The Dan Hawkins Countdown … or … Who will be the next Colorado head coach?

[NOTE: It is normally my policy not to engage in too much speculation here at CU at the Game.  For example, I will not post about a verbal commitment from a recruit until the commitment makes the main board at either Rivals or Scout. That being said, everything currently being written about the new head coach at Colorado is going to be speculation. Until an announcement comes from the University, it is all guesswork. I do know – and trust – some of those who post on the internet, and will try and weed out some of the more outrageous speculation. For now, though, the only thing I can report with 100% certainty about the Buffs’ new head coach is this … Your guess is as good as mine].

Potential candidates previously reviewed are listed below (in reverse order):

Former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney, former Buff and current NFL assistant Jon Embree; former Buff and current NFL assistant Eric Bieniemy, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn; Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain. Next are two former head coaches, Mike Bellotti (Oregon) and Mike Leach (Texas Tech). There are also head coaches who already have jobs, who may be looking at Boulder for a change of scenery, Al Golden (Temple), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Les Miles (LSU), and Pat Hill (Fresno State). What about a “hot” young offensive coordinator, like Stanford’s David Shaw or Oklahoma State’s Dana Holgorsen. Of course, Colorado could take a shot with long-time assistant coach Brian Cabral, or with an up-and-coming head coach like San Diego State’s Brady Hoke. Other hot coordinators include Paul Chryst at Wisconsin and Brent Venables at Oklahoma.

Brent Venables

Resume … Brent Venables will turn 40 on December 18th. He is a native of Salina, Kansas, and a 1989 graduate of South Salina High. Venables attended Garden City Community College before transfering to Kansas State in the early years of the first Bill Snyder regime, when Snyder was picking up the pieces of the worst program in NCAA football. In 1992, Venables was an honorable mention All-Big Eight player, with 124 tackles.

Venables got his coaching start as a graduate assistant under Snyder for the Wildcats from 1993-95. In 1996, Venables was hired onto Snyder’s staff, coaching linebackers at KSU from 1996-98, taking on the role of defensive run game coordinator in his final season. He signed on with Oklahoma and Bob Stoops in 1999, and has been with the Sooners ever since. From 1999-2003, Venables served as linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, adding the title of Associate head coach in 2004.

While with Oklahoma, Venables has helped coach the Sooners to 11 bowl games (not including 2010), including six BCS bowl games and the national championship game. Venables has coached numerous All-Big 12 players and All-Americans, including two Butkus Award winners, Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman. The Sooners annually rank in the top ten in most defensive categories, though in 2010, despite the 10-2 overall record, Oklahoma is ranked in the 60’s in rushing defense, pass defense, and total defense.


– A great defensive mind, Venables has not only been able to recruit great linebacker talent to Kansas State and Oklahoma, he has coached them up as well.

– Venables, at the ripe old age of 36, was a finalist in 2006 for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach.

– He has seen it bad (Kansas State, circa 1991), and has seen it good (Oklahoma, anytime). Venables will know what it takes to bring about success at a program, in terms of attitude, facilities, and fan support.

– Other Bob Stoops assistant coaches who have gone on to head coaching positions, including his brothers, have been successful elsewhere.


– While clearly given a great deal of responsibility at a young age (Venables was given the job as co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma at the age of 29), Venables has nonetheless always been under a coaching legend (Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops). What he can accomplish on his own remains an unknown.

– Venables grew up in Big Eight/Big 12 country. He is a native of Kansas and has only coached at Kansas State and Oklahoma. His ability to recruit on the Pacific coast would be called into question. There would also be the issue of whether Venables would be tempted to go back to Kansas State when Snyder retires for a second time.

– Venables would also face the issue of whether or not his style of play would work in the Pac-12. He is a defensive coordinator, and offense runs the show in the Pac-12. Venables would have to pick an excellent offensive coordinator to make the Buffs’ offense competitive in the Pac-12.


Paul Chryst

Resume … Paul Chryst, 45, is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Wisconsin. Chryst is a native of Wisconsin, and comes from a coaching family. His father, George, was a long-time head coach at UW-Platteville, and he has two brothers – Rick, who was the commissioner of the Mid-American Conference for ten years; and Geep, who is an assistant with the Carolina Panthers.

A three-year letter winner at Wisconsin at quarterback, Chryst started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at West Virignia  from 1989-90, during which time he earned a master’s degree in education. His trail as an assistant coach took him to the World League San Antonio Riders (1991-92), UW-Platteville (1993), Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL (1994), Illinois State (1995), and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1996).

In 1997, Chryst landed a job with the Oregon State Beavers of the Pac-10, where he coached for two seasons. In 1999, Chryst hit the big time, joining the San Diego Chargers of the NFL as tight ends coach. He stayed with the Chargers for three seasons before returning to Madison and the University of Wisconsin. He coached tight ends for one season (2002) before being named the offensive coordinator for Oregon State. While with the Beavers (2003-04), Oregon State was 6th in the nation in passing, and the Beavers became the first team in NCAA history with a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,500-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers.

In 2005, Chryst returned to his alma mater, Wisconsin, where he has served as offensive coordinator ever since. In his first season, 2005, the Badgers set a school record for points scored (446). Brian Calhoun, the former Colorado Buff, became just the second player in NCAA history to rush for over 1,500 yards and post 500 receiving yards in the same season. In 2006, Wisconsin recorded a 12-win season for the first time ever, an Outland Trophy winner, and the Big Ten’s leading rusher … and so on …

In his six seasons in Madison, the Badgers have averaged over 30 points per game and over 400 yards of total offense per game. Since 2005, Wisconsin has posted a 59-18 record, including an 11-1 record and a share of the Big Ten title in 2010.


– Chryst can obviously coach offense. The numbers this season: 202 yards passing per game; 247 yards rushing per game; and 43 points per game. In the final three games of the regular season, Wisconsin has hung 83 on Indiana, 48 on Michigan (at Ann Arbor), and 70 on a decent Northwestern team.

– Chryst can develop talent. His quarterbacks while at Wisconsin have hardly been household names – John Stocco, Tyler Donovan, and Scott Tolzien.

– He spent a total of five seasons with Oregon State, most recently in 2003-04. He at least has a passing familiarity with the west coast and recruiting in California.

– At 45, Chryst is seen as the next hot prospect amongst offensive coordinators looking for a head coaching position.


– Whether it is in three years, five, or ten, Chryst will become the head coach at Wisconsin. Chryst grew up in Wisconsin, went to school in Madison, and has coached there the past six seasons. If and when the head coaching job became available in Madison, Chryst would leave Boulder.

– While Chryst has served as offensive coordinator at his last two schools, he has not put together a staff as a head coach at any level.

Brady Hoke

Resume … Brady Hoke,  is a native of Kettering, Ohio, and a 1982 graduate of Ball State University. Hoke was a four-year letterman for the Cardinals, serving as team captain. Hoke’s first coaching job was as an offensive line and linebackers coach at Yorktown High in Indiana from 1981-82. After a year coaching linebackers at Grand Valley State (1983), Hoke’s travels took him to Western Michigan (1984-86) and Toledo (1987-88).

In 1989, Hoke was named the defensive line coach at Oregon State. Hoke stayed with the Beavers through 1994, during which time he also coached the defensive line and inside linebackers. In 1995, Hoke moved on to Michigan, where he coached the defensive line from 1995 to 2002. In his final season with the Wolverines, Hoke also served as an assistant head coach under Lloyd Carr. While at Michigan, the Wolverines were in eight straight bowl games, and won a national championship in 1997.

Hoke’s first head coaching job came with his alma mater, Ball State. Hoke took over a team which hadn’t had a winning season since 1996 – and it took awhile for Hoke to get the Cardinals going in the right direction. In his first four seasons at Ball State, Hoke’s Cardinals went 4-8, 2-9, 4-7 and 5-7. In 2007, Ball State went 7-6 setting the stage for a monster 2008 season. In 2008, Ball State went 12-1, making its first-ever appearance in the national polls. The Cardinals were undefeated in MAC play, and posted a school record for victories. Hoke was named the MAC Coach of the Year, and was one of ten finalists for national coach of the year.

