University of Colorado head football coach Dan Hawkins is hanging by a thread of a thread in this, the fifth year of his heretofore dismal regime. His Buff team have matriculated at a bowl game but once, losing that one ingloriously to finish 6-7, the closest Hawkins has come to a winning record in Boulder. There have been a few big wins--over Georgia, Oklahoma, and West Virginia--but in the main Coach Hawk has laid a Big 12 stink-bomb that you can smell all the way to Boise State, a blue universe far far away from whence he came.
And yet, and yet... at 3-1 so far in 2010, a scenario could unfold that whereby Dan Hawkins could survive to fight again in the aborning Pac 12 which the Buffs will call home beginning next year.
Coach Hawk likes to say if you do things the right way, you will win. Arm-in-arm with his wife, he said it again on television after beating Georgia last weekend in Boulder: he also said a fortuitous fumble by a Georgia back in the waning seconds was the kind of break that had not come his way very often in his five years masterminding CU.
In his defense--and I've always liked him, despite it all--the worst luck Coach Hawk had was coming into the Big 12 when he did, during a warp in the space-time continuum when Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas Tech and Kansas were all perfecting their spread offenses with quarterbacks who seemed to break every record. I remember going to Boulder for a game against Texas and watching as two guys I'd never heard of tore the Buffs apart into tiny little pieces in the second half. Those two were Vince Young and Cedric Benson, who both now play to great acclaim on Sundays. It was no coincidence when the very first pick of the National Football League (NFL) draft this year was Sam Bradford, the quarterback from Oklahoma.
Coach Hawk, in other words, ran into a buzz saw when he came to Colorado, but the competition in the league has evaporated--where have you gone, Colt McCoy?--in the one season where he simply must win. Texas is a turkey, with three losses in a row for the first time in Coach Mack Brown's superb tenure. Both Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and Kansas skipper Mark Mangino got drop-kicked out the door for not making nice with players last season, and both those programs are now wandering across the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) plains. Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri, playing the Buffs at home this weekend, are all for real, but there's a difference between having two great teams on your schedule and five incredible teams with star quarterbacks and genius coaches.
So, weirdly, the stars have aligned for Coach Dan Hawkinson to keep his job. Win three more games and his Buffs go to a second bowl game. Win four and he pockets his first winning season ever. Win five and he might make it to the Big 12 Championship game.
How can you fire a guy like that, who just put up the best season in Boulder?
Them Buffs have got Baylor next weekend in Boulder, then Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Kansas State all at home later in the season. Baylor and Iowa State are experiencing brief upward blips but are always beatable. Texas Tech and Kansas, on the road in Lawrence, have never been more vulnerable in Coach Hawk's tumultuous years as a no-buff Buff. On the road, Colorado is likely to lose to Missouri this Saturday, and then be crushed like the grapes of wrath by Oklahoma in Norman, and Nebraska in Lincoln on the final day of the regular season.
The four wins Hawkins needs to survive and advance thus could be Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Kansas. Throw in Kansas State and he's got 8 wins against only 4 losses. If CU goes bowling and wins they could be looking at a 9-4 or an 8-5 season--better if they win the Big 12 Championship--with Dan Hawkins returning to Boulder in a glow of just enough none too soon.
I know--the Buffs under Hawkins have been maddeningly disappointing with no reason to expect anything but more pain. Even so, the stars are aligned to save a good man before it's too late.
Follow Michael Conniff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/michaelconniff