Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Zen and the Art of Mid-Major Football Maintenance | by Pat

With all of the coaching candidates being thrown out there by the media and people who have had a bit too much egg nog, the name Dan Hawkins keeps coming up, but no one really knows much about him.

So just who is Dan Hawkins?


Not quite.


The Dan Hawkins in question is the current head coach of the Boise State Broncos. You know, that other undefeated head coach of a mid-major football program out west.

No one truly knows if Notre Dame is targeting Hawkins or not, but if ND does select Hawkins, it will be quite a jump for a coach who's coaching experience is limited to two schools...Boise State and Willamette.

And yet, according to this Kelly Whiteside article, Boise State appears to have somewhat of a streak going in terms of placing head coaches at BCS schools.

Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier hired a little known I-AA coach from Murray State, Houston Nutt. Not much was expected — Sports Illustrated rated Boise State 112th out of 112 teams in Division I-A football. But Nutt went 5-6, a huge success given the turmoil of the previous year.

Arkansas hired the Little Rock native after the season. Bleymaier then turned to Oregon offensive coordinator and Idaho native Dirk Koetter, who brought his high-scoring offense to Boise. In three seasons, Koetter won two Big West championships and two Humanitarian Bowls at Bronco Stadium. He left for Arizona State in 2001.

Time will tell if Notre Dame will make a move for Hawkins, but in the meantime he is pushing Boise State even further than Nutt or Koetter did. So far he is 44-6 as the man in charge of the Broncos and holds the current D-1 win streak at 22 games and counting. His Bronco's offense is currently ranked #2 in the country at 511.64 yards/game. That's one slot behind other potential candidate Bobby Petrino's Louisville offense and one slot ahead of ex-potential candidate Urban Meyer's Utah offense. His Boise State team finished the season ranked 9th in the BCS standings and he won the WAC Conference Coach of the Year award for the second time in three years.

So Hawkins does have a rather impressive resume given his limited experience and small stage. And repeated reports mention that Hawkins considers Notre Dame his dream job. The real question regarding Hawkins is, can we expect similar stellar results at Notre Dame?

By far the biggest adjustment for Hawkins would be the pressure and scrutiny from both the media and rabid fan base. Folks in Boise State are estatic over Hawkins' success thusfar. At Notre Dame, people would still be questioning the development of the backup QB and the number of passes thrown to the tight end. Will the so-called Zen Master be able to rally the faithful at pep rallies by quoting Gandhi and Chogyam Trungpa?

Another major concern is recruiting. Landing "Hawk" will lack the national impact that the Irish would need to put together a top 10 recruiting class this year. Hawkins has no experience recruiting against some of the top coaches in the country for the top talented high schoolers, although one could argue that recruiting kids to play in Boise on a blue field is a daunting recruiting task itself. But with his purely West Coast coaching background it is very fair to question his ability to make an immediate impact on Notre Dame's national recruiting stage.

Sure winning cures all and makes recruiting easy, but after back to back failed coaching choices and the repeated verbal and written whippings from certain bobbleheaded mouthpieces of the sports media, Notre Dame now needs a head coach who's hire makes a statment that Notre Dame is serious about regaining their spot at the head of the college football dinner table. In the case of Hawkins, his lack of experience with major conference football and limited national name recognition is not what the Irish need right now. He appears to be an excellent young football coach and hopefully is in a better position to lobby for the job the next time the Irish go shopping for a new coach, but at this time the Fighting Irish need to aim a little bit higher.