Hoke left his alma mater for San Diego State in 2009. In his first season as head coach, Hoke doubled the San Diego State win total from two to four. This season, San Diego State is bowl eligible at 7-4 (though the Aztecs have lost their last two games, close losses to two ranked teams, TCU and Utah).


– Hoke is seen as an up-and-coming head coach, taking two programs which had losing traditions, and turning them into winners.

– This season, the San Diego State offense is ranked 12th in passing offense, 25th in total offense, and 24th in scoring offense.

– San Diego State is 7-4, but is 15 points from being undefeated. The Aztecs losses are to Missouri (27-24), BYU (24-21), No. 3 TCU (40-35), and No. 23 Utah (38-34).

– Hoke is in his second season at San Diego State, with two years of experience in recruiting the west coast (not to mention his six years as an assistant coach at Oregon State.


– Hoke’s record as a head coach is 45-50, and he has coached his teams to only three winning campaigns in eight seasons.

– Hoke has no ties to the Buffs or the Big 12, and only tangential ties to the Pac-10.

– Hoke left his alma mater for San Diego State, and is looking around after only two years with the Aztecs (he has an interview scheduled with the Minnesota Gophers). If Hoke was successful at Colorado, how long would it be before Hoke would start looking elsewhere for a better opportunity?

– Hoke is certainly not a “known” name, and would not be the “splash” hire some Buff fans are hoping for this time around.

– Hoke is even less of a known quantity than the last WAC head coach the Buffs hired – Dan Hawkins.


Brian Cabral

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 

Dana Holgorsen

Resume … Dana Holgorsen, 39, is in his first year as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. Despite his relative youth and inexperience, Holgorsen is considered to be a “hot” prospect for teams looking for a new head coach.

Holgorsen grew up in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and played for Iowa Wesleyan. After graduating in 1993, Holgorsen coached quarterbacks, receivers, and special teams for Valdosta State for three seasons, during which time he earned a master’s degree in health and physical education. In 1996, Holgorsen moved on to Mississippi College, where he held down the same three coaching jobs – quarterbacks, receivers, and special teams – for three more years. After one year at Wingate, Holgorsen moved on to Division 1-A, as an assistant at Texas Tech.

From 2000-2004, Holgorsen was the inside receivers coach at Texas Tech, coaching future NFL receivers like Michael Crabtree and Wes Welker. In 2005, Holgorsen was moved up the coaching ladder for the Red Raiders, taking on the role of co-offensive coordinator as well as the inside receivers coach. Buff fans do not need to be reminded that during the past decade, Texas Tech has had one of the most prolific passing offenses in NCAA history, and Holgorsen helped make it all the better. During his tenure as offensive coordinator, the Red Raiders increased their offensive numbers from 324.8 yards per game to 529.6 yards per game.

Holgorsen took what he had learned from Mike Leach and took it to Houston in 2008, where he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for two seasons. While Holgorsen was with the Cougars, Houston ranked in the top ten nationally in passing offense, total offense, and scoring offense both seasons.

In 2010, Holgorsen has been the offensive coordinator for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, through games of November 13th, are ranked 2nd in passing offense nationally (359.1 yards per game), 1st in total offense (547.5 yards per game), and 3rd in scoring offense (45.0 points per game). Oklahoma State is currently 9-1, and ranked 12th in the nation.


– Just glance at the numbers. Whether at Texas Tech, Houston, or Oklahoma State – wherever Holgorsen goes, the offense explodes. Holgorsen may be a disciple of Mike Leach at Texas Tech, but he has taken the passing show on the road, and been successful – quickly – in two schools since then.

– Holgorsen is 39, and is in a position to establish a name for himself with a national program. It seems like it is just a matter of time before a BCS school takes on Holgorsen as their choice to head a program on his own. Without an alma mater to return to, Holgorsen would not necessarily see Colorado as a site from which to jump to another school, and the NFL has not shown an inkling for completely adapting the Mike Leach style of offense.


– Holgorsen has not been a head coach at any level. This is a complaint about many “hot” assistant coaches, but with the limitations (facilities, fan base, recruiting) Colorado poses, this is not a factor to be completely overlooked.

– Holgorsen is from the midwest, and has coached east of Colorado his entire career. There would be no recruiting ties to the Pac-12 region, seen as crucial by many Buff fans.

– Holgorsen is a Mike Leach disciple. Why would you take the student if the teacher is available? – A question sure to come up if Holgorsen becomes a prime candidate.


David Shaw

Resume … David Shaw presently serves as the Offensive Coordinator and running backs coach at Stanford, and with the success of the Cardinal in recent years, is considered amongst the “hot” coordinators who will be up for head coaching interviews in the next few weeks.

Shaw is a native of Union City, California, and is the son of Willie Shaw, who coached a total of 33 seasons, including 15 in the NFL. The younger Shaw attended Stanford as an undergraduate. Shaw was a four-year letter winning receiver for the Cardinal, finishing his career with 57 catches for 664 yards and five touchdowns. While at Stanford, Shaw played under both Dennis Green and Bill Walsh.

Dennis Shaw began his coaching career in 1995-96 with Western Washington, where he coached outside linebackers and tight ends. From there Shaw made the quantum leap (no doubt with his father, or his father’s name, playing a role) to the NFL, where Shaw coached nine seasons. After being the “Quality Control” coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders from 1997-2000. In 2001, Shaw was named the quarterbacks coach for the Raiders, with Rich Gannon making the Pro Bowl at quarterback that seasons. Shaw took on the same job (plus adding wide receivers) with the Baltimore Ravens from 2002-05).

In 2006, Shaw moved back to the collegiate ranks, working as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach for Division 1-AA San Diego. The move was fortuitous, as after San Diego had the top-ranked 1-AA offense in the nation, Shaw came along with his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, back to his alma mater, Stanford, in 2007.

Since 2007, Shaw has been the offensive coordinator for the Cardinal, also coaching wide receivers from 2007-09, and the running backs this fall. Since Shaw took over the Stanford offense, the Cardinal has seen dramatic improvement. In 2009, Stanford set a single-season scoring record with 461 points, and ranked 13th nationally in scoring (35.5 points per game). The Cardinal ranked 19th in total offense nationally (427.6 yards per game), and scored 50 or more points in wins over No. 7 Oregon and No. 11 USC.

In 2010, the Stanford offense is ranked (to November 13th) 17th in rushing offense, 14th in total offense, and 9th in scoring offense (averaging almost 40 points per game). The Cardinal are 9-1 on the season, and are ranked 7th in the latest polls.


– Shaw is definitely one of the “hottest” young coordinators who may be on the market for their first head coaching job. The numbers put up by his offenses while at San Diego and at Stanford, would make any Buff fan happy.

– Shaw comes from a coaching family, and has built a strong resume, with success at both NFL and BCS levels.

– Recruiting in the Pac-12 will not be an issue. Shaw is from California, and has coached in Washington state, and both southern and northern California.


– Shaw has not been a head coach at any level.

– Stanford is doing so well, that head coach Jim Harbaugh may be moving on, either to the NFL or to his alma mater, Michigan. Shaw went with Harbaugh from San Diego to Stanford, and might be tempted to follow Harbaugh again should the NFL come calling. If Harbaugh moves back to Michigan, Shaw would be a prime candidate to replace him at Stanford.

– Whether it is now or later, any time the Stanford job became available, Shaw would be a candidate for the head coaching job. If Shaw came to Colorado, only to see Harbaugh leave for the NFL in a few years, the Buffs would be at risk to lose their coach to a Pac-12 rival. 


Pat Hill

Resume … Currently the head coach at Fresno State, Pat Hill, 58, is known for taking risks and not backing down from a challenge. Hill was born in California and played football for his high school team in Lake Arrrowhead, California. Hill was an offensive lineman at the University of California-Riverside, where he was a three-time all-conference center, earning All-American honors as a senior. After three years as the offensive line coach for Los Angeles Valley College, where he helped the Monarchs to the stae junior college championship in 1975, Hill moved on to the University of Utah, where he was the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator from 1977-80. Two years with UNLV and one year with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL followed, before Hill landed in Fresno for the first time.

