Early this year he made reference to Hawkins 2-10 record and how crappy the program was, now you would think Hawkins was the second coming of Vince Lombardi. He takes whatever side he can to build up his fan base and put down the evil horde from Boulder. Try not to get to wound up when he makes reference to CU being 'middle of the pack', its just his smalljohnsoninsecurity speaking. I think you could make the logical jump that if CU is 'middle of the pack' CSU is firmly entrenched in the 'bottom of the pack'. Couldn't get link to work: here's the text. ========================================= Buffs may have trouble keeping Hawkins around Mark Knudson SportsNews@coloradoan.com Just over two years ago, those closely following the University of Colorado were talking about a "cloud hanging over the future" of the CU football program. Today, that future looks far, far different, complete with an entirely different potential problem. The scoreboard doesn't always tell the story. Yes, the Buffs lost to Alabama in the Independence Bowl. But here's a newsflash: Dan Hawkins is every bit as good a football coach as 'Bama's $4-million man, Nick Saban. Anyone watching that game could see Hawkins certainly didn't take a back seat to his more celebrated rival. Already, Hawkins is a better football coach than guys like Mike Leach or Mike Gundy. He's A LOT better than guys like Bill Callahan or Dennis Franchione. He's even a better football coach than some other guys he lost to this year, like Ron Prince, Gary Pinkel and Mark Mangino. How long did it take those guys to lift their programs out of the doldrums? How many of them were left with almost nothing to work with, and made a bowl game in their second season? That's right. None. Among Big 12 coaches, Hawkins probably ranks right below Bob Stoops and maybe Mack Brown, but not by a lot. In just year two, Hawkins is already one of the conference's best coaches - a better college football coach, right now - than Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden. That's because coaching, REAL coaching, involves getting the most out of what you have to work with. While recruiting is the life blood of any college football program, the best football coaches are the guys who take that accumulated talent and IMPROVE it. They take a skinny high school kid and turn him into a collegiate standout. Better yet, they take a roster that lacks in raw talent and create a competitive football team. With the dearth of talent that the Buffaloes had to work with this season, to get his team to a .500 regular-season record - including the amazing win over Oklahoma - proved that Dan Hawkins can do all the things great football coaches need to do. Mangino and Pinkel had big seasons, sure, but it's taken both a very long time to get a team into the national rankings. Even though the Buffaloes lose their best players to graduation after this season, no one is going to bet against Hawkins taking a 2008 team that will still be lacking in pure talent and making them a legit contender to win the Big 12 North. One of the moments that CU fans should remember most from this season happened early in the year in a loss to Florida State. Running back Hugh Charles, who had been very much a middling type of ball carrier for his entire career to that point, took a handoff and scooted around the right side for a nice gain before going out of bounds. When Charles got to the CU sideline, Hawkins was there to greet him - not with any congratulations for a nice play - but with a major tongue lashing for going out of bounds on his own. Hawkins wanted the running back to take on the oncoming Seminoles defender and fight for additional yardage. It didn't matter that it might only be a yard or so, it was the attitude, the message that would be sent. We don't run out of bounds. Franco Harris could have never played for Dan Hawkins. Charles took the message to heart, and went on to have a very solid senior season. The running back owes any chance he gets in pro football to the coach that got him to lift his play to that proverbial 'next level.' So what's there to worry about now if you're a Buffs fan? How about Hawkins being too good? The fact is, Hawkins will become, sooner rather than later - one of those "hot coaching commodities" that more prominent programs covet. Odds are good that he'll be offered a chance to move up to a bigger and better program within the next couple years. Much like former CU head coach Rick Neuheisel years ago, and more recently key members of the coaching staff, he will very likely have to jump at the opportunity. For all the boasting some of you do about the glories of Colorado football, the fact remains that CU is not close to being an elite coaching job. It's not even a very good one. By BCS standards, CU is very much a middle of the pack type job. Neuheisel said it best when he left CU to take the job at the University of Washington. He said that he was leaving because Washington was "a have" while CU was "a have not" among college football programs. ESPN.com recently listed the top ten things that make a coaching job attractive. Among them, "#3, Conference appeal" would be CU's only real strength. In other areas listed, like tradition (No. 2), stability of administration (No. 5), and campus feel (No. 8), CU would rate only average at best. In areas like financial commitment (No. 1), facilities (No. 6), recruiting base (No. 4), admissions flexibility (No. 7), fan sanity (No. 9) and even climate (No. 10), CU gets very low marks. The fact is that CU is a middle of the pack gig at best. If a coach will bolt a top 10 program like West Virginia to move up, Colorado has no chance to keep someone with big time aspirations Dan Hawkins is destined for bigger and better things. Don't be shocked if by the time QB Cody Hawkins is a senior at CU, he's the only Hawkins residing in Boulder. Such is life in the middle of the pack. Mark Knudson is a former major-league and Colorado State University pitcher who writes a weekly column for the Coloradoan. He can be reached by fax at 224-7899 or send e-mail to SportsNews@coloradoan.com.