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ĪBad feeling' becomes reality for Hankwitz

SAUL LOEB/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA interim head coach Mike Hankwitz led the Wildcats for the final time Friday against Arizona State in Tempe.
By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, December 1, 2003
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Mike Hankwitz had a bad feeling after Friday's loss to Arizona State.

His feeling was validated Saturday when Mike Stoops was named Arizona's new head football coach, assuring Arizona's former interim head coach that he would not receive the permanent job he sought.

Though UA athletics director Jim Livengood, along with Wildcat players, had nothing but praise for Hankwitz following Arizona's 28-7 loss to the Sun Devils, their words sounded similar to those of a eulogy.

Even before Saturday's announcement was made, Livengood spoke like a man who was sorry to see a good friend go.

"I don't know that anybody understands or appreciates at all, or has a clue across the country ÷ and even locally here ÷ what kind of job he did, what kind of man he is, what kind of coach he is (and) what kind of person he is," Livengood said of Hankwitz Friday afternoon.

Despite his 1-6 record at the Wildcat helm, Hankwitz believed the team improved under his guidance.

"I felt like we worked hard to establish a discipline on and off the field," he said on Friday. "We became a little more palatable. We tried to do things the right way. We didn't make the strides we wanted to from a football standpoint, but I think we were headed in that direction."

"We coached hard. We continued to teach. We continued to try to mold young men and tried to do it the right way, teaching the right things, establish discipline and try to help them see what it means to do well in the future," Hankwitz added.

Livengood had nothing but acclaim for the man whom he thrust into the head coaching spotlight for the first time in his career following the firing of head coach John Mackovic on Sept. 28.

"I'm not sure that there could have been a whole lot of people that could have done that," Livengood said. "There are not enough good things and good ways to talk about Hank."

With ESPN reporting that Stoops will call upon his brother, University of Miami defensive backs coach Mark Stoops, to be Arizona's next defensive coordinator, Hankwitz will likely be looking for work elsewhere next year.

"Mike is a dear friend of mine, a guy that I competed with for a number of years in the Big 12 Conference," said Stoops during Saturday's announcement. "He stands for everything that's right in college football."

Though Livengood said the committee had made the decision to hire Stoops Wednesday, he said it was best to withhold the announcement until the season was over.

"I think in terms of our players and our coaches, I think that was very important," Livengood said.

"Obviously the focus was on the game and I think they wanted it to be that way," Hankwitz agreed.

Referring to the past week as simply "the longest week," the 34-year coaching veteran was notably pessimistic about his future prospects following Friday's defeat.


When asked if he had a feeling about whether or not he would keep his job, Hankwitz half-jokingly replied, "Yeah, I have a bad feeling after losing this game."

Following the loss, freshman quarterback Kris Heavner hoped Hankwitz would remain in Arizona's football program in 2004.

"I love him. He's a great guy." He said. "He's got a lot of moral values and it's great."

"He helped us get going back in the right direction this year when he got put in a bad situation," Heavner added after Saturday's announcement.

Freshman defensive tackle Clifton Stanford said he wanted Hankwitz to remain with Arizona in some capacity, but said the team would be better next season ÷ with or without him.

"Our players are good enough to step up next year," Stanford said. "We'll be ready."

Livengood said he wouldn't mind having Hankwitz remain with the program, but said the decision would ultimately be up to Stoops.

"It certainly would not displease me to have Mike (Hankwitz) on the staff next year," he said. "But I don't want to box Mike (Stoops) in in any way by saying something there."

UA President Peter Likins agreed.

"I've got to leave that up to Mike Stoops," Likins said. "Mike (Stoops) has a pattern of working himself as a co-defensive coordinator, and the press has indicated the possibility that his brother (Miami Hurricanes' defensive backs coach Mark Stoops) would join him as a co-defensive coordinator. But that's got to be the head coach's decision."

Regardless, Likins made no secret of his admiration for the man who had never been at the helm of a football program until Sept. 29.

"I have a lot of respect for Mike Hankwitz. He's a very substantial man," Likins said. "Who knows what the future holds? I sure wish him success in whatever opportunities he has."

Hankwitz said he will leave the head-coaching reins behind with his head held high.

"I think we left (the team) better than we found it," he said. "That's all I can say."

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