Steamboat Springs If nothing else, former Steamboat Springs High School football stars Austin Hinder and Alex Wood have added a keen sense of business to their respective college academic work.
Hinder just completed his redshirt sophomore season at the University of California, and Wood finished his redshirt junior season at the University of Colorado. When the two take the football field for spring practices in 2013, each will be working with a new head football coach.
California fired Jeff Tedford and Colorado fired Jon Embree at the conclusion of each school's 2012 seasons. At Cal, Tedford extended a scholarship offer to Hinder out of high school while Embree gave Wood, a walk-on player for three years, his first scholarship this past year.
“It’s part of the business. That’s just how it is,” Hinder said about Tedford's firing. “My grandfather coached in the league for 50 years. Something that he told me was you have to win. It was sad to see the man that gave me a scholarship go, but that’s the way it was.”
Said Wood: “What I’ve learned is college football is big business and all that matters is winning,” he said. “When you’re in a major college conference and you’re losing, chances are your coach is going to get fired.”
Cal finished the season 3-9, while Colorado was an abysmal 1-11. The buyout for the Bears reportedly was $6.9 million, while Colorado was on the hook to Embree for $1.5 million.
Regardless, the firings and subsequent hirings of Sonny Dykes at Cal and Mike MacIntyre at Colorado also present new beginnings.
Wood, who saw his first significant action this year at fullback, finished the season with seven catches for 103 yards.
He said that in a team meeting with McIntyre, the new coach described his pistol offense and mentioned the use of a fullback.
Wood, who will graduate in May with a communications degree, had the option of graduating and transferring to another school without having to sit out a season. But two days after Embree’s firing, Wood said he knew he would stay.
“I realized I wanted to come to this school, and even if I didn’t play, I’d have come to school here,” he said.
The hardest part, he said, was seeing Colorado offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy leave. The two had formed a tight relationship, and Wood said Bieniemy was one of the main reasons Wood earned a scholarship.
“As soon as it happened, I called him and thanked him,” Wood said.
Hinder was in a different spot. The 2009-10 Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year won the third-string quarterback spot out of camp this year. He didn’t see any playing time during the season but was the backup for Cal’s last three games.
Hinder thinks he has an opportunity to play under Dykes. The former Louisiana Tech coach runs an uptempo spread offense, similar to what Hinder ran in high school.
Hinder will battle Alan Bridgford, who started the last three games of the season for the Bears, and highly regarded freshman Zach Kline for the starting job.
After taking two-plus years to finally learn Tedford’s complex offense, Hinder said he’s excited to go back and learn Dykes' offense.
“I’m right back to how excited I was when I was a freshman,” Hinder said. “It’s a new offense and new coaching staff. It’s going to be a competition between all of us.”
Although the change was something new for Hinder, Wood is well versed in it. He walked on at Colorado under then-coach Dan Hawkins.
When he steps on the field next fall, he’ll be playing for his third head coach in five years.
“I’ve seen it all,” Wood said. “I’ve seen a lot of different philosophies on how to play football. The toughest thing was before (Embree) got here most of the coaches didn’t know my name. He helped me achieve most of my dreams and goals in college.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com