From 1984-89, Hill was the recruiting coordinator for the Bulldogs under Jim Sweeney, a period during which Fresno State posted a 53-16-1 record. Hill was also the offensive line coach for a team which won three league titles, with the 1985 team being the only undefeated Division 1-A team in the nation (Fresno State, despite the unblemished record, finished 16th in the polls – we’ve come a long way, haven’t we, Boise State and TCU?).

In 1990, Hill moved on to Arizona for two years, where he moved up to the position of offensive coordinator. From 1992-96, Hill was a coach in the NFL, coaching tight ends and the offensive line for the Cleveland Browns (1992-95) and the Baltimore Ravens (1996).

Finally, the intinerant Hill landed in Fresno, California, in 1997, for his first head coaching job – and he has yet to leave. While at Fresno State, Hill has won over 100 games, and has brought national attention to the program. Hill’s motto at Fresno State has been “Building a New Tradition on a National Level”, and Hill has succeeded. Never backing down from an opportunity to take on a BCS opponent, defeating 15 games against BCS schools in the past decade, more than any other non-BCS school in the country. In 2001, the year Colorado won its only Big 12 championship, the Buffs opened the season with a loss to Fresno State at home. The Bulldogs that year to also defeat Wisconsin (when the Badgers were ranked 23rd in the nation) and Oregon State (when the Beavers were ranked 10th), win 11 games, climbing as high as No. 8 in the polls during the season. In all, Fresno State has been a bowl participant in Hill’s 13 years at Fresno State, a total second only to BYU’s LaVell Edward’s in WAC history.

Hill has also made Fresno State a leader in academics. The Bulldogs’ “Academic Gameplan” has produced 141 Academic All-WAC selections, the most in the conference over the past 13 years (including an all-time high of 18 Academic All-WAC selections in 2009). While Colorado suffered the loss of five scholarships due to a poor APR score, Fresno state had the fourth best APR of Division 1-A public schools in the west.


– Pat Hill is obviously a winner. He has had only two losing seasons at Fresno State in 13 years, after taking over a program which hadn’t won more than five games in any of the previous three seasons before his arrival.

– Hill recruits well – and not only players. Clearly at a disadvantage in terms of location and facilities, Hill nonetheless has been able to recruit talent which can stand toe-to-toe with BCS teams in his region. With Colorado heading for the Pac-12 in 2011, Hill would not have to establish recruiting contacts as the Colorado coach – he already has them all in place.

– More than that, though, Hill has recruited the entire region around Fresno to back the team. Fresno State players have a “V” on the back of their helmets, signifying that the Bulldogs play for the entire “Valley”, and not just Fresno.

–  Hill not only represents the Bulldogs – he is one. The former center is a no-nonsense coach, willing to take on all comers. Such an attitude would play well in Boulder as the Buffs move on to the Pac-12.

– Fresno State graduates its players. As Colorado struggles to keep its APR numbers up, the Bulldogs under Hill are setting records for Academic All-Conference players.


– For all of his success in Fresno, there is one line in Hill’s resume which Buff fans will not be able to overlook: “Successful WAC head coach”. Pat Hil has won over 100 games in 12 years at Fresno State; Dan Hawkins won 53 games in five years at Boise State. The fear of another mid-major flame out will be palpable.

– Pat Hill is a successful coach at Fresno State, but, despite all of his winning seasons, he has won exactly one WAC title, and that was in 1999. The team he has been losing out to for most of his career? Boise State.

– Hill will be 59 in December. He has made a career, and become a legend, at Fresno. Is he willing to put in a decade or more establishing a legacy in Boulder?

– This may be overlooked by many, but it may ultimately be the deciding factor … Pat Hill’s son, Zak, plays for Fresno State. Zak Hill is a junior. Anyone think that walking away from his son’s senior year at Fresno would not be a strong deterrent from Hill leaving Fresno State?


Les Miles

Resume … Currently the head coach of LSU, Les Miles, 57, was an all-state football player in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio. He attended Michigan under Bo Schembechler (hence the rumors about Miles taking over for Rich Rodriguez in Ann Arbor), lettering as an offensive lineman in 1974 and 1975. He was a graduate assistant for the Wolverines the same time the Michigan defensive coordinator was offered a job at another school in June, 1982. That defensive coordinator just happened to be one Bill McCartney, who hired Miles to be his offensive line coach for Colorado.

Miles worked with McCartney from 1982-86, returning to Michigan to coach the offensive line in 1987. After eight years in Ann Arbor, Miles moved up the coaching ladder to offensive coordinator, taking that position at Oklahoma State under the Cowboys’ new head coach, Bob Simmons (who had just been passed over as Bill McCartney’s replacement in favor of Rick Neuheisel). Miles was in Stillwater for three seasons before taking his first – and to date only – position in the NFL. Miles coached tight ends for the Dallas Cowboys for three years (1998-2000) before being offered the head coaching job at Oklahoma State.

In his first season coaching Oklahoma State, the Cowboys struggled, finishing 4-7. After that, though, Oklahoma State won 24 games over the next three seasons (24-14), going bowling each year. That was good enough for the power brokers at LSU, who lured Miles away to Baton Rouge in 2005. Under Miles, LSU won 11 or more games in each of his first three seasons, going 34-6 between 2005 and 2007, and winning the BCS national championship in 2007.

The last three seasons, while good by most standards, have not gone as well as LSU fans had come to ecpect. In 2008, the Tigers won eight games, but went 3-5 in SEC play. The 9-4 squad in 2009 finished ranked 17th, but still lost their bowl game and watched at home as SEC West rival Alabama won the national championship.  This season, after a loss to No. 2 Auburn, LSU responded with an upset win over Alabama and a move back into the nation’s top ten.


– Les Miles is a winner. Since his first season at Oklahoma State in 2001, his teams have all posted winning records and gone to bowl games. His overall record of 85-36 at two BCS schools speaks for itself.

– He has a familiarity with Colorado and Boulder. In fact, Miles saw CU at its worst. He came in with Bill McCartney in 1982, after Chuck Fairbanks had taken the Colorado program and – to use a familar phrase – “burned it to the ground”. McCartney came to Boulder in June of 1982, as Fairbanks left the Buffs for the USFL after spring practice. Colorado at that time had posted three straight losing seasons – that is what Miles found in Boulder, and he was there for the epic 20-10 win over Nebraska in 1986 which helped signal the start of the golden age at Colorado.

 – Miles likes Boulder. Perhaps the only reason this coach of a top ten team is even being discussed in this thread is that Miles has been quoted as saying that his time in Boulder was his favorite time as a coach. It is also being reported that Miles, despite his success at LSU, has been turned off by the rabid fan base, which, when games were not going as well for the Tigers, turned on Miles and his family.


– Never gonna happen. For all of the Buff fans’ hopes for bringing Les Miles to Boulder, it is a longshot at best. For staters, Colorado probably cannot afford Les Miles. At the press conference announcing the firing of head coach Dan Hawkins, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn stated that he would be “surprised” if the next Colorado head coach were to be paid more than $2 million per year. Miles can command twice that in the SEC.

– “The Mad Hatter”. During the 2007 season, Miles received the nickname “The Mad Hatter”, in reference to his risky play calling, “tell it like it is” press conferences, and generally defiant attitude. Such a strong personality might help Miles be successful on the playing field, how well would it play in Boulder?

– As long as LSU keeps winning on the playing field, all of the reasons for Miles to leave LSU (unreasonable expectations of the fan base; harassment of his family) fade away. Miles and Colorado may have been a good fit, but the numbers just don’t add up.


Troy Calhoun

Resume … Troy Calhoun, 44, is an Oregon native, but moved to California at an early age. Calhoun attended high school in Roseburg, California, before accepting an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Calhoun was one of just two freshman to letter on the football team in 1985, a team which went 12-1. From 1986-88, Calhoun was the starting quarterback for the Falcons, going 20-16 in his career.

Calhoun’s first coaching job was an assistant under Fisher DeBerry at Air Force. From 1989-94, Calhoun served as a recruiting coordinator for the Falcons, as well as the offensive coordinator for the junior varsity. In 1995, Calhoun moved on to the Ohio Bobcats, where he was first quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator during a six year stay. In his last season at Ohio, the Bobcats averaged a school record 418 yards per game, and rushed for 3,553. Between 2001 and 2003, Calhoun was the offensive coordinator at Wake Forest, with similar offensive success (in 2002, the Deamon Deacons led the ACC in total offense, at over 400 yards per game).

