Neill Woelk
Neill Woelk
"If" officially turned into "when" Saturday night in Norman, Okla.

The team that provided Dan Hawkins with his biggest victory as Colorado`s head football coach sealed his fate with a 43-10 nationally televised thumping.

Now 3-5 and owners of a four-game losing streak -- all Big 12 contests -- the Buffs inched closer to being eliminated from bowl contention.

But more importantly -- at least as it pertains to the future of the program -- the loss officially ended any chance of an eight-win season, a number many saw as the minimum necessary for Hawkins to retain his job.

The only question now is what scenario will unfold as the season heads down the home stretch.

A portion of CU`s constituency is still demanding an immediate change, one that would see Hawkins sent packing before the next game.

I still think it`s unlikely that Colorado`s administration will take that road. Such a scenario would require that CU either name an interim head coach from within the staff, or have its next head coach ready to take the reins immediately.

The former would be nothing more than a cosmetic move to placate fans. It would hinder -- not help -- recruiting, while adding even more instability to the situation. That`s not what Colorado needs right now.

As for the second scenario, Bill McCartney is obviously the public favorite in terms of a permanent head coach who would be available immediately.


No doubt, the clamor for Colorado to make the former coach the current coach -- and do it now -- has been growing in recent weeks.

But if McCartney is available next week, he`ll beavailable at the end of the season.

Any plans Mac is making now won`t be derailed in four weeks` time. Rather, if he is indeed a candidate CU is considering, the next month would give both sides time to discuss the particulars of such a move.

Coaches aren`t hired without contracts, salaries, staff considerations, etc. Colorado can`t afford to ignore such details -- especially in this situation.

Meanwhile, it would be irresponsible of CU`s administration not to study all other options before making a decision. There are plenty of potential candidates out there right now. Colorado must consider every avenue possible, then move accordingly.

The most likely scenario as the season winds down? The guess here is that there will be an announcement sometime in the next few weeks that this season will be Hawkins` last, and he will be allowed to finish the regular season.

In the meantime, the rumor mill will begin go into overdrive. Names from all corners of the coaching world will surface.

Elsewhere on these pages today, you`ll find the name of OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables as a possibility. Throw Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, a coach with West Coast ties, into the mix.

Others you`ll hear? Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, former Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti (who, ironically, provided color commentary on Saturday night`s game) and, of course, McCartney, are almost certain to surface.

Don`t forget former Buff and current Mullen High School head coach Dave Logan, who is certain to have his fans in the search. A name you are sure to hear involved in some coaching searches -- not necessarily Colorado`s -- is Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who has had stops at Arkansas and Tulsa (after coaching a Mitch Mustain-led team to the 2005 Arkansas high school state championship).

Only one thing is certain: the list will be long.

But today, there is no perfect solution. Colorado officials must do their homework to find that best possible fit.

Then, when the time is right, the program can hit the ground running.