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CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil Distefano
CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil Distefano

Five years ago, when the athletic department at the University of Colorado at Boulder was in its darkest days, we made a decision that we were going to reintegrate athletics into the academic mission of the university.

This included adopting self-imposed recruiting standards, unwavering admissions standards, faculty oversight and no tolerance for off-the-field misbehavior. We wanted to be a unique program among Division I schools, and we knew it would take a special football coach to fully embrace these principles while competing in the Big 12 Conference.

We feel like we hired the right person in head coach Dan Hawkins. We still feel that way today.

We brought Coach Hawkins here as a strong role model for our players, to support the academic performance of student athletes and, yes, to win football games. Our goal is to have a winning football program woven into the academic fabric of the university. We are making great progress in reaching most of that goal.

Coach Hawkins has been a successful recruiter and his teams have beaten nationally ranked teams the last three years, including No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007, West Virginia in 2008 and Kansas this season.

The grade point average of the football team was the highest in more than 14 years last spring (2.64). Last week, 14 Buffs were named to the Academic All-Big 12 team — more evidence of the quality of our student-athletes.

With our policy for zero tolerance for off-field misbehavior we lost some fine athletes to the program, but we must ensure that athleticism and citizenship are co-equal values among our student athletes.

Can we be winners on the field as well as off the field? Yes, but we’re willing to take a little more time to achieve this vital balance. For these reasons, I fully support athletic director Mike Bohn’s decision, and recommendation to me, to retain Dan Hawkins as our head coach.

Now I’m asking CU students, fans, alumni, boosters and donors to also give Coach Hawkins and the team their support as we work together to restore total excellence to our football program. Working together is no mystery at CU: it’s what we’ve always done to resolve our most pressing challenges in and out of the classroom and laboratory.

Today, it forms our desired pathway to achieve athletic success, while preserving our unique values as a premier flagship university in America.

Philip P. DiStefano is chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. His column appears monthly in the Colorado Daily.

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