Buffaloes may rumble in ‘06

Jan 24, 2006 2:03 AM

The 150-1 odds at Wynn Las Vegas to win the 2007 BCS college football championship sounds like a long hill to climb for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Maybe not.

The Buffs took step one toward recovery and respectability with the hiring of Boise State head man Dan Hawkins, who compiled a stellar 53-11 record in five seasons for the Broncos.

Of course in Colorado, Broncos is a very popular word.

Hawkins replaced Gary Barnett, a quality head coach in terms of wins, but with plenty of off-the-field baggage from his days both at CU and at Northwestern.

It is vital to the university that the Buffaloes stay successful in football. According to a Denver Post article last week, football is the only sport that generates revenue. The other 15 are losing money, including men’s basketball — expected to lose $340,000.

Not that Hawkins has anything to do about the school’s projected $2.8 million loss over the past two years, but a $1.5 million "gift" donated to CU by mutual fund guru Tom Marsico shows that the Hawkins hiring is already a positive.

For all of Barnett’s alleged faults in running the football program, the final straw was that 70-3 humiliation at the hands of eventual national champion Texas in the Big 12 title game. That defeat gave the CU Board of Trustees the ammo to remove Barnett, who had been named Coach of the Year both in the Big Ten and Big 12 during his career.

Hawkins inherits a 7-6 squad (6-7 against the spread). Perhaps his biggest recruit is the hiring of Arizona State quarterback coach Mark Helfrich, the man responsible for one of the nation’s top passing attacks.

Hawkins also dug into the Buffaloes past to ease the transition.

”¡ Brian Cabral, a star linebacker at CU, will coach the linebackers for his 17th season and play a bigger role in recruiting. High school players can begin signing with colleges on Feb. 1.

”¡ Darian Hagan will be back for his second year as quarterback coach. Hagan was an All-Big Eight selection at QB and led the 1990 Buffaloes to the national title.

”¡ Hawkins also lured 15-year NFL assistant Greg Brown back to Boulder where he coached the CU defensive backs between 1991-93. Among his pupils were past Jim Thorpe Award winners Deon Figures and Chris Hudson.

Yes, it is basketball season, but football dominates the CU sports scene. Judging strictly on records, we can see Hawkins and the Buffs making a third straight trip to the Big 12 title game. And who knows, $5 on a 150-1 shot couldn’t hurt!