Get On Board, CU's Train is Moving Forward

Mike Bohn had a reputation as a tireless worker, an innovative marketer and a strong leader when he took the athletic director's job at CU in April. I wondered, however, if he had what it takes to fire a coach when necessary. Despite the less than graceful way it came about — a mistake for which Bohn's already taken responsibility, and one he'll learn from — it's clear he can add "will make the tough decision" to his résumé after Bohn relieved Gary Barnett of his duties Wednesday night.

First the fumble: Bohn, who hasn't yet met a Buffalo fan he hasn't solicited for input about how to improve the Colorado experience, has learned it's OK to keep some things top secret. While Bohn had talked "contract concept" with Barnett in early November, he saw things that made him want to move in another direction and find another football coach over the past four weeks.

When Bohn shared his thoughts with too many people, things got a little ugly. Solid word began to circulate late last week that Bohn was going to terminate Barnett. A report in the Denver Post Wednesday morning set BuffNation abuzz, and caught Barnett off guard, according to Barnett.

Most troubling was that it put the Colorado players through a day of uncertainty and drama. Learning your head coach is leaving from the press is never the best way for things to unfold. Bohn saw his error.

"It's really important for me to apologize for all those associated with the Colorado athletic program, and particular the football program, for how this thing played out," he said. "It was never our intention to have information or direction of where we were going and have the information out before I had the opportunity to really visit with Gary, also the players.

"One of the risks with trying to be (inclusive) in the process is to have too many people aware of a direction we may be headed and to provide appropriate feedback and involvement. Unfortunately that led to a premature announcement. I think it's important for everybody to understand that I recognize that's an issue here on our campus and in our department. And I'm committed to try and fix it."

After wiping the egg from his face, Bohn took on the tone of a football coach giving a pre-game speech. It made sense because part of his message was directed to football players.

"For people that are considering coming to this institution to be a football player, please know that …we're going to work our tail off to bring a great coach here to match the academic standing of this institution.

"This is a great community, a great state, a great conference, and it'll be my job to help others understand that in this process. So if you're a young man that's thinking about playing college football, the University of Colorado's going to bring you a great coach and inspire you to be a part of the Colorado Buffaloes. I'm committed to that and that will be my sole focus until we name our next football coach."

What's that? An athletic director who understands the importance of recruiting to the vitality of a football program? Unlike Barnett, who had spoken more about the drawbacks to recruiting at Colorado over the past three years, certainly more than the competitive joy of going out and beating other colleges on the recruiting trails, Bohn seemed juiced about the aspect of college football.

He wouldn't hear of any talk about how a coaching change in December will lead to a poor recruiting class in February.

"I've seen some programs around the country that turned around great recruiting classes (after a coaching staff)," he countered. "That's why my charge is to find a new leader as quickly as possible …I'm committed to ensure that we do everything to help young people realize that we've got a nice foundation in place, we have a lot of great things going on on campus, we're committed to building an indoor facility, we're committed to making it a great experience.

"We're going to do everything we can to show people that we can have a great recruiting year."

So who's the right fit to be football coach in Boulder? Bohn didn't tip his hand.

Asked if he would consider a former Colorado player or coach, he said yes, but added "it's not a necessity." He said creating some new traditions may be a good idea.

If you want a model, look at women's head coach Kathy McConnell-Miller. Despite the fact that her Buffalo team has gotten off to a rough start this fall, Bohn is very pleased with McConnell-Miller's presence. She's high-energy, enthusiastic, good with community outreach and very much a team player. Don't underestimate that last criteria, Bohn mentioned it more than once Thursday.

Though Bohn understands timing is key, just how soon a new coach will be hired isn't clear. It could be less than a week, it could be closer to 10 days.

What is clear is that Bohn is driving the Colorado football train forward. Stay on board, it's bound to be an interesting ride.

NOTES
Bohn said he is committed to increasing the salary pool for assistant coaches. He also said he would hope a new coach would look at current assistants when filling his staff. …As far as eliminating the recruiting restrictions on CU, Bohn said there is a possibility they will be looked at down the road. …The regents role in multi-year contracts is approval/disapproval, but they had no say in Barnett's departure, nor in the search for a new coach. Once he is named, they will be given the opportunity to approve or reject the contract. …Bohn indicated David Hansburg would take the lead in CU recruiting during the interim period. …asked if Bohn would consider a high school coach (read Dave Logan), Bohn said he wouldn't discount someone because of it.


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