Head coach Dan Hawkins walks to the sideline after speaking with his players in huddle. (CU Independent file/Molly Maher)
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Now that I’ve finished watching the 3,856,942 bowl games aired during Winter Break, it’s back to the real world. But what is back to the real world?
For me as a sports journalist, it means objectively covering University of Colorado athletics for the CU Independent. But personally, deep down in the icy cold interior of my soul, it means how I can help head coach Dan Hawkins and athletic director Mike Bohn fix the university’s athletics, particularly the football team.
I’m not saying Hawkins and Bohn need my help or have asked for my help. They have not. But if I graduate in May, then that makes me an alumnus at this university and there’s nothing sadder than to see CU athletics in tatters.
Correction, only the Nebraska Cornhuskers winning a national championship will make me sadder. And it’s a lot closer to reality than fantasy.
With that said, I have three words for Hawkins and Bohn on how to fix the football program.
HIRE MIKE LEACH.
Ok, for some of you, this isn’t a new concept. In fact, Neill Woelk of the Daily Camera wrote a wonderful column on Jan. 3 about a few ways CU could shake up its offense, one of which was to hire Leach.
I have nothing against Woelk. But, if I may, I would like to expand on his suggestion because the minute Texas Tech announced Leach’s firing, I wanted Leach right here at CU.
However, I wouldn’t hire Leach as just an offensive coordinator as Woelk suggested. Another title I would bestow on Leach is, “head coach in waiting.” And why not?
Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly succeeded Mike Bellotti, who became the school’s athletic director after last season. All Kelly did this year was go 10-3, win the Pac-10 Conference and play in the Rose Bowl.
At Wisconsin, a similar situation occurred four years ago. Bret Bielema took over the reins from Barry Alvarez at the end of the 2005 season so Alvarez could fully concentrate on being an AD. In four seasons, Bielema is 38-14 and has made a bowl game each season, which is a far cry from Hawkins’ 16-33 record and one bowl appearance.
The backlash might be the case of Florida State legend Bobby Bowden. Part of FSU’s motive to name offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as “head coach in waiting” was to fix what had become a sagging offense. Instead, after a couple of less-than-stellar years, the FSU administration unceremoniously kicked Bowden to the curb. But the difference between Bowden and Hawkins are 323 wins and two national titles.
The common theme from Oregon and Wisconsin is they both had proven assistant coaches who were young, hungry and presumably ready. Leach may not be as young, but he’s a proven head coach (84-43) who is possibly hungry – hungry at proving his former employers wrong.
Guess who’s coming to town for Homecoming next season? Texas Tech.
Guess where CU will be playing Texas Tech on Oct. 22, 2011? Lubbock, Texas, home of the Red Raiders.
After those two encounters, CU won’t see the Red Raiders until the 2014 season. If Leach really wants to stick it to his former bosses, now’s the time to strike before Red Raiders fans run AD Gerald Myers and chancellor Kent Hance out of town.
Plus, in case you haven’t notice, CU needs an offensive guru such as Leach. Badly.
The Buffs’ offense was ranked 104th out of 120 teams last season. In fact, the best CU’s offense has achieved since Hawkins arrived was 75th in Hawkins’ second year.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech quarterbacks have led the nation in passing in eight of Leach’s 10 seasons. There’s a reason why Leach is known as a mad scientist. It’s because his pass-happy, high-octane spread offense works.
The only two problems in hiring Leach are his image and contract. Unfortunately, they go hand-in-hand. Let’s deal with the latter first.
Colorado state law limits each institution to six long-term contracts. Currently, Bohn, Hawkins, head men’s basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik, head women’s basketball coach Kathy McConnell-Miller and head volleyball coach Liz Kritza hold long-term deals. The sixth possible long-term contract is vacant.
Furthermore, assistant coaches generally do not receive multi-year deals. However, there is precedent in offering an assistant coach a long-term contract. According to a Nov. 20, 2009 report by the Camera’s Kyle Ringo, current offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau was offered one of the six multi-year contracts as an incentive to remain in Boulder instead of taking a job with Oregon. Kiesau opted to decline the offer.
But the question of whether to offer Leach a long-term deal lies in one’s belief of his image.
If Texas Tech “wrongfully terminated Leach without cause,” then go ahead and proceed with Woelk’s suggestion of offering Leach a three-year contract in the neighborhood of $1 million.
However, if Leach had mistreated wide receiver Adam James, who had sustained a concussion on Dec. 16, 2009 by allegedly ordering him into a shed the next day and an electrical closet two days later, then comply with protocol and offer Leach a one-year deal. That way, if Leach accepts the offer but loses his civil suit against Texas Tech, the school can sweep Leach’s one season under the rug.
In the end, though, Leach may not want to come to CU. The chances of him coming here to resuscitate an offense while playing second-fiddle are about as good as winning the lottery. Nevertheless, there’s one thing Hawkins and Bohn should do no matter what the odds are just to see if he’s interested.
Call Mike Leach.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Cheng Sio at Cheng.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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