Buffaloes Get First Impressions of New Coach

The Colorado football team got back to practice Friday under the direction of interim head coach Mike Hankwitz, preparing for their date with Clemson in the Champs Bowl. They also got their first impression of future head coach Dan Hawkins, who met with the players earlier in the day. Inside, some reaction from the players, plus notes from the practice.

• First thing, it's clear that some members of the Colorado football team are still reeling from the events of the past 10 days. At the same time, others seem to have moved on and are feeling positive about what the future holds.

Dan Hawkins met with the team Friday prior to his press conference. He seems to understand it's going to take some time and great effort to win these guys' hearts and loyalty. What's so odd about the situation is that the Colorado players are embarking on their bowl practices, working under coaches they know will likely not be here a month from now. The staff has their work cut out for them trying to get everyone on the same page and in the right frame of mind to play against a good Clemson team in Orlando Dec. 27.

Junior defensive end Abraham Wright said it was good to get back to practice, but it's obvious he's one that's still feeling the loss of his former head coach.

"It felt good in some ways (to practice)," Wright said. "We've definitely got to get back in the mode, get that swagger back. I don't know, I'll be honest, it's still a little tough for me. But just to be with my teammates … I don't think anybody loves practicing, even if they say it. But it still felt good to be out there today."

• Hawkins told the team in the meeting he didn't expect to have their respect yet, but that he planned on earning it by shedding blood, sweat and tears with them during practices this spring.

"The meeting was good, but I've got to wait until he gets up here. I don't know who's going to be my coach my senior year," Wright said. "I just want to see his plans. But he had a good talk with us and so far it seems like he'll head us in the right direction."

• Hawkins and Gary Barnett are on a friendly basis in the coaching world. Hawkins put in a phone call to Barnett prior to taking the job. Hawkins told the Colorado players he made the call to get Barnett's blessing, and that Barnett gave it.

Sophomore running back Hugh Charles said, "(The meeting with Coach Hawkins) went well. He came in and gave us a pretty long speech about how passionate he feels about the Colorado Buffaloes and being here. And how he got Coach Barnett's blessing to come here. He seems like a great guy. I'm pleased to have him."

• Through all the hubbub of the past week, the one constituent group that's probably been heard from the least — and the one the coaching change affects the most — has been the players. While more than a few fans and some local talk-show personalities lobbied hard for Dave Logan to get the job at CU, Charles said something interesting. According to Charles, word is among the players that, at this point, no one is planning to transfer because of the coaching change. However, he said if CU had hired "a bad coach, or a high school coach or something like that, some would have probably jumped ship."

• The current staff and players held a team meeting. Joel Klatt told the team this is the last time they'll be together and that they need to finish it off strong. A lot of the players are trying to focus in winning the bowl game for the senior class.

• Mike Hankwitz admitted he and his staff are experiencing some frustration over their situation and its uncertainty, but vowed they are taking a very professional approach.

"It's up to us to show the way," he said. "We're going to show how you're supposed to conduct yourself. … we're going to absorb ourselves in our work and get ready to beat Clemson."

• Klatt was at Friday's practice, but didn't participate. Still no official word whether he'll be cleared medically to play in the bowl, but my sense is he won't.

• Clint O'Neal isn't practicing with the team after the racist e-mail incident. They will prepare as if he won't play. If there is new information that clears him in the incident, he could be reinstated and play. But that seems very unlikely.

• Hawkins, along with Mike Bohn and CU president Hank Brown announced Friday that Bohn had secured a $1.5 million donation from Colorado graduate and Denver-based Marsico Fund manager Tom Marsico. The donation is for the athletic department to use at its discretion, and it will be used as seed money to fund an indoor practice facility. The facility will be a flexible structure (it could be taken down during the summer, etc.) that will fit on the current practice fields below Folsom. Bohn said the feasibility study done by the university showed that it'll cost roughly $2.4 million. Bohn wouldn't give a timetable for its construction — he couldn't since the project is still $900,000 short. But the donation is obviously a big shot in the arm for the department.

Also, Bohn said that five more people have ponied up to become Buff Club Cabinet members. The Buff Club Cabinet members (over 30 members now) agree to donate $25,000 for three years. The department's goal is to have 40 members by the end of the spring.

• Speaking of money, Hawkins' salary is laden with incentives. The regents approved it unanimously. Here are the numbers: Five-year contract, Jan. 1, 2006 – Dec. 31, 2010
Guaranteed annual salary: $850,000 ($160,000 base salary, $490,000 in radio/television income, and $200,000 in sponsorship support)
Summer camp: $50,000
Incentive compensation: $50,000 (academic progress), $50,000 (student citizenship), $100,000 (community outreach)
Performance incentives: $50,000 (non-BCS bowl), $100,000 (Big 12 North Division title), $100,000 (Big 12 Championship), $100,000 (BCS bowl win), $250,000 (national championship).

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