OK, let's get a show of hands: Anybody else believe the University of Colorado Buffaloes would be closer to football glory today if they had dumped coach Dan Hawkins and remained loyal to the places where Colorado won a national championship?
Divorcing generations-old rivals from the Big 12 Conference to run off with the Pac-10 doesn't allow CU to kiss its troubles goodbye so long as the Buffs are stuck with Hawkins.
These are strange days, even for the People's Republic of Boulder.
Hawkins is being asked to keep the seat warm until CU can find a real football coach to drive its black-and-gold bandwagon to sunny California and the Pac-10.
Hawk is on the road to nowhere.
At the recent westward-ho party where CU pledged allegiance to a new league, the university's power brokers were all smiles, belting out the school fight song and dreaming big, as when Regent Michael Carrigan declared: "I look forward to the Buffs beating Nebraska in the Rose Bowl!"
At the same time, a stiff-lipped Hawkins stood like a wallflower at the back of the room and was ignored when CU big shots gathered for celebration photos. No one cares about his opinion regarding where the Buffs play in the future, Hawkins admitted.
Asked what Hawkins needs to do to be the coach when the Buffs open Pac-10 competition, athletic director Mike Bohn replied: "I think it's really irrelevant at this point. (This move) is not about Dan Hawkins and 2012. We understand the stakes that are in place, and Dan understands that. He knows our expectations are higher this year."
Hawk seems to be a dead Buff walking.
This painfully awkward situation is the byproduct of backward thinking Colorado has applied way too often in its athletic department.
Rather than taking the substantive action of firing Hawkins, the Buffs picked the stylish option of masking serious challenges to its athletic operation with Hollywood glitz.
For CU boosters, watching a football team get trounced at Southern Cal might not sting any less than losing 58-0 at Missouri, although the sushi in Los Angeles is way tastier after the game.
But please tell me how this adds up:
The Buffaloes did not fire Hawkins after last season's disgraceful 3-9 record, in large part because a cash-
poor athletic department could not justify buying out the coach's contract to the tune of approximately $3 million.
It appears, however, Bohn might have to beg, borrow or steal as much as $9 million for exit fees on the Buffs' way out the door for the swimming pools and movie stars awaiting CU in the Pac-10.
That's one expensive trip to Disneyland, dude.
The road to CU's lone national championship in 1990 went through Austin, Texas; Columbia, Mo.; and Lawrence, Kan. Maybe, just maybe, it would have been easier to buy the Buffs' goal of again taking on all comers in football if they had stayed in the dusty, old Big 12 and gotten down to the dirty business of hiring a new football coach to replace Hawkins.
Think Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson, who somehow lived in the shadow of the dreaded Longhorns and still managed to earn his Horned Frogs a No. 6 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, would be tempted to leave a gig in the Mountain West for Colorado?
Although Bohn was salivating at the prospect of a Pac-16 that commissioner Larry Scott failed to deliver, there's no turning back now on the move West.
CU president Bruce Benson might be pure genius when it comes to managing top-class academic programs in environmental law and aerospace engineering, but does he really understand jack about what it takes to restore the Buffs to national prominence in football?
comments on this story
It seemed obvious to me any university truly serious about winning football would have fired Hawkins after a four-year record of 16-33. CU football didn't tackle its real problem.
Let me also add: I like Hawk the man. You won't find better people in sports than his family. So here's hoping Hawkins finds a way to prove me wrong and wins eight games this season.
But, in reality, Hawkins already is viewed as irrelevant to the next big dreams of CU's athletic department.
Life's too short to waste another year with a football coach regarded as a roadblock to better days ahead.
(Mark Kiszla is a sports columnist for The Denver Post)