From 2003 to 2006, Troy Calhoun was an NFL coach, first with the Denver Broncos (2003-05), then with the Houston Texans (2006). While in Denver, Calhoun started with the defense, later moving over to work with the offense and special teams. When Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was hired by the Houston Texans, Calhoun went along to serve as the Texans’ offensive coordinator.

In 2007, Calhoun returned to the Air Force Academy to coach at his alma mater. While with the Falcons, has gone 31-18, including a 6-4, 3-3 record through November 7th of this year. In each of Calhoun’s first three seasons at Air Force, the Falcons have gone bowling. In 2010, AFA has already sewed up the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy, having already defeated both Army and Navy.


– Calhoun obviously knows Colorado. Including his undergraduate years at the Air Force Academy, Calhoun has lived in the state of Colorado for 16 of the past 25 years.

– Calhoun knows how to recruit under adverse circumstances. No schools have to face the recruiting challenges faced by the service academies, where the players being recruited are not only making a school choice, but a career choice.

– Under Calhoun’s tutelage, offenses succeed. As an offensive coordinator at both Ohio and Wake Forest, the offensive units set school records, mostly in running the football. At Air Force, success on the ground continues, as Air Force is currently third in the nation in rushing offense.


– Mired in a slump, Colorado needs to make a splash hire. The Buffs are in a down cycle, and have lost relevance nationally. Troy Calhoun might be a “safe” hire – he is a quality individual, and has had success where he has gone, but he would not bring the infusion of enthusiasm the program needs.

– Calhoun has not been a BCS head coach. His only stop at a BCS school was at Wake Forest, not exactly the big time in college football. Would he be able to recruit top players to Boulder?

– He does not have Colorado or Pac-12 ties. Recruiting would be an immediate issue. Calhoun grew up in California, but has not lived there in 25 years.

– Calhoun has been successful with offenses, but they have been, for the most part, one dimensional. True, Air Force is 3rd in the nation in rushing offense, but the Falcons are also 116th in passing offense. Calhoun would have to change his style of coaching for the pass happy, hurry-up offenses of the Pac-12, and that does not seem to be a great fit.


Al Golden

Resume … Al Golden is currently the head coach at Temple University, where he has been the head coach since 2006. Golden, 41, grew up in New Jersey, and attended Penn State. While at State College, Golden played tight end for the Nittany Lions before playing the same position for the New England Patriots in 1992.

Golden’s first collegiate coaching job was with Virginia, where he served as a graduate assistant under George Welsh from 1994-96. Golden was hired by Tom O’Brien at Boston College in 1997, where Golden coached linebackers for two seasons. In 2000, Golden returned to his alma mater, Penn State, where he coached linebackers at “Linebacker U” for one season.

Al Groh named Golden as his defensive coordinator at Virginia in 2001. At 32, Golden was the youngest defensive coordinator in Division 1-A. Utilizing a 3-4 defense, Virginia went from 108th in total defense in 2001 to 18th in total defense in 2004. During that same time frame, the Cavaliers went from 74th in the nation in scoring defense down to 17th.

Al Golden took over the woebegone Temple Owls program in 2006. The coach before Golden, Bobby Wallace, had posted a 19-71 record in eight seasons with the Owls, including an 0-11 record in 2005. Golden started slowly, going 1-11 in 2006, including back-to-back 62-0 losses to Louisville and Minnesota. In 2007, Temple improved. In the Owls’ first year in the Mid-American Conference, Temple went 4-8, 4-4. The mark was upped to 5-7, 4-4 in 2008.

Then, in 2009, Temple posted a 9-3 regular season record, the first winning season for the program in 19 years. The Owls also went bowling for the first time since 1979, losing 30-21 to UCLA in the Eagle Bank Bowl. So far in 2010, the reconstruction continues, as Temple has an 8-2 record, 5-1 in MAC play.


– Bill McCartney’s book is entitled “From Ashes to Glory”, but Coach Mac has nothing on this guy. Temple is one of the worst programs in the nation, with the poorest fan base, facilities, and tradition this side of Kansas State (sorry, but look at the history, Wildcat fans). To take that team and put it into consecutive bowl games? (Remember, last season’s bowl appearance was the third for the program … ever!). Golden is nothing short of a miracle worker.

– Golden can obviously recruit talent which other teams have passed on, and can motivate a team to go far beyond what is expected of them.

– Golden is still very young for the profession, 41, so whichever team takes a flyer on Golden this off-season may have a dynasty in the making.


– Al Golden is from the east coast, and has never coached anywhere west of State College, Pennsylvania. If Golden does come to Colorado, how long before he hears the call of a Big East school, or even his alma mater, Penn State (when Joe Paterno does eventually call it quits)?

– Golden remains an unproven commodity. Yes, he has done great things in the past two seasons at Temple. Still, it is only two seasons. Dan Hawkins won 53 games over five seasons at Boise State … and see what that was worth for the Colorado program.

– With no ties to Colorado or the Pac-12, Golden would have to start from scratch with recruiting. Temple fans were patient when Golden went 1-11, 4-8, and 5-7 in Golden’s first three seasons in Philadelphia. Would Colorado fans be as patient with a 10-26 record after three seasons in Boulder?



Mike Bellotti

Resume … Mike Bellotti, 59, grew up in Concord, California, where he played three sports and was a all-conference wide receiver. Bellotti went to University of California-Davis (the same school as Dan Hawkins … uh oh!), and coached junior varsity at his alma mater for four seasons before being hired as the offensive coordinator for California State University-Hayward. After two seasons with Cal State-Hayward, Bellotti served for one season as the offensive coordinator for Weber State of the Big Sky Conference before returning to Cal State-Hayward for four more years. In 1984, Bellotti got his first head coaching job, taking over at Cal State-Chico for four seasons, compiling a 21-25-2 record.

In 1989, Bellotti was hired by Oregon head coach Rich Brooks to become the Ducks’ offensive coordinator. Bellotti served as offensive coordinator until 1994, when Brooks left for the NFL. From 1995 to 2008, Bellotti served as the head coach at Oregon, compiling a 116-55 overall record. Bellotti is the winningest coach in Oregon history, and led the Ducks to the team’s first 10+ win seasons in school history (in 2000, 2001, 2005, and 2008). His best season came in 2001, when, like Colorado, Oregon was passed over for the BCS national championship game in favor of Nebraska (which as Buff fans will recall, did not even win its division in the Big 12). Colroado and Oregon were relegated to the Fiesta Bowl, where the Ducks took out their aggressions on the Buffs, winning 38-6 to secure a No. 2 national ranking in the final polls.

In 2007, Oregon was also ranked No. 2, but an injury to quarterback Dennis Dixon led to three straight losses. In all, Bellotti’s teams finished the season ranked seven times, and the Ducks went to 12 bowls during his tenure (posting a 6-6 record).

In December, 2008, it was announced that Bellotti would step down as head coach, with offensive coordinator Chip Kelly taking over. Bellotti became the athletic director the following summer, but served only nine months on the job, leaving Oregon for ESPN in March, 2010. Bellotti is also currently serving as second vice President of the American Football Coaches Association, in line to become President of the AFCA in 2012.


– Bellotti certainly knows the game, and has had success in the Pac-10. With Colorado moving to the Pac-12 in 2011, he would seemingly be a perfect match.

– He is a winner. Bellotti had only one losing season while in Eugene, and missed out on a bowl game only twice in 14 years at Oregon. His 116-55 overall record speaks for itself.

– Bellotti already is familiar with recruiting in the west coast, and is only two years removed from recruiting in Pac-12 country.

– The hiring of Bellotti would be as a “home run” hire, both nationally and in Boulder.


– Oregon had a number of disciplinary issues during Bellotti’s tenure. Most of the arrests were handled “internally” in Eugene – that wouldn’t work in Boulder.

– Oregon has Nike to fund all of its facilities, and the Ducks have one of the best funded athletic departments in the nation. In one report last week, before Bellotti broadcast the Colorado/Oklahoma game for ESPN, Bellotti was asked about the Colorado job, and he responded that he had “never been to Boulder”. Fair to say that what Bellotti would find at Colorado would be a disappointment after what he had to work with in Eugene.

