Colorado brass clearly relished its entry to the Pac-10 last week, calling it "a glorious day" for the university, belting out the school fight song and forecasting Rose Bowl showdowns with former Big Eight/Big 12 rival Nebraska. It was a celebration of what it imagines will be a bright future on the West Coast – albeit one that notably excluded embattled coach Dan Hawkins, as the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla pointed out Thursday:
At the same time, a stiff-lipped Hawkins stood like a wallflower at the back of the room and was ignored when CU big shots gathered for celebration photos. No one cares about his opinion regarding where the Buffs play in the future, Hawkins admitted.
Asked what Hawkins needs to do to be the coach when the Buffs open Pac-10 competition, athletic director Mike Bohn replied: "I think it's really irrelevant at this point. (This move) is not about Dan Hawkins and 2012. We understand the stakes that are in place, and Dan understands that. He knows our expectations are higher this year."
Hawk seems to be a dead Buff walking.
This is the kind of column that would earn Kiszla the cold shoulder from quarterback/eldest son Cody Hawkins, but the symbolism is thick enough to hurl against a wall. Hawkins, and the infrastructure he's built over the last four years, just doesn't factor into projections past this season.
Actually, it's unlikely he'd even factor into projections for this season if not for a hefty $3 million buyout that helped Bohn reach his decision to retain Hawkins after last year's descent to 3-9. That figure, along with the roughly $9 million CU may have to give back to the Big 12 as an exit fee, remains Hawkins' best friend. And he managed to survive the proverbial hot seat last year, which was about as bad as it gets – "higher expectations" this fall, compared to 3-9, are not necessarily all that high.
The Buffs' upcoming schedule is headlined by non-conference dates with Cal and Georgia, on top of a Big 12 draw that sends a team with 11 straight road losses to Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska. With that, and an administration eyeing a fresh start next year in a new conference, the attitude this time around couldn't be further from "10 wins and no excuses." It's more like "break even and call it a step in the right direction." Short of that, at the very least, Hawkins is the one guy on campus who can't afford to look forward to the change of scenery.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.