Colorado Football: Father's Day Update

Stuart WhitehairAnalyst IJune 17, 2008

Stuart Whitehair provides us with a Father's Day Update from his blog (posted June 15, 2008):

Contract extension for Dan Hawkins

Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins received a contract extension at the CU Board of Regents meeting June 4th.  The unanimous vote of the Regents gives the Buffs’ football coach a contract through the 2012 season.

For head coach Dan Hawkins, the extension adds two years to his first contract with Colorado.  The guaranteed money was not significantly raised—up $44,500 per season to around $900,000.

Much of the increase in salary comes in incentive bonus money.  Previously, Hawkins was eligible for $50,000 for such incentives as student citizenship, community outreach, and academic progress.  The bonus money for reaching those incentives has been raised to $77,500 each.

In his first two seasons, Hawkins met 95% of these incentives.

Other bonuses, to be awarded for meeting goals nationally and within the Big 12 conference, as well as for achieving individual goals (such as Big 12 Coach of the Year), have also been significantly raised.

“I am honored that the university feels good about what we are doing here,” said Hawkins of his extension.  “I am proud of the efforts we have put forth and glad they have the confidence in us that we are doing the right things on and off the field, and they want us to stay here.”

Hawkins also discussed his interest in increasing salaries for his assistant coaches, commenting, “It is not just the head coach.  You have got to have great people.”

While I am glad that the contract extension was accomplished with little fanfare and little opposition, I am not sure that it was necessary just yet.  Hawkins noted in his interview that, as he still had three years remaining on his original contract, opponents were not yet using the length of his contract as a negative on the recruiting trail.

Plus, the assistant coaches at CU are currently not that far off the pace of their Big 12 counterparts.  Why not wait until the end of the 2008 season, hopefully on the heels of a winning season, to announce the extension?  What if the Buffs have a third consecutive losing season in 2008?

How much hand-wringing will there be if the program, already posting the worst consecutive seasons since the dark days of the early 1980s, fails to make headway against the ever-improving competition in the conference, and yet has a coach who still has four years remaining on his contract?

Okay, enough of the negative.  Even if the Buffs are around .500 in 2008, I am very optimistic about the future.  The schedules in the next few years are not as daunting, and the accumulation of talent in Boulder is undeniable.

Hopefully, we will look back at this extension with the same fondness and admiration as we do the extension granted to Bill McCartney by athletic director Bill Marolt in 1984.  With the head coach at CU in the midst of his third straight losing campaign (and what would become a 1-10 record that season), Marolt extended the contract of his football coach.

At the time, the McCartney extension was perceived as being, at best, a questionable move.  In hindsight, it was a prescient move which allowed McCartney to build a national champion.

June 4, 2008—prelude to a championship?

Compare the situation in Boulder to that of Manhattan, Kansas.  Hawkins at Colorado and Ron Prince at Kansas State are both entering their third seasons.  Both have been to one bowl game in their first two campaigns.  One has an 8-17 cumulative record, the other 12-13.

Only one, though, is on the “hot seat,” according to most pundits.

Of course it is the coach with the better record: Ron Prince of Kansas State.

Why so?  Prince posted a 7-6 record in his first season, including a bowl bid, before dipping to a 5-7 record in 2007.  Still, Prince is considered to be in a pivotal year at the same time Hawkins is signing an extension.

Three factors are at work here.  First, there is how the 2007 season ended for the Wildcats.  After a 5-3 start, Kansas State lost its last four games, including a 73-31 rout by a mediocre Nebraska team and a 49-25 trouncing by Fresno State with a bowl game on the line.

Quite simply, there has been a sour taste in the mouths of the K-State faithful since December, and there have been few positive stories for the program to tout since then.

Second, there is the recruiting class of 2008.  An astounding 20 of 34 recruits in the third class signed by Ron Prince were junior college recruits.  Even for a program which has a reputation for signing players from two-year schools, this is a huge number (the remaining teams in the Big 12, for example, picked up 26 junior college players in 2008—combined).

Such drastic measures are not uncommon for a first-year coach, but for a coach in his third season, the move smacks of desperation.