– Bellotti’s success at Oregon was over a much longer period than what Dan Hawkins had at Boise State, but Chip Kelly has since taken Oregon to a No. 1 ranking, something Bellotti never accomplished. Would there be the fear that it was Bellotti’s assistants (a la Chris Peterson at Boise State) which was responsible for Bellotti’s success?


Mike Leach

Resume … Mike Leach was born in Susanville, California, but raised in Cody, Wyoming. Leach, 49, attended Brigham Young University when LaVell Edwards was head coach and Norm Chow was the offensive coordinator. In 1986, Leach graduated from law school at Pepperdine University in California. Rare amongst college coaches, Leach did not play the game in college.

Before becoming the head coach at Texas Tech, Leach was the offensive coordinator at Valdosta State and Kentucky. While at those positions, he directed passing oriented teams which set numerous records. His “Air Raid Offense” under Hal Mumme at Kentucky took the SEC by storm, with the Wildcats setting four NCAA, 42 SEC, and 116 school records. His tutelage of quarterback Tim Couch turned Couch into the No. 1 draft pick in the 1999 NFL draft. The following year, at Oklahoma, Leach coached Josh Heupel to a runner-up finish in the Heisman trophy balloting.

Mike Leach moved on to become the head coach at Texas Tech in 2000. In his ten seasons in Lubbock, Leach coached the Red Raiders to an 84-43 overall record, 47-33 in Big 12 play. Texas Tech qualified for and played in a bowl in every season Leach was head coach, going 5-4 (Leach did not coach in the 2009 Alamo bowl, being fired after the end of the regular season). Five of the last six teams Leach coached finished ranked in the national polls. Texas Tech had four nine+ win seasons in Leach’s nine years, with the 2008 team going 11-2. In that season, Leach was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year.


– Leach can coach. His offenses have set so many records they are hard to recount. Kliff Klingsbury, B.J. Symons, Cody Hodges, Graham Harrell – not exactly household names. But under Leach, all became school, conference, and national passing record holders.

– He is a winner. The Red Raiders went bowling ever year Leach was in Lubbock, posting eight or more wins the last eight years of his tenure (after winning seven games in each of the first two seasons).

– Leach can recruit – at least his style of player. Texas Tech is in Lubbock, and has nothing on Texas and Texas A&M when it comes to history and long term success. Yet the Red Raiders were consistently successful with the players Leach was able to lure to west Texas.

– Leach is from Cody, Wyoming, and has at least a passing familiarity with the University of Colorado and the region.

– He is smart, articulate, and funny. Leach will be a big hit in Boulder after five years of “just a play or two short …”.


– Leach does have baggage. Leach was fired after allegations were made that he improperly treated a player (Adam James, who just happens to be the son of former SMU star and current ESPN analyst Craig James). The issues surrounding the firing and the subsequent lawsuit filed by Leach against Texas Tech are pending.

– Leach does not have experience recruiting in the Pac-12 region. His experience at bringing players to Lubbock should be enough of a calling card, but Leach does not have immediate “ins” in talent rich California.

– There is also the question as to whether his style of play would translate well in Boulder. Would a pass-happy offense do well in Colorado in November? That being said, Leach’s offense would seemingly be better suited to go up against the pass-happy Pac-12 that it did against the smash-mouth Big 12.


Gus Malzahn

Perhaps you would feel more comfortable with a successful SEC coordinator?

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

The Southeastern Conference is generally recognized as being the premier conference in college football, being home to three schools – Alabama, Florida, and LSU – which have recently brought home national titles. It should come as no surprise, then, when annually top assistants from top programs are considered as likely candidates for head coaching jobs elsewhere. This year is no exception.

Resume: As the Auburn offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, 45, took an Auburn offense ranked 110th in the nation in scoring, 106th in pass efficiency, and 104th in total offense (sound familiar?) and – in two years – turned it into an offense which is 10th in the nation in scoring, 3rd in pass efficiency, and 6th in total offense.

Malzahn was a walk-on wide receiver for Ken Hatfield at Arkansas before transferring to Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. From 1992 to 2005, Malzahn was a high school coach in Arkansas, where he became a legend, winning three state championships. In 2005, Malzahn joined the staff at Arkansas under Houston Nutt, becoming the wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator (You may recall there was some buzz at the time about the wisdom of the hiring. Many of Malzahn’s star players from his 14-0 Springdale team, including quarterback Mitch Mustain, followed Malzahn to Fayetteville).

Malzahn was named the National Offensive Coordinator of the Year in 2006, but his penchant for the spread offense was contrary to Houston Nutt’s ground oriented philosophy, so Malzahn left Arkansas for Tulsa in 2007. While with the Golden Hurricane, Malzahn emerged as one of the top offensive coordinators in the game, as Tulsa led the nation in total yards. In 2007, the Golden Hurricanes became the first team in NCAA history to have a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher, and three 1,000-yard receivers in a single season. In 2008, the numbers were similar, as Tulsa was tops in the nation in total offense, and was second in scoring, averaging over 47 points per game.

After the 2008 season, Malzahn was named the offensive coordinator at Auburn under first year head coach Gene Chizik. In his first season, Auburn was ranked 17th in the nation in scoring (at 33 points per game), up from 110th in the nation in 2008. The Tigers set a new school record for total offense, breaking the mark set by the 2004 team which went undefeated. So far in 2010, Malzahn has Auburn ranked in the top ten in the nation in rushing offense, total offense, and scoring offense. The Tigers’ quarterback, Cam Newton, is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.


– Malzahn, quite literally, wrote the book on the no-huddle offensive philosophy. In 2003, he published Hurry Up No Huddle – An Offensive Philosophy, which has been copied by teams in both the NCAA and NFL. The “Wildcat” formation, used by almost every team with a talented back, came from Malzahn.

– It’s not all just about Cam Newton. While Newton is certainly talented, Malzahn inherited a shaky quarterback at Auburn by the name of Chris Todd. All Todd did in his first season under Malzahn was throw for a school-record 22 touchdowns.

– Malzahn doesn’t need five-star talent to succeed. At Tulsa, his team led the nation in total offense both seasons he was there.


– Malzahn is an SEC boy, born and bred. He grew up in Arkansas, walked on with the Razorbacks, and coached high school there for over a decade. When the Arkansas job came up after the 2008 season, Malzahn, who had been at Tulsa for all of one season, interviewed for the job. Anyone in favor of taking Malzahn would have to understand his move to Boulder would likely only be a quick fix. As soon as a plum SEC job became available, Malzahn would likely be gone.

– Malzahn has no ties to Colorado, nor the west coast. His recruiting background is limited to SEC country.

– Malzahn has only been a head coach at the high school level. He has been an offensive coordinator at three NCAA schools, but never a head coach.

– There are questions about Malzahn’s motivations and methods. There was the controversy over his hiring at Arkansas. Malzahn did not get along with his head coach, Houston Nutt, leaving his home state school after just one season. Now there are questions about the recruitment of Cam Newton which are casting a shadow over Auburn.


Jim McElwain

Resume … Jim McElwain is in his third year of a very successful run as the offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Born in Missoula, Montana, in 1962, McElwain was an all-state quarterback in high school before going on to play football at Eastern Washington. McElwain stayed on as a graduate assistant after graduating in 1983, earning an assistant coach position at Eastern Washington in 1985. In nine seasons in Cheney, McElwain coached quarterbacks and wide receivers, with the Eagles twice earning 1-AA playoff bids. McElwain then moved on to another Big Sky school, Montana State (I knew there was a reason I liked this guy!). The highlight of his four years in Bozeman came in 1998, when the Bobcats led the conference in scoring, with 31.6 points per game.

McElwain’s first 1-A coaching job came in 2000, when he was hired as the receivers and special teams coach by Louisville. In his first season, the Cardinals set a school record with nine blocked kicks. After the 2002 season, McElwain was offered the position of assistant head coach at Michigan State, following Louisville head coach John L. Smith to East Lansing. In his three seasons with Michigan State (2003-05), McElwain coached receivers and special teams.

