“How ’bout them Buffaloes!”
As the long-time linebacker coach for the University of Colorado, Brian Cabral would often greet players and fans after a Buff victory with a hearty, “How ’bout them Buffaloes!”. While familiar to a generation of Buff players, Cabral’s opening his post-game press conference with the same cheer has taken on new meaning.
How ’bout them Buffaloes! With the 44-36 victory over Kansas State, Brian Cabral became just the second Colorado head coach since 1932 to post victories in his first two games (Rick Neuheisel being the other, in 1995). While Cabral still carries the title of “interim” head coach at Colorado, the bandwagon to have him named as the permanent head coach is growing.
Under the “The Next CU Head Coach …” heading at this website, we have taken a look at the resumes of over a dozen potential candidates to replace Dan Hawkins. It is time to add Brian Cabral to the list, if only for what has transpired over the past few weeks …
- Colorado has scored 123 points in the past three games, the best such stretch since the Buffs posted 124 points in three games in 2002. The Buffs have scored in 12 straight quarters;
- Colorado set a season low for penalties against Kansas State (two for five yards), and had no turnovers;
- Cody Hawkins has passed for three touchdowns in three consecutive games, a feat never before accomplished by a Colorado quarterback;
- Colorado had six sacks against Kansas State, after posting nine against Iowa State. Against the Wildcats, Josh Hartigan became the first Buff to record three sacks in a game since Abraham Wright had three against CSU in 2006; and
- Most importantly, Colorado won both games. The Buffs have now won consecutive Big 12 conference games for the first time since 2007, and two straight against Big 12 North fans since 2005.
Buff players have had nothing but good things to say about Cabral, talking about how their new head coach has focused their attention on the history and tradition of Colorado football, and how important it is to live up to the high standards set by previous generations of players.
So, is Brian Cabral a legitimate candidate to keep the job as the head football coach at Colorado?
Let’s take a look …
Resume – as a player … Brian Cabral, 54, was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, but grew up in Hawai’i. Cabral played linebacker for the Colorado Buffaloes from 1975-77 under Bill Mallory. Single game highlights for Cabral while at CU included a 13 tackle performance against Ohio State in the 1977 Orange Bowl, and a 25 tackle performance against Stanford. Cabral accumulated 297 tackles in his career, a number which ranked him in the top five all-time at the time. (Cabral currently ranks 16th, having been passed by eight players Cabral has coached. Cabral was selected in the fourth round of the 1978 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons, and played in the NFL for nine seasons, including two with Atlanta, one with Green Bay, and six with the Chicago Bears. Cabral was the captain of the Bears’ special teams, and had four tackles (two unassisted) in Chicago’s Super Bowl XX victory over the New England Patriots.
As a coach … Brian Cabral’s first stop as a coach was at Purdue, where he coached inside linebackers for two seasons (1987-88). In 1989, Cabral returned to his alma mater, and has been at Colorado ever since. In 1989, Cabral was a graduate assistant, assuming the role of linebackers’ coach for the 1990 national championship season. Cabral’s 21 years as a full time assistant is the most for any coach in any sport in Colorado history. In addition to coaching linebackers, Cabral has also had at different times, taken on the role of coach of the punt return team, director of summer camps, and for a brief time, recruiting coordinator. Cabral also served as assistant head coach during the seven years of the Gary Barnett era (1999-2005).
Cabral, as mentioned, as coached a number of luminaries in Colorado history. Ten of the 20 tacklers on the CU all-time list played for Cabral, including seven of the top nine. Cabral coached Butkus Award winner Matt Russell, three All-Americans, seven All-Conference performers, and a total of ten NFL draft picks.
- It would be hard to find any coach this side of Bill McCartney and Eric Bieniemy who “bleeds black and gold” more than Brian Cabral. The 21-year assistant has survived four coaching changes – McCartney, Rick Neuheisel, Barnett, to Dan Hawkins.
- No one knows better than Cabral the limitations – and opportunities – which the Colorado head coaching job represents. Limitations on facilities and coaching contracts may be a surprise to some coaching candidates, but Cabral has lived with them for a generation.
- Colorado is looking for a “fresh start”, and looking to quickly turn around the losing aura which has permeated through the program the past five years. Cabral accomplished this feat in two weeks.
- The players obviously have responded to Cabral. If named the permanent head coach, there would be little, if any, difficulties in making the transition to the Brian Cabral era.
- Cabral is a tireless recruiter. In addition to his “Who’s Who” list of quality linebackers, Cabral has recruited players such as Heisman trophy winner Rashaan Salaam and All-American guard Chris Naeole.
- The move to the Pac-12 plays right into Cabral’s strengths. From Hawai’i, Cabral has recruited a significant number of players from the islands, as well as other areas of the Pacific rim such as American Samoa. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has expressed an interest in making the new Pac-12 conference a dominant force in that area of the world, which would only help the Buffs recruit those players to Boulder.
- Prior to the firing of Dan Hawkins, Cabral, other than his role as an assistant head coach under Gary Barnett, has never been a head coach at any level.
- Cabral, while well known in Boulder, would be an unknown to most of the national media. For Buff fans hoping to make a “splash” nationally with the Buffs’ Pac-12 coaching hire, the naming of Cabral as head coach would be seen as a disappointment.
- Cabral has brought a new enthusiasm to the Buffs these past two weeks, but Iowa State and Kansas State are not exactly dominant programs. A win over a nationally ranked Nebraska team – on the road – would go a long ways to allaying fears that the Buffs 2-0 record with him as head coach is not a fluke, but a sign of good things to come.
In the euphoria/joy/relief in seeing the Buffs play well over the past two weekends, it would be easy to ascribe all of the Buffs’ success on the field to Brian Cabral. The interim head coach certainly deserves a lion’s share of the credit, but there are other factors to consider. The Colorado offense has taken off the past three weekends, but, as Cabral readily admits, he has little if anything to with the offensive game plan and play calling. The Colorado defense, while it has made stands when it has had to, has also given up a number of big plays – plays which would have beaten the Buffs had the offense not gotten on track.
I would be surprised if there are any Buff fans out there who would not wish to see Brian Cabral retained – at least as linebackers coach (or perhaps as defensive coordinator). However, just as waiting 4 1/2 seasons to come to a conclusion concerning Dan Hawkins was way too long, jumping to a different conclusion concerning Brian Cabral based upon only two weeks of positive play would be way too hasty.