Colorado football coach Dan Hawkins vowed when he was hired four years ago to work hard to bring the best in-state recruits to Boulder every year, and he has been doing a good job with that mission until now.
With contact between coaches and prospects ending today and national signing day looming on Wednesday, Hawkins has just two known commitments from in-state recruits.
It should be noted that Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild also had only two commitments from in-state players as of Saturday night.
The majority of the state's top prospects for the 2010 class have decided to leave for programs such as California, Stanford, Northwestern, Texas A&M, Arizona State and arch rival Nebraska.
Hawkins' three-year streak of signing the top in-state player ---- as defined by the major internet recruiting sites ---- will end Wednesday when Grandview High School defensive end Chris Martin signs with the California Golden Bears. CU signed Ryan Miller (2007), Jon Major (2008) and Nick Kasa (2009) under Hawkins' watch.
Steamboat Springs quarterback Austin Hinder, thought to be the best in-state prospect for 2010 at this time last year, also opted for Cal.
The lack of success in-state this year isn't from a lack of trying. CU has recruited most of the elite in-state players in this class for more than a year, inviting them to campus on game days, for summer camps and junior days last spring heading intotheir senior years.
Two of those prospects, Littleton running back Mister Jones and Columbine linebacker and quarterback Danny Spond, were previously committed to be Buffs but changed their minds after the Buffs went 3-9 last fall and speculation about Hawkins` future filled the airwaves and newspapers every day.
Hawkins made a final run at Spond late this week, inviting him to campus to meet with athletic director Mike Bohn and chancellor Phil DiStefano. Spond is visiting Notre Dame this weekend and will choose between the Fighting Irish, TCU, Stanford and the Buffs by signing day.
CU is hosting Grandview wide receiver Heath Davis on an official visit this weekend, but it is unclear whether he is being recruited as a scholarship athlete or an invited walk-on.
Meanwhile, Hawkins was wrapping up recruiting in Hawaii on Saturday and was not available for comment.
One head coach of a Denver-area high school program that was home to one of the state`s best players this year, said he doesn`t believe the exodus is Hawkins` fault or a product of on-field results or job-security concerns. He said the football program at CU needs more financial support from the university and its fans for it to be successful, regardless of who the coach is.
"These kids, their heads spin when they go to these places because of their facilities versus what we`ve got in our backyard in Boulder," the coach, who requested anonymity, said. "It really bothers me as a Colorado high school football coach.
"It`s ridiculous. It`s not even a fair playing ground. A really good comparison would be like if a kid had a choice between Northern Colorado and CU."
Successful in-state recruiting is not just about the end product on the field. The cost of scholarships continues to rise every year and is particularly pricey for out-of-state students in Boulder. Out-of-state tuition for one year for one student-athlete will cost the CU athletic department between $35,000 and $38,000 depending on the area of study. In-state tuition averages between $17,000 and $19,000.There was at least one case this year where Colorado extended a scholarship offer to an in-state player but didn`t really recruit him beyond that for reasons unknown. That was the case with versatile Fairview star Kenny Bell, who opted to sign with Nebraska.
Bell said he was excited to receive a scholarship offer in June from the team he grew up supporting, but he didn`t hear much from the Buffs afterward and other programs pursued him harder.
While a lifelong love of black and gold wasn`t enough to keep Bell in Boulder, it was more than enough for the two in-state players who are committed to CU.
Tight end Kyle Slavin, of Chatfield High School, and place-kicker and punter Justin Castor, of Arvada West High School said their love of the program made picking CU and staying with CU easy, despite the lack of recent on-field success.
"I`ve always been a Buff fan all my life, just watching them play and watching the games on Saturdays," Castor said. "Really, it`s kind of a dream for me to play for them. So when I got the opportunity, it was like a no-brainer. It`s just something I`ve always wanted to do and it just really worked out for me."
Even Castor was originally planning to leave the state. He was committed to Kansas until December when he began hearing from the Buffs and received a scholarship offer from Hawkins.
Castor said his decision to sign with CU is totally about his love for the program and had nothing to do with the coaching shakeup in which Kansas replaced Mark Mangino with Turner Gill.
Castor said Gill came to his house for dinner and tried to encourage him to stick with the Jayhawks. He said he likes Gill and has a lot of respect for the new Kansas coaching staff, but the offer from CU was too good to pass up after growing up a fan of the program and idolizing former Buffs kicker Mason Crosby.
Slavin has deep roots at Colorado and in the football program.
His grandfather, Jack Anderson, is a former chairman of the Board of Regents and was the driving force behind the brief switch to powder blue uniforms in early 1980s. Slavin`s parents are CU alums and have owned season tickets for more than 20 years.
"Basically you name a family member and they have some sort of tie with CU," Slavin said.
Slavin said he seriously considered other programs and the idea of leaving the state, but he knew recruiting was over for him when he received an offer from Hawkins. He committed early last summer and never wavered, despite the Buffs 2009 record, questions about the coaches and overtures from other programs.
Former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin told Slavin in early December he had a scholarship available if he was interested. Kiffin is now the head coach at Southern Cal. Slavin said he also heard from Kansas down the stretch.
Slavin knows the threat of a coaching change in Boulder will linger until the Buffs have success on the field. He hopes to play his entire career for the current CU staff, but his decision to be Buff was about much more than the coaches.
"I try not to think about it," Slavin said. "I mean, I`m not stupid, I think, yes, there is a chance. I`ve heard about it. But I committed to CU because I love the school. I liked the players when I met them. Coaching was just one of many things that I chose. There were also many other things I liked about the school."