The NFL came calling after the 2005 season, but McElwain’s experience with the League was brief. McElwain was the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2006, but, after a 2-14 season, the entire staff of Art Shell, including McElwain, were fired. McElwain then spent one very successful season with Fresno State. There, as offensive coordinator, McElwain helped lead the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record, with Fresno State averaging almost 33 points per game (ranked 32nd in the nation).

On February 1, 2008, McElwain was hired by Nick Saban to be the offensive coordinator for Alabama. In his first season with the Crimson Tide, Alabama went 12-0 in the regular season, and was ranked No. 1 in the country before season-ending losses to Florida in the SEC title game and to Utah in the Sugar Bowl. In 2009, however, Alabama redeemed itself, going undefeated and winning the national championship. In 2009, Alabama was ranked 12th in rushing offense and 22nd in scoring offense, with Mark Ingram winning the Heisman trophy. So far in 2010, Alabama is ranked 30th in rushing offense, 36th in passing offense, 23rd in total offense, and 24th in scoring offense.


– McElwain is from the west, and has recruited in Pac-10 country during his stints at Eastern Washington, Montana State, and Fresno State. Unlike Malzahn, McElwain does not have roots in the SEC, and would be far less likely to leave Colorado for an SEC head coaching position.

– McElwain has seen what it is like to compete at different levels. From humble beginnings with Big Sky Conference teams, McElwain has reached one of the pinnacle of the college football world, Alabama, and has won a national championship and coached a Heisman trophy winner.

– McElwain has coached different positions. He has coached quarterbacks, wide receivers, and special teams on his way to being an offensive coordinator.


– While Alabama did win the national championship in 2009, and McElwain did coach a Heisman trophy candidate, the Crimson Tide wins most of their games with defense. Alabama in 2009 was ranked 92nd in the nation in passing offense – for a 13-0 team. The Alabama defense, at the same time, was ranked in the top ten in nearly every category, and was ranked second in the nation in rushing defense, total defense, and scoring defense. McElwain won’t have the Alabama defense to bail him out in Boulder.

– McElwain has never been a head coach at any level.

– While he has coached seven different schools, none of them had any great success until McElwain hit Alabama. It could certainly be argued that McElwain is more of a product of Alabama’s success than that Alabama owes its success to McElwain.  


Eric Bieniemy

Resume:  As a Player … At CU … Eric Bieniemy’s name, 20 years after his last season in Boulder, remains littered throughout the Colorado record book. Bieniemy is Colorado’s all-time leading rusher, with 3,940 yards, and all-time leader in all-purpose yards (4,351). Until Mason Crosby came along, “EB” was also the Buffs’ all-time leading scorer, with 254 points. Third in the Heisman trophy balloting in 1990, Bieniemy was an All-American, and was a two-time All-Big Eight selection. Even before his senior year, Bieniemy was named to the Colorado All-Century team in 1989 … In the NFL … Bieniemy was a second round pick in the 1991 NFL draft, and played 1991 to 1999, suiting up for San Diego, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. In his nine seasons, Bieniemy accumulated 1,589 yards rushing, 1,223 yards receiving, and 1,897 yards returning kicks.

As a coach … Bieniemy’s first collegiate job in coaching came at Colorado, where he coached running backs in 2001 and 2002. Bieniemy moved on to a similar position at UCLA from 2003-05. In his last season, Bieniemy took on the additional titles of recruiting coordinator and rushing game coordinator. In 2006, Bieniemy moved on to the NFL and the Minnesota Vikings, where he has been the running backs coach ever since. In 2010, Bieniemy also assumed the role of assistant head coach for the offense.  At Colorado, Bieniemy was the running backs coach when Chris Brown scored six touchdowns against Nebraska, and Colorado ranked 8th in the nation in rushing. In 2002, Colorado ranked 9th in the nation, with Chris Brown ranked 3rd in the nation individually. While at UCLA, Bieniemy coached Maurice Jones-Drew for three seasons before Jones-Drew went on to become a 2nd-round NFL pick. In his first four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, he has coached a 1,000-yard rusher each season. Adrian Peterson has been an All-Pro three straight seasons, and, in 2007, Minnesota led the NFL in rushing.


– As was the case with Bill McCartney, loyalty to the University of Colorado, and a knowledge of the opportunities and limitations which come with the head job in Boulder, cannot be questioned in Bieniemy. EB still bleeds black-and-gold.

– Motivational skills. Bieniemy was a leader of the 1990 national championship team, and EB is an “in your face” verbal motivator.

– Recruiting skills. Bieniemy hails from La Puente, California, and coached at UCLA. While he has been away from the college game for the past five years, the move by Colorado to the Pac-12 would open any number of doors for the Buffs if Bieniemy were to be named head coach.

– Positive vibe for the school. After a five year drought, the Colorado fan base needs to be restored. Positive energy and positive press would follow Bieniemy back to Boulder.

– Bieniemy has coached some talented players, and has been successful with the running games he had headed.


– This summer, Bieniemy was named assistant head coach for offense at Minnesota. While Bieniemy is unquestionably loyal to the University of Colorado, should he be successful in Boulder, would he turn down an opportunity to return to the NFL?

– Bieniemy has some baggage in returning to Boulder, including his infamous run-ins with Marcus Houston. The top running back recruit in the nation in 2000, Houston had a difficult, controversial, and ultimately short stay at Colorado.

– Bieniemy has never been a head coach at any level; nor has he been a coordinator. Can Bieniemy assemble a staff and deal with the increased pressures of being a head coach?


Jon Embree

Resume:  As a Player … At CU … Jon Embree was an outstanding player on some poor Colorado teams. Embree was a first-team All-Big Eight tight end in 1984, leading the Buffs in record-setting fashion. Embree caught 51 passes for 680 yards, shattering CU records in both categories. The four-year letterman also led the team in catches in 1985 … with nine catches. After the Buffs switched to the wishbone, Embree’s pass-catching role was reduced considerably, with Embree catching only 17 passes his last two seasons. Still, Embree did enough in his years in Boulder to be drafted in the 6th round by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987 … In then NFL … Embree played only two seasons with the Rams before suffering a career-ending elbow injury in 1989.

As a coach … Jon Embree spent ten years as an assistant coach at the University of Colorado, coaching under Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisel, and Gary Barnett. While in Boulder, Embree coached tight ends (1993-94; 1999-2000), defensive ends (1995-98), and wide receivers/kickers (2001-2002). Embree moved on to UCLA in 2003, named as assistant head coach/wide receivers (2003), and assistant head coach/tight ends and passing game coordinator (2004-05). While in college, Embree coached two John Mackey Award winners – Daniel Graham at Colorado and Marcedes Lewis at UCLA … In 2006, Embree was hired as tight end coach by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he coached All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez. Under Embree, Gonzalez led all NFL tight ends with 99 catches for 1,172 yards. After three years with the Chiefs, Embree joined the staff of the Washington Redskins as tight ends coach in January, 2010.


– Again, like McCartney and Bieniemy, Embree would bring an unquestioned loyalty to the Colorado program, and would understand the opportunities/limitations of the head coaching job in Boulder.

– Embree is a Colorado native, going to high school in Denver (Cherry Creek), and committed to play for CU and Bill McCartney in one of the darkest periods of Colorado history. He was a team leader for a team which only had one winning season in his years in Boulder, but he was there on the field for the epic 20-10 win over Nebraska in 1986. He understands what it is like to see CU at the bottom, and what it takes to get Colorado back on top.

– Embree will have a number of recruiting advantages, having ties to both the Denver area, as well as a number of years coaching (and recruiting) for UCLA.

– While best known as a tight ends coach, Embree has had a number of different positions to coach, including wide receivers, defensive ends and kickers. He has also served in the capacity as an assistant head coach while at UCLA.


– While a known quantity for many Buff fans, Embree would not likely be seen as a “home run” hire by the national media. Bieniemy was a star on a national championship team, while Embree toiled in anonymity for a poor to fair Colorado program.

– Without a head coaching background, concerns will be raised about Embree’s ability to bring aboard a first-class assistant coaching staff.

– Embree’s son, Tyler, is a junior at UCLA. Would Embree want to coach against his son in 2011?


Bill McCartney 

With the Dan Hawkins’ era winding down to its inevitable conclusion, focus of the Buff Nation has turned to Hawkins’ replacement as head coach. While this thread will be home to a listing of most of the names being mentioned, it is worthwhile to take a first look at the former Colorado head coach, Bill McCartney.

