Dan Hawkins Fired: Top 10 Candidates to Replace Colorado Football Coach
Dan Hawkins fired! That means, very soon, there will be a major head coaching search in Boulder.
It's ironic that Hawkins would be fired at this point in the season. His old school, Boise State, and the man who replaced him, Chris Petersen, are a few lucky breaks away from playing in the BCS National Championship Game this January.
It's a safe bet that Petersen isn't high on Colorado's list...only because they've been down that road before.
So who is a good fit for the Buffs?
Honorable Mention: Wade Phillips
Last Job: Dallas Cowboys
He's available, right?
It's a fairly short move for him and the family.
Plus, Wade and his Cowboys team have had their problems, especially on defense. But even they never blew a 45-17 fourth quarter lead the way Colorado did last week against Kansas.
Jerry Jones might even send him north on his private plane.
No. 10: Bill McCartney
Last Job: Colorado Buffaloes (1994)
The only man to lead the Buffs to an AP national title is only 70 years old.
That's more than a decade younger than Joe Paterno.
Plus, it's not like McCartney left Colorado in 1994 and failed somewhere else. He retired and hasn't been in football since. (Of course, that's probably a major problem.)
At least in the state he is a legend. That has to be a major recruiting tool. If he surrounded himself with great assistants, the Buffs might be okay.
No. 9: Turner Gill
Current Job: Kansas Jayhawks
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em? Or at least have 'em join you.
Last week, Gill's Jayhawks came back from a 28-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Colorado and send Dan Hawkins packing.
Maybe athletic director Mike Bohn can convince Gill that Kansas is too much of a basketball school to contend in the Big 12 and that if he really wants to win a national championship, he needs to come over to the Pac-10.
Now getting Gill out of his new deal with Kansas would be virtually impossible. But it's worth a shot.
No. 8: Dave Logan
Current Job: J.K. Mullen High School
If AD Mike Bohn wants to go the Gerry Faust-Notre Dame route, there is a pretty good candidate out there in Logan, and one who already has ties to the university.
The former Buffs wide receiver (class of 1976) and longtime NFL pro is the head coach at J.K. Mullen High School in southwest Denver. He has won championships for three different programs during his career.
It's a difficult sell to bring in a high school coach, but this might be the proverbial "outside the box" hiring.
No. 7: Dick Bumpas
Current Job: TCU (Defensive Coordinator)
Although he has never been a head coach before, the 60-year-old has been around the block.
He's been an assistant head coach in many different places and was a standout player for Arkansas in the early 1970s.
TCU's defense is arguably the best in the nation and might become the first team in 25 years to lead the nation in run defense, passing defense and scoring defense.
Gary Patterson certainly deserves a lot of the credit for that, but so does Bumpas.
If he brings that type of defensive excellence to the Pac-10 (and is able to recruit Pac-10 talent), he has a pretty good chance of contending against teams like Oregon, Stanford and USC.
No. 6: Mark Mangino
Last Job: Kansas Jayhawks (2009)
Mangino's run at Kansas ended abruptly and on a sour note, amidst claims that he was too hard on his players.
But not so long ago, he was the nation's Coach of the Year for taking Kansas to the Orange Bowl in 2007.
After nearly a decade in the Big 12, he knows Colorado and could be the bold leader the school needs during the transition to the Pac-10.
He would need to alter the attitude that essentially got him fired from Kansas, but (channeled properly) that type of discipline and toughness could be what the Buffaloes need to compete against the finesse offenses in the Pac-10.
He has only been away from coaching for one year as well.
No. 5: Kirby Smart
Current Job: Alabama (Defensive Coordinator)
Smart would like to stay with the Crimson Tide as long as possible so that he can someday become the head coach there. He is the heir apparent to Nick Saban, and the board of trustees doubled his salary last January in order to keep him there.
But it's not like Saban is Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno; he is only 59. He'll never go back the NFL, so Alabama is probably his last job, and he might stay there for another 10 years. We cannot exactly trust what comes out of Saban's mouth regarding coaching positions.
Because of his fast, powerful defenses, Smart is a great fit for the Buffaloes, and there is really no reason he can't coach Colorado for a handful of years and return to Alabama when Saban retires down the road.
No. 4: Gus Malzahn
Current Job: Auburn (Offensive Coordinator)
On the surface, it would be crazy for Malzahn to consider leaving Auburn after just two seasons. The Tigers could become a powerhouse, and a few years down the line he could have any job he wants. Why leave to go to a program that's a mess right now?
But Cam Newton might not be back for a senior season in 2011, and the Auburn offense will almost certainly struggle to replace him.
From the Colorado perspective, bringing the read-option offense to the Pac-10 might be the only thing that keeps the Buffs afloat during those first few seasons of adjustment.
Malzahn is young (45) and has been a successful head coach before at the high school level.
No. 3: Gary Barnett
Last Job: Colorado Buffaloes (2005)
In terms of a return to Boulder, there are plenty of strikes against Barnett.
1) The allegations of impropriety that forced his resignation in December 2005.
2) The less than ideal way he handled female kicker Kate Hnida's claim that she was raped by a teammate.
3) He has been out of coaching for more than five years.
But the fact is the last time Colorado contended for a national title, Barnett was head coach.
If he can bring back that type of hard-nosed running game that led Colorado to that amazing run at the end of the 2001 season, they will will be a unique and difficult opponent in the Pac-10.
No. 2: Norm Chow
Current Job: UCLA Bruins (Offensive Coordinator)
With Colorado joining the Pac-10 next season, they might find themselves in major trouble for a long time.
Their offense is currently ranked 76th in the nation. Against teams like Oregon, Stanford and USC, that is just not going to get the job done.
If they want an explosive, Pac-10 offense, is there a better man out there than Chow?
He built those powerhouse units led by Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, and there's no reason he can't to it again.
The NFL experience he accrued in Tennessee should also help him in recruiting. He knows what it takes to get players ready for the pros, and recruits love to hear that.
No. 1: Eric Bieniemy
Current Job: Minnesota Vikings (Asst. Head Coach/Running Backs Coach)
If the administration wants to bring in a former Buff who was a major part of the school's greatest team ever, Bieniemy is a perfect fit.
Bieniemy was an All-American, third-place finisher in the 1990 Heisman race and owns virtually all of the school's career rushing records from his time with the great Bill McCartney teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Although his career as an professional player wasn't spectacular, his NFL coaching career has been very good (although having Adrian Peterson helps). After just a few seasons, he was promoted to assistant head coach.
The Vikings might shake up the staff, in part or in whole, this offseason. He may eventually be in line for a coordinator position, but if he and the staff are fired in Minnesota, that would set back those plans.
If the Buffs were to offer him the head gig, it would be a great move for both parties.