October 29, 2010
Dan Hawkins isn't dead yet at Colorado, but the faint sound of the dirge is getting louder by the day. The Buffaloes lost their third straight Saturday at Baylor to fall below .500 for the first time this season. One local columnist writes that it's over, and Hawkins is already making some quiet references to "the next guy." Another says it's only a matter of timing. And today, we had not only the suggestion that Hawkins could be out by next week if things go really pear-shaped against Oklahoma; eve more ominously, we have some names:
The Buffaloes haven't quit on Hawkins. They still play hard if not well. There is no apparent division on the team. The fans, who keep filling Folsom Field, haven't chanted for Hawkins' head as Minnesota fans did for Tim Brewster's. Buffs fans are too classy. Instead, they boo the kids.
However, if the 3-4 Buffaloes lay down against 11th-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday night, Hawkins could be gone next week.
That will bring us to the successor search, which is going on now. I'm told four people are atop the target list: Bill McCartney, Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and LSU coach Les Miles.
These don't appear to be really serious names, mind you, especially the first and last of the group. McCartney is Colorado's version of Bill Snyder, a beloved elder statesman who miraculously took a moribund program to national relevance, but unlike Snyder before his return to K-State, McCartney has been out of coaching for 16 years, not three. Les Miles ... well, by most accounts, Les Miles once turned down Michigan, his alma mater. If he got a call from a school that offered him a fraction his current salary, a far-flung recruiting base, an academically oriented administration that nevertheless offers little academic support to athletes and facilities that "make Colorado the Bangladesh of the Big 12," in the words of the Denver Post's John Henderson, I doubt Miles or his agent would bother picking up the phone. They might as well be going after Tony Dungy.
Even Malzahn and McElwain are likely to have better options in December and January for their revivals of moribund offenses in the Yellowhammer State, and the Pac-12-bound Buffs might be in the market for someone with actual California recruiting ties. But the point isn't the names themselves so much as that there are names: The initial arrival of "The List" in the local paper at midseason is like an orange showing up in "The Godfather": Soon, heads are going to roll. Tim Brewster heard the footsteps in Minnesota, and was out three weeks later. With Colorado's November schedule (Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State), Hawkins might make it through the end. But he has plenty of incentive for keeping it from getting out of hand Saturday in Norman.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.