Five years after Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn fired former football coach Gary Barnett, the two men appear to be on the same page in at least one regard.

Bohn and Barnett each said this week that expectations for the program from the outside don't match the reality of resources and support it receives.

Colorado is once again looking for a new head coach in football after Bohn fired Dan Hawkins, the man he picked to succeed Barnett in Boulder back in December, 2005. Hawkins went 19-39 in nearly five full seasons in Boulder but never produced a winning season.

photo by Cliff Grassmick CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn, right, shares a laugh with  Chancellor Phil DiStephano and head coach Gary Barnett before a press
photo by Cliff Grassmick CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn, right, shares a laugh with Chancellor Phil DiStephano and head coach Gary Barnett before a press conference to announce that CU and Nike have signed a $20 million deal on September 1, 2005. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

"There's a disconnect between what it takes to compete at that level and what's being done," Barnett said during an interview on ESPN radio in Denver (1600 AM). "I think what happens is nationally, on the outside, people perceive CU and Boulder to be like it is in Oklahoma, like it is in Nebraska, like it is in places where we have defeated programs and played for national championships and played for league championships.

"And in reality, we've scratched along and found a way to be competitive on those levels without having that same sort of culture and environment that other people have. And as long as that culture and environment doesn't change and remains the same, then it's going to be a constant scratch and claw.


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"Yeah, there's a disconnect between those that want and what the university is willing to do. And as long as it stays that way, there's going to be this constant set of expectations that are unrealistic for any coach that goes in there. And that's what's really hard -- on the outside the expectations are one thing, on the inside the expectations are something else."

Barnett was 49-39 in seven seasons at Colorado. His teams played in four Big 12 championship games (two of them only because other teams lost on the final Saturday of the regular season) and won one title. His teams played in five bowl games.

Barnett accomplished those results despite the fact that he had fewer resources at his disposal than Hawkins. Two years worth of ugly allegations against his program and three consecutive losses at the end of the 2005 season led to his dismissal.

The recruiting budget was increased dramatically under Hawkins, who also was allowed to hire more staffers in the football program.

The school also invested in locker room and varsity room upgrades, coaches' offices renovations, a multi-purpose practice bubble and other equipment and software upgrades under Hawkins.

Yet, the athletic department still struggles to fill its stadium (one of the smallest in the Big 12) each Saturday and had only one sellout during Hawkins' tenure.

Part of that can be chalked up to a lack of winning, but when considering that the school also ranks at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in fundraising every year, it is seems Barnett and Bohn have a point.

While answering questions about his decision to fire Hawkins on Tuesday and the future of the program, Bohn challenged CU supporters -- many of whom have become critical of him -- to raise their level of the support for the program.

"For example, we don't have multiyear contracts; we've got to find a way to escalate our salary pool for assistant coaches so that we're not 12th in the league on (offensive and defensive) coordinators, so we're not 12th on total pool of salaries for coaches," Bohn said. "We cannot continue to expect to attract top coaches and top staff members without a bigger investment."

The university has increased its level of financial support for the athletic department in recent years but it simultaneously continues to raise the cost of tuition, which causes the scholarship bill to rise in athletics.

CU officials believe the move to the Pac-12 next year will help facilitate an increase in donations to the department and the school because its teams will consistently play in front of large numbers of alumni on the West Coast.

But the novelty of that development will pass quickly and then CU will need its teams -- particularly the football program -- to win more often than it loses to drive interest, sell tickets and earn donations to a level that comes closer to expectations.

"We must inspire a higher level of interest from fans, sponsors, donors, media, you name it," Bohn said. "We've got to do that."