The internet boards are ablaze with speculation about Bill McCartney coming back to coach at Colorado …

… and the possibilities do raise some interesting scenarios.

It is being reported by a number of posters that Bill McCartney is, in fact, very interested in the job. The motivation for the 70-year old McCartney seems clear – he remains a very loyal Buff, and the current state of the program does not sit well with him. Despite his age, McCartney remains very active, and reportedly has submitted a detailed proposal to the Colorado administration, outlining what he feels needs to be done in order to make Colorado relevant on the national stage once again.


– There is no questioning McCartney’s loyalty to the University of Colorado, and no one can doubt that McCartney would work tirelessly to restore the Buffs to prominence.

– McCartney might be able to bring in an assistant coach who would be a “head coach in waiting” for the next three to five seasons. The name mentioned most often is former Colorado All-American and current Minnesota Vikings running back coach Eric Bieniemy. Currently, Bieniemy is making more money (reportedly around $700,000) than he would make at Colorado, but here McCartney could help out, as Coach Mac might not demand the salary another new coach might command, freeing up dollars within the athletic department to pay assistants.

– McCartney is a great recruiter and motivator. Away from the game for 16 years, McCartney still knows how to motivate. Anyone who has gone to a Buff luncheon in recent years in which Bill McCartney was the speaker knows exactly what I am talking about. (For those of you interested in delving into the Archives, I recommend the 1982 Nebraska game write up …. … the week of McCartney’s first game against Nebraska, the head coach came to a dorm council meeting, and had us so fired up we were ready to don the pads and take on the hated Huskers ourselves!).

– McCartney would bring instant credibility – and dollars – back to the program. There are a legion of Buff fans who have lost faith in recent years, and even those who do not favor bringing McCartney back would have to agree that Coach Mac brings a certain cache to the program. With Colorado heading off to the Pac-12 next season, who better to lead the Buffs than a popular coach who will light a fire under the west coast Colorado fan base?

– McCartney has an eye for assistant coaches. At the end of the day, this might be the most overlooked, yet most important, aspect to Bill McCartney’s resume. Even when Colorado was down, and had suffered consecutive losing seasons (as is the case in 2010), McCartney was able to “recruit” top assistant talent to Boulder. In 1983, the first full year of the McCartney era (Coach Mac came to Boulder in June of 1982, after Chuck Fairbanks bolted to the USFL), Bill McCartney assembled a staff which included no fewer than six future Division 1-A head coaches: Ron Dickerson; Lou Tepper; Jim Caldwell; Gerry DiNardo; Ron Vanderlinden; and Les Miles (yes, that Les Miles). Other assistants cultivated by Bill McCartney who went on to become head coaches include Gary Barnett, Rick Neuheisel, Steve Logan, Bob Simmons, Les Steckel and Mike Hankwitz.

– McCartney isn’t going anywhere. While this hardly seems to be a positive which needs to be stated, it is important to keep in mind when considering some of the other potential top candidates (Troy Calhoun; Jim McElwain; Gus Malzahn) who might see Colorado as a stepping stone to a job (in the SEC) that they prize more highly than one in the Pac-12. There is also McCartney’s family situation. McCartney’s wife, who has had health issues in the past, has received a good prognosis recently. In addition, McCartney’s grandson (Sal Aunese’s son) is a senior at LSU this fall, eliminating trips to Louisiana from the McCartneys’ fall plans.


– McCartney is, in fact, 70 years old. McCartney has, in fact, not been a coach, or out on the recruiting trail, for 16 years. Can he hit the ground running as well as a coach which is more familiar with the recruiting world of 2011?

– Part of the deal in bringing Bill McCartney back, at least to many observers, is that there would be a “coach in waiting” brought in as a top assistant. If no coach can be found who is willing to accept the role of “assistant head coach” for an unspecified length of time, the concept of bringing in a 70-year old to coach starts to lose some of its appeal.

– McCartney was never, in the minds of some/many, not a great gameday coach. Coach Mac had great players, but some of his play calling during the game had to be overcome by superior talent. Colorado will not have superior talent in the Pac-12, at least not at the outset.

– Bill McCartney learned his trade under Bo Schembechler at Michigan. Coach Mac had more of a “three yards and a cloud of dust” background, and was, by trade, a defensive coordinator. Will Coach Mac’s mind-set work as well in the pass-happy Pac 12?

– While Colorado has lost some of its national prominence in recent years, it is still considered by most to be a top tier program. The move to the Pac-12 presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the program to be re-born. Surely there are any number of quality coaches out there who will see Colorado as a gold mine of potential. Should Colorado be taking a step back in time and hire McCartney, when 2011 presents a unique opportunity to step forward with a fresh face?

What are your thoughts? Post them below in the comments section …

32 Replies to “The Next CU head coach …”

  1. Here is a recent post from Kyle Ringo on

    “I have been told from a very reliable source that EB told the search committee who he would bring with him as assistant coaches. It is a list that would have CU fans pretty excited I believe.

    I can’t divulge it because I gave my word I wouldn’t. However, I can tell you that the only person on the current staff EB is considering retaining is Hagan. And he did not commit to Hagan as RBs coach. Basically, he said he would interview Hagan for the job but he has another guy in mind from the NFL”

    It would be interesting to know who would be part of his staff.

  2. All names mentioned are great choices. But the answer might be in our backyard. Why not give Brian Cabral a chance. He is already in place. Also Dave Logan who might be the best choice of all candidates. Only problem, would he have time to broadcast the Bronco games on Sunday while studying films from the Buffs Sat games? He could no doubt recruit the best players in the Denver Metroplex.

  3. Bienemy would be a mistake. He has high hopes of becoming a coach in the NFL. He would jump ship as soon as an attractive offer in the NFL came up. Cabral is the man. Why not give him a shot? He bleeds black and gold.

  4. McCartney was a great recruiter but his on field generalship left alot to be desired. Most would say that I would rather be lucky than good. McCartney was the luckiest coach ever. 5 downs? And you win a national championship? When he had Hagen totally change his game in order to be looked at by the pros in a bowl game it was a total disaster. I wish him well but not at CU. Dave Logan would get my vote. He too bleeds Black and gold.

  5. What about Bieniemy as head coach with Cabral as DC and Kiesau as OC? I believe Kiesau has another year left on his contract. I would really like to see what Kiesau can do without Hawkins around. Plus he’s a good recruiter.

    Just a thought….

  6. Drop Mike Leach , sources say he has to much baggage and isn’t even considered ( per the Denver Post )

    People that say Coach Mac shouldn’t be considered because the game has passed him by are wrong. The man has been around the CU program for years following and studing what is going on in the game today. I bet Mac has already got a plan written down and formulated that would work with the players at the school now.

    Don’t write off Coach Mac because off age and time away from the game , he hasn’t been away from the game just on the sideline for awhile. I would prefer coaches that have a Colorado connection , former coaches or former players that are coaching now but Coaches Cabral , Brandison , Ambrose must stay.

  7. I like the Pat Hill choice also. Shows a lot of emotion and spirit on the sidelines. Also is a great motivator of young men. I also like the Leach game. Kave is right………… the defense ragged with his pass themed offense.

  8. Pat Hill – Fresno State
    101-66 career record
    Only has had 2 losing seasons in 13 years
    Has been to 10 bowl games
    Experienced head coach, would fit into CU’s budget
    Fresno is currently 56th in country on offense and 38th on defense (CU is 76th & 91st),

    Knows the California recruiting scene, and has done a great job graduating his players. May be looking for the right time to move from the WAC to a BCS conference.

  9. I can appreciate everyone’s sentiments on Mac, and his past proselytizing. I’m as liberal as they come, and would agree with nothing he has to say politically or religiously. However, I can’t think of someone who bleeds black and gold more than this man, which I think is absolutely necessary for the next head coach. There’s a blog on Dpost about Alfred Williams wanting him to come back to CU, but not for JUST two years. He thinks he could be in for a long haul. I don’t know about this, maybe five years, and turn it over to Bienemy? Bottom line, we need to keep it in the “family” and get someone who considers this job to be their dream job. With that said, I will fully support the next coach, (unless it’s McDaniels!).

