All quarterbacks wear bulls-eyes, but the one sewn on Cody Hawkins' back for the past four years has become a monster over the past three days. The guy can't stunt its growth, much less get rid of it.
To debunk one particular myth born in the past week or so, Hawkins took his seat Tuesday afternoon before the assembled TV cameras, microphones and tape recorders and told of a scenario he shared with Colorado teammate/fellow captain Scotty McKnight.
Hawkins told McKnight that he was "going to come up here and the first thing I was going to say was, 'As of 1:30 p.m. today, I'm no longer part of the Colorado Buffaloes football program' - just to see what you guys (media) would do.
"But that couldn't be further from the truth. When I signed a national letter of intent to come play football here, nowhere on the contract did it say I was going to come play for Dan Hawkins. Yes, that's a big reason I came here, because I thought he ran the program the right way and had great people around him. But I wanted to be part of Colorado. I'm still a part of Colorado, and regardless of who the football coach is - whether it would have happened last year, this year, the first game of the season, the last game of the season - I'm going to give everything I have to this football team, my guys, my coaches regardless of what the situation is.
"I'm wearing Black and Gold, and (Brian) Cabral talked about having a Black and Gold heart. I believe that inside my chest that I have one of those."
Bottom line: Those who know Cody best - his teammates and coaches - say he would never walk out on them or do anything else to sabotage the team in the wake of his father's firing.
"He's a warrior," senior linebacker B.J. Beatty said. "He won't quit. He'll play his heart out."
Added McKnight with a laugh: "He's not a normal kid . . . this has been a tough situation for him to handle. That's his father; this is a tough time for him. But he's a Buff, he loves this school. He'll give it everything he has."
TRYING TO DEBUNK MYTH NO. 2: OK, for some bizarre reason, the Buffaloes for the most part shunned the run in the fourth quarter of their horrific come-from-ahead loss at Kansas. There has been speculation that passes were called because of a father-son collaboration to move Cody up on the school's career passing list. (He's one of only three CU QBs to have passed for over 6,000 career yards, joining Kordell Stewart and Joel Klatt.)
I ran that scenario past Cody Tuesday. His answer:
"I might have gotten another 50 yards. I've got three more games; if it's going to happen, it's going to happen, you know? I don't know what people think, but there's an offensive coordinator. 'Kies' (Eric Kiesau) calls the plays, not my dad. So, maybe 'Kies' really likes me and wants me to break the passing record."
Does a record of that sort mean that much to you?
"I really couldn't care less. I mean, you play here for four years and obviously some records are going to fall your way just because. And in a program with as much tradition as Colorado, there are going to be a lot of guys who aren't fortunate enough to play for four years. I really couldn't care less about any of those other numbers. It's nice for people to have something to talk about, but it's all about the wins, the relationships and the memories - and I have plenty of those. That's all that matters to me."
Believe it or don't.
FIRST TO KNOW: Dan Hawkins received word of his ouster on Sunday afternoon. Cody said he was the first in the Hawkins family to be told.
"He told me Sunday night - he called me into his office and told me," Cody said. "I've had a little bit of time to deal with it. Obviously, you're disappointed but the thing my father and I and all the captains were most disappointed with is the lack of production.
"It's not the guys on the team, it's not what's going on within the football program. It's the product you're putting out there on Saturday . . . college football is a business. There are a lot of great guys in this business who get put out on the street."
MAC TALK: Even before CU had a coaching opening, former Buffs coach Bill McCartney's name was making headlines and appearing in sound bites as a possible candidate. McCartney, now 70, guided the Buffs to the 1990 national championship and is the school's winningest all-time coach.
He's made no secret that he wants to return to coaching, and the guess here is that returning to CU might be his best/only opportunity. But is his former school interested?
Athletic Director Mike Bohn was asked if he listens to the clamor of CU's fan base on Mac's behalf. Said Bohn: "I listen to our fans all the time . . . I take great pride in listening."
McCartney, who retired in 1994, is expected to be on a list of what Bohn and CU considers "viable" candidates. "He will be considered," Bohn said, noting that a search committee to find Dan Hawkins' replacement is being formed to find the "best coach, the best fit."
With CU beginning competition in the Pac-12 Conference next season, Bohn acknowledged hiring a new coach with West Coast recruiting ties would be beneficial but not a prerequisite. "It's key, but not the only key," Bohn said.
As for a timetable to find a new coach, Bohn said there is none: "It could be very quick, it could extend beyond what some of you think it should be."
Hawkins was being paid upwards of $1.2 million a year, and Bohn indicated CU might not be able to afford to pay a new coach much more than that - and certainly couldn't pay a new hire in the Notre Dame or USC range (reportedly $4 million).
"We're not a $4 million school," Bohn said, adding that CU's salary structure "will limit our pool (of candidates)."
DON'T COUNT OUT CABRAL: Bohn appointed long time assistant Brian Cabral as CU's interim coach for the last three regular-season games -and a bowl if the Buffs can manage a miracle.
Bohn said Cabral would be considered for the permanent position if that's what he wants: "I have not talked to him about it (but) if he would like to pursue it, yes."
Less than 10 minutes later, Cabral said, "Yes."
Cabral has been CU's interim head coach before (2004) and while appreciative of the chance and the administration's trust in him, he said he knows firsthand that the interim job is taxing.
He defined his role as "standing in the gap for the university, the athletic department, the program, the team, the coaches and the seniors . . . and to calm the storm."
He joked he "must be made for this role," citing his time in the NFL as a backup linebacker for the Chicago Bears behind Mike Singletary as not being that far removed from his current duty.
Cabral became emotional a couple of times during his interview stint. Why?
"I care about the program, players and coaches," he said. "I've been through this before and I hate it. The last group I went through it with, there was a bond, a love, that came out of it. I care. I really do."
Cabral said his three goals for the players over the next three weeks are: Finishing the semester strong academically, finishing the season strong for the seniors, and rallying the Buffs community around the seniors.
BUFF BITS: In his final CU press conference, Dan Hawkins thanked his players, a large number of athletic department staffers, support and academic personnel, contributors and many more. He said he hoped "the negativity that surrounds me doesn't surround" the Buffs. Hawkins said his future plans were uncertain, but indicated any plans could include a return to coaching. He said his only immediate plans were to be "a passionate spectator for three, hopefully four, more games." . . . . Cody Hawkins on the big difference between the next three weeks and the past four years: "I'm no longer the coach's kid." . . . . Left tackle/captain Nate Solder said the best example he and his fellow seniors can set for the underclassmen is to "show them how to finish this thing . . . that's the best way to usher them into whatever is coming up." . . . . Solder said in the regular season's final three weeks, "We're in great hands with coach Cabral." . . . . Cabral joked that Tuesday morning's practice afforded him the first time in 21 years to watch what happens on the offense's end of the field . . . . Cody Hawkins, sporting a fresh buzz cut, said his father had promised to attend CU's Senior Day game against Kansas State (Nov. 20, 12:10 p.m.). But there was a stipulation: "He might have to come as Chewbaca or Inspector Gadget." . . . . Cabral and Cody Hawkins said Tuesday's practice was crisp, with no apparent hangover from the loss in Lawrence.