Perhaps, then, the difference in moods in the two camps is all about perception.  The Buffs under Hawkins moved forward in 2007, improving four wins over the 2006 debacle.  While there is much to be proven, both on and off the field, before CU fans can count on January bowls on a regular basis, the perception is that Colorado is putting the pieces in place for a run of success.

At the same time, the prevailing perception about Kansas State is that the Wildcat program is stepping back—that Ron Prince and KSU are making moves out of a need to try and win now (witness the recruiting class and the dumping of Fresno State on the 2008 schedule).

We will have to wait and see.  Kansas State will likely open 3-1, or perhaps 4-0 in 2008 (Louisville being the only question mark), while the Buffs, with West Virginia at home and Florida State on the road, may open 2-2.  Heading into Big 12 play, Prince could have an overall record of 16-13, while Hawkins could be 10-19.

We will see…


Schedule changes

Colorado recently agreed to a three-game series with Fresno State, with games to be played in 2011 (Boulder), 2012 (at Fresno), and 2013 (Boulder). The announcement of the three-game series with FSU came as Colorado and LSU postponed their two-game set scheduled for 2011 and 2012.

There was no penalty for CU in exchanging Tigers for Bulldogs, as the LSU home-and-home contract, first announced in 2006, was never signed.  Dave Plati, CU associate athletic director for sports information, stressed that the LSU deal was not cancelled, but postponed.

Colorado is looking for a new deal with LSU for 2020 and 2021, but LSU is only scheduling out as far as 2018.  “They are not scheduling out as far as we are,” said Plati.  “So we will probably come back and revisit that at some point.”

Colorado is 4-1 all-time against Fresno State from the Western Athletic Conference, with four of the five games being played in Boulder.  The one loss was a memorable one, as the Buffs lost to the Bulldogs, 24-22, in the 2001 season opener (anyone want to relive the Craig Ochs interception with three minutes to play on a third-and-goal at the Fresno State two-yard line?).

The opening loss in the Jim Thorpe Classic ultimately cost Colorado a chance at playing Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national championship.  The Buffs finished the regular season 10-2, completing the 2001 season with a 62-36 romp over Nebraska and a revenge win over Texas in the Big 12 title game, but were denied a title shot by a few decimal points in a computer.

Granted, there is no way of knowing how the CU season would have unfolded had the Buffs defeated Fresno State, 25-24, in the opener, but the effect of the loss is a question which will be discussed again—starting in September 2011.

The internet has been ablaze with comments about the Fresno State contract.  For the most part, the sentiment has been that the Buffs are “dumbing down” the schedule in trading Fresno State for defending national champion LSU.

Several issues here.  First, as noted above and in all of the media stories about the games, CU did not “trade” Fresno State for LSU.  The LSU contract was never signed, and, if Buff officials are to be believed, games with the Tigers will be discussed again in the future.

Second, there is no guarantee as to where these three programs will be in three seasons.  Yes, it is likely that LSU will continue to be a national power, and yes, it is true that the Fresno State Bulldogs, from a non-BCS conference, will continue to be, at best, a thorn in the side of those BCS schools willing to face them (paging Kansas State…).

Colorado, for its part, may be a national power in 2011, 2012, and 2013, or may be a mediocre team looking for a way to find its way to six regular season wins and a minor bowl.  Contracts are often signed far in advance—so who knows how this development will affect the future of the CU program?

Who would have thought years ago that the West Virginia game in 2007 would be against a top-10 team (which, by the way, was supposed to be against North Carolina before the Tar Heels backed out of the home-and-home with the Buffs), while the Florida State game would be against a struggling team?

Finally, if you have any friends who still give you grief about the Buffs ducking the Tigers in order to get out of a tough series, do not back down.  Colorado has to apologize to no one when it comes to non-conference scheduling.

Try this stat on any CU detractors you encounter: Colorado has played 27 games against ranked non-conference opponents (not counting bowls) since 1990, the most in the Big 12.

The other five teams in the Big 12 North, over that same period of time? 42 games—combined!  Nebraska is a distant second to the Buffs, with 14 such contests, and no other team in the Big 12 North has hit double digits.

Another interesting stat—as noted above, CU was supposed to play North Carolina in a home-and-home in 2008 and 2009, but the Tar Heels backed out last spring, and the Buffs picked up West Virginia as our new opponent.

