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Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Lack of multiyear contracts could cost CU another assistant

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Colorado offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich will interview later this week at Oregon, becoming the fourth member of Dan Hawkins' staff to interview with another school since the end of last season.

Helfrich, who has coached the Buffaloes' quarterbacks and served as coordinator at Colorado since 2006, would have a chance to return home by joining new Oregon coach Chip Kelly's staff. Helfrich was born in Medford, Ore., played college football at Southern Oregon and served as a graduate assistant for the Ducks in 1997.

Another reason for the attractiveness of the Oregon job would be the ability to receive a multiyear contract.

Colorado typically does not provide that kind of security as the school traditionally has not offered multiyear contracts to assistants -- which is becoming the rule for many coordinators. Oklahoma State coaches receive contracts of up to five years.

But Colorado interim chancellor Phil DiStefano told the Boulder Daily Camera he doubts the school will start offering those contracts -- even with the competition from other schools.

Hawkins has been a staunch proponent of trying to lobby the state legislature about the rule that limits each state institution to six multiyear contracts at one time. Those typically aren't offered to assistant coaches, making it difficult for the Buffaloes to compete to keep their best assistants.

"The problem that comes up, and I've talked to many people about it, is that the head coach has a contract, and if an assistant has a contract and a new head coach comes in, more than likely the new head coach might want to make some changes there," DiStefano told the Camera. "Then the athletic department has to pay two salaries, one of the assistant coach who may be leaving with a contract, and then to bring in another assistant coach.

"I think it's a good policy to make sure the head coaches have contracts, but I'm not convinced it's a good policy for the assistant coaches to have them. I think the athletic department could run into some budgetary problems by doing that."

That attitude might be fiscally responsible. But it isn't practical in modern college football.

Colorado's coaching staff has traditionally been marked with constant turnover compared to many opponents. The Buffaloes have lost at least one assistant coach every year since 1989 except for the offseason between the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Camera reported. That trend continued earlier this year when former Colorado offensive line coach Jeff Grimes left Hawkins' staff to take the same job at Auburn -- a position that is more lucrative with better stability.

Compare that turnover with a school like North Division rival Missouri, which had no moves on Gary Pinkel's staff for the first seven seasons before offensive coordinator Dave Christensen accepted the Wyoming head coaching job and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus jumped to the financial windfall of an NFL assistant's job with the Cleveland Browns.

Other than that, Pinkel's staff was stable -- helping provide the continuity for the Tigers' back-to-back appearances in the Big 12 championship game the last two seasons.

Losing Helfrich, one of the most underrated coaches in the Big 12, would be a huge loss for the Buffaloes. It would be even worse for Hawkins, considering it would be a move that would come after spring practice is over while a raging battle for his starting quarterback job continues with Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen.

And it would be indicative that Colorado's legislature needs to step into the 21st century and realize that multiyear contracts are becoming the rule in modern athletics rather than the exception.