Wednesday, November 10, 2010

His Fate Decided

It must be uncomfortable. It must be a singularly horrible feeling. The feeling that your die has been cast. The sense that your fate has been sealed. The knowledge that there is indeed a pale horse coming and you, you shall be the one riding upon it. You cannot see it. You are not entirely certain that you can hear it. Yet you know it is coming. It is tumbling out of the sky above you, hurtling towards the ground as it prepares to drop. The dreaded other shoe.

At the end of the 2005 college football season my Alma mater fired its head coach. Gary Barnett had achieved a fair amount of success during his time as the man-in-charge in Boulder but he also had his name associated with a fair amount of unflattering and, candidly, unsavory stories. Sad to say - but perhaps par for the course in big-time college sports - when the Buffs were hanging 62 points on Nebraska and playing on New Year's Day in the Fiesta Bowl, little was said about anything other than the wins and losses. But in the 2005 Big XII Championship Game when Texas hung 70 points on CU (and it could have been 100 but for the mercy shown by Mack Brown) and the Buffs were playing in the Pizza Hut/Car Quest/Squeegee Town Hamburger Bun Bowl in East Bum F*ck New Mexico on Boxing Day, the University's attention focused a bit more sharply on what was happening off of the field. It is all about wins and losses in college sports. If you do not believe me, then ask any coach who has not earned enough of the former while absorbing too many of the latter. You can probably find him or her doing TV or radio commentary somewhere.

By the time the Barnett Era had dragged to a close in Boulder, the program was a train wreck. CU plucked a young up and comer out of the potato fields of Idaho to lead us back to salvation.....or at least to respectability. When Boise State coach Dan Hawkins accepted the CU job, alums around the country (including Yours truly) were excited. He won with seeming ease at Boise State and did so in an exciting, entertaining fashion. The sky was the limit. Boulder was awash in a sea of "Hawk Love".

Unfortunately, the honeymoon lasted only until Opening Day 2006. The Buffs lost their home opener to Montana State, which is not as it turns out the school that Craig T. Nelson coached to a National Championship. Perhaps had it been, the worm would not have turned so quickly and so viciously against Hawkins. He went from savior to pariah in an afternoon.

In the years since little has happened to reverse the trend. The Buffs have not had a single winning season on his watch. The closest they came was a 6-6 season a few years ago, which became 6-7 after they lost to Alabama in a bowl game. The past couple of seasons they have been dreadful. The final straw for the administration was this past Saturday in Kansas. The Buffs were pounding the snot out of the equally dreadful Kansas Jayhawks 45-17 early in the fourth quarter. They appeared well on their way to winning and snapping a four-game losing streak. It turned out that they were not and they did not.

It takes some effort to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when up by four touchdowns with about fourteen minutes to play in a football game. Yet, Hawkins' Buffs did just that. They managed to surrender 35 points in less than fifteen minutes after having allowed less than half that many in more than three times that amount of time. They lost 52-45. Clearly this was not the type of history that the University had signed up for when it hired Coach Hawkins five years ago. It was also clear from the moment that the game ended that his coaching career in Boulder had as well. It had to. Not only for the sake of the school but for his.

Yesterday's Boulder Daily Camera told the tale: "Hawkins out as CU Buffs coach". Not surprisingly in the world in which we live where heroes are not measured - regardless of how much the ignoramuses who fit this description believe to the contrary - by the vitriol spewed in anonymous postings to Internet newspaper articles, the news was accompanied by a seemingly endless series of comments hailing the news and assailing Hawkins one more time. I have never met the man. I do not live in Boulder. I do not pretend to know what type of person he is. I know from having read the remarks he gave at his farewell press conference that on his way out the door he handled himself with grace and with class. History has taught us that not everyone in a similar situation has responded in a like manner. I know from watching the team he is paid to coach play during the five years he has coached them that he has not been a successful coach in Boulder. I also know that being a failure as a coach is not the same thing as being a serial killer or a puppy strangler or some such other horrible thing. Thus the exercise in kicking him in the face after he has been fired from the position to which he was hired with much fanfare seems a wasted one. At least from my vantage point.

The circle of life being what it is at some point in the not-too-distant future CU will begin a search for its next coach and hopefully fairly soon thereafter it will hire one. He will no doubt meet the media much as Coach Hawkins did at his first press conference full of confidence and hope and speaking optimistically of the future. And those who listen to him speak will undoubtedly embrace him and applaud what he says for two reasons: (1) we want/need to believe him; and (2) he is not the man he replaced. On that day, much as it is seemingly unimportant on this one as well, none shall give pause to consider that the man he replaced arrived in Boulder with equally high hopes for his team, his university and for himself. He did not come to Boulder either intending to fail or hoping to do so. Regardless, he left as yet another victim of life laying waste to man's best-laid plans......

.....and limping off down Highway 36 wearing but one shoe while looking skyward for the other.



Anonymous said...

They can now hire Wade Phillips....(schiff)

Adam Kenny said...

I hope that he is not on the short list but with our A.D. I would never say never.