Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Shawn Watson Won't be Returning to Colorado

I've read a lot of speculation this week about Shawn Watson returning to Colorado as head coach.  Some of it is wishful thinking of fans who still haven't figured out that last season's Husker offense was more the result of injuries and a lack of depth on the offensive line and at wide receiver.  Some of it is simplistic reasoning:  Watson coached there, Colorado needs a head coach, and Colorado might want him back.

That might be the case, but they forget one key aspect of the job.  Watson knows all about the University of Colorado, and knows very well to stay away from that job.  Frankly, from my perspective, Colorado might be the worst head coaching job in the Big XII at this time.  It's not impossible to do well at Colorado (witness a 1991 (corrected: 1990) National Championship), but the odds are increasingly stacked against Colorado becoming a football power again anytime soon.

First of all, there is the fan base.  There is a solid group of core fans who support the Buffs through thick and thin.  But it's a small core grouping relatively speaking.  Unless the Buffs are playing a big-name opponent, folks in Denver seem to ignore the Buffs.  They frequently have to resort to gimmicky discounts to sell tickets.  That means two things:  (1) it limits the revenue opportunities and (2) it forces Colorado to play a very demanding non-conference schedule (this year, it was Colorado State, Cal, Georgia, and Hawai'i).

Colorado's athletic department still hasn't paid off the debt incurred when they fired Gary Barnett, and now the severance package for Dan Hawkins gets added to the top of that.  That will probably limit the amount of money available to pay the next coaching staff, though that actually might work out in Watson's favor, since they likely won't be able to hire a name coach.

The concerns of the state legislature about coaching contracts actually make the problem worse. The athletic department is restricted to only offering six multi-year contracts to coaches - meaning that there is no job stability or security for assistant coaches at Colorado.  Watson knows this well; he survived this in Boulder, but he knows that it's going to be difficult to assemble a staff he wants in Boulder.

And now comes word that current Buffs offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will be back next season, no matter who the next head coach is.  He doesn't have to be coordinator, but it looks like the next head coach will have to keep him around.  Again, that means that personnel decisions that typically are made by the new head coach will be made by someone else.

The next head coach at Colorado is going to find things tough...really tough to overcome.  Not impossible, mind you.  The right head coach could do it.  Art Briles made Baylor a winner.  Bill Snyder made Kansas State a winner. But the odds are stacked against success at Colorado, and Shawn Watson knows that from the inside.  I really doubt he seriously considers it.


Brett said...

It's not a Big XII job, it is a Pac XII. I think this helps with the fan base for about two years - new teams to interest passive fans. I also think that CO can do pretty well against the PAC - Oregon aside. I think that any coach wanting to make a name for himself would think of CO as a good stepping stool to a better (paying) position if he does anything besides fail miserably. Oh and head coach prospects - Wats to name one - usually have enough (over)confidence in themselves to think they can do it.

Anonymous said...

I asked a person close to Watson a few years ago if he would ever want to coach at Colorado.

This person said "No, way. There is too much bad blood there with the administration with how they handled Barnett."

Husker Mike said...

Corrected the date. Technically the Buffs won it in January 1991, but it was considered the 1990 season.

As for whether Colorado will find it easier in the Pac-12, we'll see. USC will get past probation eventually. Oregon is good. Cal is down this year, but is regularly good. Arizona was rising this year. Oregon State has looked solid at times.

I think Colorado has a ways to go to be competitive in the Pac-12. If they were looking to be competitive with a conference change, they really should have considered the Mountain West. But their egos would never accept it. And it would come at a financial cost.

Anonymous said...

Good, let him go. I'm not impressed with him as a coach. We need Mike Leach.

1audiofile said...

Dear insane anonymous - Mike Leech is a great offensive mind. If we wanted to be a pure passing team, you need to get one of the top throwing quarterbacks in the country. Most of those do not want to come to Nebraska. How many times do fans need to learn this same lesson???

Anonymous said...

I'm just sad this is the last year NU delivers the annual beatdown to the Puffs. CU had a little run in the early 90's, but history has proven it was a fluke. The only word I can think of to describe the CU football culture is soft.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts on the idea of Mike Leach as NU O Coordinator: 1) Never going to happen because I can imagine for him at this point in his coaching career it is HC or nothing. 2) Culturally, Leach at Nebraska would be a complete disaster. We have completely different personnel and it would take years of pain and losing records to retool (and I doubt that would be a successful venture). He would make Bill Callahan look like Bob Devaney.

NU will never be a successful pro-style NFL offense - never. The history of the program was not built on it, and their flirtations with it have been disastrous. But thats okay - NU has proven for the past 50 years that it can be highly and consistently successful in other ways. Stick with what works.

Anonymous said...

1audiofile, When has leach ever recurited a great QB? The system has always made them good QB's It was really just a joke. Love the run game when it works. Leach will most likely end up at Minn. anyway. As a hc. After he gets his money out of tech. At least now we have a running QB that can throw.

Anonymous said...

CU also suffers from the image of being a party school for out of state ski bums. My niece is getting her PhD there and is lukewarm on the undergrads.

If you have a state that sees CSU as their school, and the ones that their kids go to, you have a fan challenge.

If you are in a town like Boulder that is way liberal and many Coloradans are less so inclined, you have an environment challenge.

If you have the full run of pro-sports in the largest city, you have a competition problem.

I don't think CU will ever overcome these and therefore remain a suck job for any coach.