  10. I’d pass on Mac too…he cannot recruit the types of players he brought in the first go around due to our current campus/administrative environment. In addition for those that remember Stuart hit the nail on the head…Mac was not a good gameday strategist and would therefore require some great coordinators (though we have lacked a great deal of creativity on the offensive side since sigh…Slick Rick).

  11. No one ever mentions David Shaw, offensive coordinator for Stanford. He has NCAA & NFL coaching experience, knows the Pac-10 and has worked under Jim Harbaugh for the last four years.

    He’s young, tireless and has a great offensive mind. Unless CU wants to dole out big time money to lure a Leach or Belotti here, they need to get creative and think young. Stanford may be the closest thing to CU in terms of recruiting and academic standards. Shaw may be that guy to bring CU into the Pac-12.

  12. As someone who works at CU, I can tell you the faculty will not be happy with McCartney–the religion, the anti-gay comments, the patriarchal Promise-keepers stuff, will not go down well. Especially after the recruiting “scandal.” If they make it clear he is in to resurrect the program and then hand it over, MAYBE.

  13. KT Buff,

    I have to agree, if not Mac and company, (Please no Dave Logan, he’s a great high school coach, nothing more. Plus it’s easy to rack up that many wins when you recruit the best talent in the state, while other high schools play by the rules.) then Fulmer should get the nod. Although I hear Minnesota is taking a look. I would be happy with Fulmer, although I could see it as a springboard job for him. Looks like most of the candidates don’t want to touch CU job with a ten foot pole, and who could blame them? Really our best shot at returning to glory is with either Mac and CO, or Fulmer.

  14. While my heart says yes to mac and eb, my head is wondering why not phil fulmer? Tennessee fans would love to have a redo after the last few seasons, and fulmer has something to prove. What could be a better fit for cu than a national championship coach with a chip on his shoulder. Fulmer can recruit with the best of them and given a little cash for assistants would have an impressive staff.

  15. Coach Mac to run the whole damn show and let him pick who he wants. Bohn and Hawk can both go. Coach Mac for A D and bring in Belotti first if he doesn’t work out bring in Malzahn. Promote Coach Brian Cabral Assistant Head Coach Defensive Cordinator & LB Coach , keep Ashley Ambrose hear I hear there are some quality DB’s out there that say if he is here they would transfer here. Just bring back some good ole Black & Gold Pride thats all I want .

  16. CU can not hire Logan or they will be the laughing stock of college football. You think all the criticism from the media and friends is tough now, just imagine if a high school coach was named head coach! He is a high school with ZERO experience coaching at the college level. I understand he is a successful high school coach, but let’s get real…does anyone really think a high schooler in CA, TX or outside the state of CO would give him the time of day. CU needs to hire a top assistant at a successful program or an individual with head coaching experience at the college level.

    I like the idea of Mac as the A.D. if Bohn leaves for KU. But I live in Kansas City and there hasn’t been any talk/rumors of KU going after Bohn, so I don’t know if the idea of Mac is a real possibilty.

  17. I think the ideal solution is MAC as A.D. Bring in Frank Solich as the head coach. Either Hagan or Bienemy as Assoc. head coach. Look for this arrangement to last four years. Mac then retires. Solich becomes A.D. & Assoc. becomes the head coach.

  18. Very seldom Do I see Dave Logan mentioned, he has done a fabulous job at each high school he has coached and knows all the ins and outs of Colorado, why doesn’t he garner more consideration?

  19. Lets do this right and get Malzahn in here. The guy is an offensive guru. He has had success as a Head Coach, as well as a O Coordinator. His offensive style is growing in popularity and he will be a huge draw for recruiting. He would be a great fit in the PAC12.

    Don’t forget, whoever they hire as a Head Coach must bring a solid D Coordinator as well. We lost what would have been a good one when Brown left (because of Hawk).

  20. this is the end of a very sad era that really needs a boost……………… bohn…………hire mc cartney…… hawkins (right now and pay him off for this year) hire dave logan new head coach both have cu ties that would create terrific momentem/ have mac appoint a temp for rest of the year…………..oh and by the way tell hawkins to take his boy with him

  21. Yes to Coach Mac! He provides what the program desperately needs. I also like Logan, but I feel he needs a little help for a while. I like Bienemy as well but I don’t know if he will come back to CU as assistant. I would be happy with either.
    Bellotti would be ok with me too, but my first choice is Mac.

    I don’t like Leach at all.

  22. I’ve been intrigued with the idea of Coach Mac returning to take the helm at CU and have to agree with Stuart’s assessment of how well he can fire up the student body and players [he’s part of the reason I walked on as a senior to play]. He brings so much to the table, yet it’s really a question of whether or not HE feels he’s ready and wants the job. He’s equally well suited (and maybe more so) to be a ‘coach emeritus’ – a la Tom Osborne – to be a mentor to whomever takes the post.

    Coach Mac certainly has an eye for talent, as the list of his assistants [Coaches Dickerson, Tepper, Caldwell, DiNardo, Vanderlinden, and Miles; as well as Barnett, Neuheisal, Logan, Simmons, Steckel, Hankwitz, et alia] can attest. Coach Barnett’s troubled tenure was especially painful as I remember him as an outstanding assistant. Jon Embree’s name was listed on the survey, but not here, and I’m curious to know why Brian Cabral did not get an ‘honorable mention’. Both are good men and great Buffs!

    I can’t speak to the other (potential) candidates’ credentials and will have to do a little research. Heaven help us that we don’t end up with someone from the NFL (e.g., Chuck Fairbanks or Charlie Weis), yet there may be an assistant or even head coach in that area who is up to the challenge.

  23. Yes to Coach Mac, Yes to Dave Logan also, Mac has the history behind him to make a difference in re-energizing the base and in recruiting talent. These kids need a leader also who will stand with them and will back them up, (not turning his back on his kicker as he attempts a field goal).
    Dave Logan is also an excellent coach, has done well in all his HS coaching stints and would do well at the next level. He would be a good choice also. maybe hire them both and have a all star coaching staff also 🙂

  24. Coach Bellotti is the winningest Head Coach in PAC10 history, has ties to California and has recruited California successfully and recently, assembled an excellent staff that has continued what he built, his name is recognized and respected within and outside of the PAC10 region, and is at the very least partially responsible for the Ducks being ranked #1 and in the hunt for the National Championship. No other Head Coach past or present or magical assistant coach can even come close to the credentials that Coach Bellotti provides. If you want to win and win quickly in the PAC12, stop the search and hire Mike Bellotti to be the next Head Coach of Colorado. If Bohn can’t get Bellotti, the next (distant) four to consider are these HEAD coaches; Patterson, Hoke (research his record before judgement (he is making some noise in Southern Cal. and will be in the PAC12 before too long)), Sumlin and Calhoun.

  25. CJ-
    I have to agree with matt on “no” to Logan. While he can recruit some kids to play at Mullen, there are many kids around Colorado that don’t know or care about his CU background. There are even fewer outside Colorado that do, and while Colorado puts out more D-I prospects than when I played 20 years ago, you still have to recruit CA, TX, FL, and the South (the occasional kid from PA, OH or NJ wouldn’t hurt, either) to win. The track record for HS coaches to go right to a D-I college isn’t good. Look no further than Gerry Faust, who couldn’t win at Notre Dame or Akron or Todd Dodge at North Texas. And while I like Logan in general, these guys’ HS coaching resumes were way more impressive than Logan’s.

  26. I would be ok with McCartney. Seventy is the new fifty. It is the staff around him that makes the difference. But as soon as I write this down, I also think of Mark Helfrich and how he’s doing at Oregon; Grimes at Auburn is doing pretty well too. Then I remember that the head guy also makes a difference.

  27. Definitely pass on McCartney – he has been out of football way too long. Dave Logan is an interesting choice though – CU would never have to worry about recruiting woes again. Kids love playing for him and actually WANT to play for him… Eric Bienemy – maybe… And I do like the Gus Malzahn thought…

  28. pass on Mcartney…The game has changed a lot in 16 years…No to Dave Logan….No to Les Miles……Interested in Troy Calhoun, Eric Bienemy, Dan Mullen, Gus Malzahn, Ken Niumatalolo, Mike Bellotti

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