Dan Hawkins is out at the University of Colorado and, as it stands now, Colorado is the leader in terms of "best jobs" available since the pickings are slim to this point. While there has been plenty of debate over where the Colorado job ranks in the grand scheme of things there is no debate that their largest hurdle is the financial difficulty that comes with the job. The school is strapped for cash and that hurts not only in the top-line-big-name cache that they can afford but more importantly it impacts the staff that can be assembled around the coach the Buffs settle upon.
Given the financials we can knock Mark Richt, Les Miles and any other elite coach off the list. Not only is Colorado not a "good enough" job to lure someone away based upon prestige but the Buffs also lack the funding necessary to pay full market price for a coach and his staff.
So where does this leave the Colorado? What sort of options do they have?
A couple different avenues is the answer. A retired or out of work coach such as Mike Belotti or Mike Leach. Also, they can clearly hire a head coach from another school; meaning a non-BCS coach at a school that isn't Boise State, BYU or TCU or·a coach at a lower football subdivision. They can also shoot for the hot shot coordinator to fill their void although guys like Gus Malzahn, Brent Venables·and Will Muschamp are in a position where they can pick the job that will work best for them.
Lastly, they can go somewhat off the beaten path; "not so hot" coordinators, NFL position coaches and any one else that might fit this description.
I'm a fan of hiring guys with head coaching experience. When it comes down to two solid candidates give me the guy who has been in the leadership position before over the guy who is getting their first taste of control. That said Colorado is a special job in my opinion. A school that clearly can't afford to lure a proven coach away from a big time school and ·can't afford to entice a high profile coordinator and the staff he'd require. They're left with a lot of questions that candidates such as Brady Hoke, Kevin Sumlin, Todd Graham, Chris Ault and others "might" be the answer to.
However, I offer up this plan, this thought out conclusion to help the Colorado Buffaloes usher in a new era of college football in Boulder while drawing some inspiration from their past success.
Read More for how Colorado can move forward while reaching back...
Bill McCartney's name has been kicked around by several folks as a legitimate candidate for this Colorado coaching vacancy. Given his success in the late eighties and the title in 1990 it would make sense for Colorado fans to get nostalgic. It can't help that divisional foe Kansas State has seen drastic improvement from the Ron Prince era (error?) by re-hiring Bill Snyder to lead their program.
I get all that but please, please Colorado I implore you to not go this route. Do not hire Bill McCartney as your head coach, no matter how often your 1990 Championship nostalgia tells you it is the right thing to do. Snyder was out of coaching for FOUR seasons. Coming into 2011 that will be just ONE FIFTHof the hiatus McCartney has had. It isn't so much that McCartney is old, I don't doubt his ability to coach football, this is less about his age or even the physical requirements of the job, this is about the fact that he's been out of the game for 20 YEARS!·
McCartney was leaving·the game as the·Zack Morris cell phone first emerged. Not to say the game has passed him by but rather the game has completely changed with Rivals, Scout, ESPN and social media turning recruiting and coaching on its ear.
That said, McCartney is a name that you do want on your side, he's a guy that does embody a lot of the "good times" that folks in Boulder and Colorado Alumni remember from years past.
The Buffs need Bill McCartney, just not in the head coaching capacity. They need to follow the outline laid down by Wisconsin with Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema. The outline used in Lincoln, Nebraska with Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini. They need McCartney's knowledge of the landscape, his guidance and direction to help rebuild their program.
Since Mike Bohn doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon·and given McCartney's commitments outside of the Buffs football·program·they need to hire McCartney in an AD capacity strictly for football. Call it what you want; Assistant AD for football, Associate AD for football, Football Consultant. The title is of far less importance than the job he does, guide a young head coach in running a program.
Allow McCartney to pull the strings on the coaching search and looking for assistants. Guide a young coach in laying out an effective recruiting battle map. Help with policy, philosophy and reassurance of potential assistants and recruits that Colorado is committed to returning to college football prominence.
Now as far as solving their coaching situation I'll lay out my personal choice quickly; Eric Bieniemy. It breaks from my "hire a guy with experience" mold but with McCartney there acting as a guide I think the 41 year old will hit the ground running. He provides a link to the past that will help charge up the alumni base and the more I read about his coaching background the more I get on board.
Bieniemy has a strong NFL base as the Vikings running backs coach AND the Assistant Head Coach. That might not mean much on the surface but he is a part of a solid "west coast" coaching tree thanks to his years under Childress. For all the mess that the Vikings have been under the circus of Chilly the roots of Andy Reid still remain and that is part of Bieniemy's pedigree. The NFL link plays, not just in terms of coaching style but also with recruits; Bieniemy knows what it takes to get into the NFL and how to stay in the NFL, that matters.
To go with Bieniemy's strong NFL ties is his time spent both at Colorado and at UCLA. The rushing attacks were solid at both stops and at UCLA he was able to put the Recruiting Coordinator feather in his cap. Adrian Peterson might be his biggest claim to fame given his current position but Bieniemy also has Maurice Jones-Drew on his list of "success" stories.
Lastly, not to skirt this issue but there are no black head coaches in the new Pac-12. Not one. Putting this as nicely as possible to avoid ruffling feathers, Bieniemy coming in would not hurt Colorado in recruiting from his home state of California. Being black doesn't mean he inks every good recruit, but it is an angle that would add to Colorado, not take away from the Buffs. There's a reason some of the best recruiters we've seen are young, high energy black coaches, they appeal to the kids, both white and black, that they are recruiting (insert John Blake joke here).
But, let's be clear here, I don't say hire Bieniemy because he is black. I like his Colorado connection, his pedigree, his NFL ties and his recruiting ability in California. That is what sells me on hiring the former Buffalo.
The Colorado job is an energy gig. What's more is it is an energy job that requires the man in the position to work long hours, rebuild bridges, take a leap of faith and all for what ultimately is a discount rate to start. Most guys with a legitimate head coaching career aren't signing up for this after what has happened to Dan Hawkins. Finding someone with a love for the school, not just a "well it is better than my current job" love but a legitimate love and desire to improve the school is paramount.
With McCartney guiding Bieniemy in assembling a staff of both NFL and college assistants capable of recruiting out west, playing a brand of football to get the Buffs wins and slow but steady improvement the program would be in good hands. The turn around won't come as quick as that of Nebraska but with the right coach willing to pour his heart and soul into the job for the sake of Colorado I think success will come in Boulder.