West Virginia, in addition to being a top-10 team with a Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback, has a .742 winning percentage away from home the past five seasons, fifth-best mark in the nation.

North Carolina, meanwhile, is coming off of a 4-8 season (two wins coming over James Madison and Duke—in overtime) and has lost 21 consecutive games outside of the state of North Carolina (dating back to 2002).  If Colorado was interested in “ducking” opponents, why did Colorado choose West Virginia last year as a new opponent?

Try that one on any detractors.


New Recruits

Colorado picked up its first two recruits on June 6.  The first is quarterback Jordan Wynn from Oceanside, California.  Wynn is considered a three-star prospect by and the 54th-best quarterback in the nation.  In his junior season, Wynn led his hometown team to the California state championship in its class.

Jarrod Darden, meanwhile, is a three-star wide receiver prospect from Keller, Texas.  Darden is considered the 90th-best wide receiver in the nation.  Darden received offers from a number of BCS conference teams, including Big 12 rivals Missouri and Texas Tech.

Are these Darrell Scott type announcements?  No.  But here is some food for thought.  Last year, when Dan Hawkins and his staff put together a top-20 recruiting class, there were only three commitments in June.  The only verbal commitments received prior to August last year?  Quarterback Tyler Hansen and safeties Patrick Mahnke and Vince Ewing.

What do these three players have in common?  They were the lowest rated players on the Colorado board in February.  None were top 100 candidates at their positions, and all were considered two-star prospects.

Lesson: The 2008 class only got better as time went on; no reason to believe the 2009 class will not do the same.

The other tidbit: Both of the new recruits are three-star prospects.  Other Big 12 North schools have received more verbal commitments, but that does not mean that the Buffs are behind.

According to, Missouri has eight commitments already.  Yes, two are four-star prospects.  On the other hand, three of the Tiger prospects are considered one-star recruits (average for the eight: 2.5 stars).

Same story at Nebraska (five verbals, including two three-stars and three one-stars) and Kansas (three verbals—one three-star and two one-stars).  Kansas State and Iowa State, according to, have yet to receive a verbal commitment for 2009.

So if you talk to fellow Buff supporters, and they are expressing concern about how slowly the 2009 class is coming together, just give them a wry smile, and tell them not to worry.

Hawkins and his crew have things well in hand.


Stadium rights

Also in the news recently was the announcement at the Board of Regents meeting that Colorado is looking into selling the naming rights to Folsom Field.  The deal, for which no buyer has been identified, would be a 15-20 year contract which could mean $15 million for the school.

Chancellor G.P. “Bud” Peterson was quick to state that keeping the name “Folsom Field” would have to be part of any negotiation.  “We would retain Folsom Field as part of the name,” said Peterson.  “We have had no discussions about changing it.  It has historical significance, and it would be, I think, a huge mistake for us to consider doing something like that.”

“Welcome to our telecast of Colorado/West Virginia, coming to you live from Folsom Field at Celestial Seasonings Stadium...”

What do you think?  Like most Buff fans, I have mixed emotions.  While we have had the Coors Event Center on campus for a generation, it still seems odd to think about slapping a different name on Folsom Field.

Still, I do understand and appreciate the realities of the college football world.  Quite simply, there are the kings and the peasants, and it is not difficult to identify which is which.

Colorado has always been on the fringe of royalty, not quite amongst the elite of college football.  While football revenue generated at Colorado is a joke to Nebraska, it is an unobtainable goal to Colorado State.

The Buffs can either play in this high stakes game, and seek new revenue sources whenever and wherever they present themselves, or they can concede the field and wallow along with Iowa State and Baylor at the shallow end of the BCS world.

I am hoping that if a donor is found, it will be an easy name for us to swallow.  “Invesco Field” is bland enough that everyone still refers to the home of the Broncos as Mile High Stadium.  “Heinz Field” in Pittsburgh generates jokes, and do not ask anyone in Houston about “Enron Field.”

What say we find ask everyone in attendance at the Texas game for a donation of $300, giving CU $15 million to work with—and then give Folsom Field a corporate name we can all enjoy:

“Welcome to our telecast of Colorado/West Virginia, coming to you live from THE SINK…”

For more on the CU Buffs, log onto  comments and suggestions welcome!