situation was becoming too much of a distraction to the team, a 3-8 team that was about to play its final game of the year, and, albeit against a rival, the outcome was meaningless. There was no bowl game on the line, no chance at a winning record. The last interviews players and coaches did with media that week were done on Monday. Distraction?
My bet is that the issue was becoming too big of a distraction, but in the president’s office not in the locker room.