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Hankwitz Named Interim Head Coach

Dec 9, 2005

BOULDER-Long-time University of Colorado defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz has been named interim head coach for the Buffaloes' appearance in the upcoming Champs Sports Bowl, athletic director Mike Bohn announced Friday.


Hankwitz replaces Gary Barnett, who stepped down as head coach of the program Thursday evening.  The appointment is effective pending the approval of CU-Chancellor Phil DiStefano 


"Mike possesses great experience in this profession, and his organizational skills, discipline and competitive sprit will be a great asset in preparing the team for the bowl," Bohn said.  "We are most appreciative of his willingness to take on this leadership role."


Hankwitz, who turns 58 next Wednesday, is in his second year of his second stint at Colorado, as he was named defensive coordinator on February 2, 2004, marking his return to where he worked 10 seasons as an assistant between 1985 and 1994.  He also coaches the outside linebackers and the punters in addition to his duties as coordinator, and now, interim head coach.


This past season, the defense Hankwitz coordinated was one of the best in Barnett's seven-year tenure, highlighted by a rushing defense that ranked in the top five most of the year and is still the ninth stingiest, allowing just 95.3 yards per game.  


Hankwitz said one of his top priorities was helping the team return to the way it was playing when the Buffaloes were ranked in the top 25.


"I am counting on their pride, we were a team that was playing like a top 20 team at one point this year, and the challenge is to try and get them to play that way again.  We have to figure out a way to get that back," he said.


"We want to make the bowl experience fun for them, but in return, we want that commitment from them that they will work hard to return to the form we displayed earlier in the year."


He returned to Colorado from the University of Arizona, where he was the Wildcats' defensive coordinator to start the 2003 season.  But after a 1-3 start, head coach John Mackovic was dismissed with Hankwitz promoted to interim head coach.  The Wildcats went 1-7 under Hankwitz; the win came over Washington (27-22) while two of the losses were three-point setbacks to TCU and UCLA.       


Hankwitz has coached in 412 Division I-A football games (389 as a full-time coach and 23 as a grad assistant), and other than Arizona's 2-10 overall mark in 2003, the other seven schools all posted winning records during his time on their staffs.


He joined the CU staff the first time on March 4, 1985 as outside linebackers coach, the position he mentored his first three seasons in Boulder.  He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1988 and coached the inside linebackers that season; he did not coach a position in 1989 and 1991, but coached the secondary in 1990 and resumed coaching the outside ?backers in 1992 through his last game during his first stay in Boulder, the 1995 Fiesta Bowl.  The Buffs were 86-30-4 during this time, including a 66-15-1 record when he was defensive coordinator.  CU won Big Eight titles in 1989, 1990 and 1991, and was the consensus national champion in 1990.  His 1992 defense allowed just 278.0 yards per game, ninth best in the NCAA.


After McCartney retired following the 1994 season and new coach Rick Neuheisel had different ideas for the CU defense, Hankwitz parted ways with the program on his own terms, landing as defensive coordinator and inside linebackers at Kansas.  The Jayhawks had their best season in 90 years in going 10-2 in 1995, including an upset over CU in Boulder.  Two years later, when the KU staff went to Minnesota, Hankwitz instead joined Texas A&M as the defensive coordinator, a position he held for six seasons before taking the Arizona job.   At A&M, his "Wrecking Crew" defenses were top 10 units in total defense, scoring defense and/or passing defense in 1998 (when the Aggies were Big 12 champs), 2000 and 2001. 


Hankwitz graduated from the University of Michigan in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in physical education.  He lettered three times as a linebacker and tight end for the Wolverines, and played in the 1970 Rose Bowl after Michigan emerged as the co-champions of the Big 10 Conference.


He started his coaching career in the fall of 1970, as he coached Michigan's junior varsity team.  He was a graduate assistant on defense at Michigan the next two years before moving on to Arizona in 1973, where under head coach Jim Young he worked that season as outside linebackers coach.  The following year, coaching the defensive backs was added to his duties, and in 1976, he was defensive coordinator in the final year of his first stop in Tucson.  It was there where he first worked with Mackovic, who would later hire him back at the U of A in 2003. 


Hankwitz (and Mackovic) followed Young to Purdue in 1977, where for five seasons he coached the outside linebackers and punters.  In 1982, he moved on to Western Michigan as defensive coordinator and secondary coach for three years until being hired at Colorado by McCartney, also a former Michigan assistant.  His 1982 WMU defense ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 78 points in 11 games.