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Arizona Gets Noted Defensive Coordinator
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/04/2003
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 4, 2003

TUCSON - Mike Hankwitz, a defensive coordinator for two decades at five different institutions and a former Arizona assistant and colleague of UA head coach John Mackovic, has been hired to become the Wildcats' defensive coordinator.

Hankwitz, a 33-year veteran of college coaching, was defensive coordinator at Texas A&M the past six years, coaching inside or outside linebackers. For two seasons prior to that he was coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Kansas in 1995-96, and served as coordinator at Colorado from 1988 to 1994 while coaching outside linebackers, defensive backs, special teams and the punt team.

He also served as defensive coordinator for three years at Western Michigan from 1982-84, working directly with the secondary and punt team. He was hired to be Minnesota's defensive coordinator in January 1997 before joining R.C. Slocum's staff at A&M a month later.

Hankwitz, 55, coached defensive ends for one season and defensive backs for three years at Arizona while Mackovic was offensive coordinator under Jim Young from 1973-76, and was defensive coordinator his final season. Both Hankwitz and Mackovic joined Young's staff at Purdue the following year, where Hankwitz stayed for five seasons from 1977-81 as outside linebackers and punters coach.

"Mike Hankwitz has a long and established career as a defensive coach, and he has excelled at every stop along the way," Mackovic said. "We are fortunate that someone of his caliber is joining us at this time. He will bring great enthusiasm and a plan for success. I am confident of his abilities and expect that he will have a tremendous impact on our players.

"Since we are moving away from the double-eagle flex defense, I felt it was vitally important that someone with a proven system in place be here to coordinator our defense," Mackovic added. The Aggies ran predominantly a 3-4 defense in recent years.

As architect of A&M's "wrecking crew," Hankwitz led the Aggies to Top 10 ratings in total defense, passing or scoring defense in 1998, 2000 and 2001. He coached Lombardi Award and Bednarik Award winner Dat Nguyen at A&M in 1998, and coached three major national award winners at Colorado - Jim Thorpe Award winners Deon Figures (1992) and Chris Hudson (1994), and Butkus Award winner Alfred Williams (1990). He has coached nearly 20 players who later became National Football League professionals, including five punters.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to join John's staff at Arizona. He's a proven winner. The program is ready to take off, and having been part of that kind of development before, it's a very exciting prospect to go through it again at Arizona," Hankwitz said.

Hankwitz said the Aggies ran 3-4 and 4-3 style defenses of late and that Arizona's scheme is subject to analysis. "We'll evaluate our personnel, and then install whatever system we need in order to give us the best chance to win football games," he said.

A noted special teams coach, seven of his punt teams ranked in the nation's Top 10 during his 10 years at Colorado. The Buffaloes had the sixth-best record in the nation from 1988-94. Overall, as a defensive coordinator the programs he's worked with have posted a record of 147-63-6 during his tenure.

Hankwitz has been a part of 17 teams ranked in the final Top 20, and 19 bowl teams including the 1990 Colorado national championship, three Big Eight championship teams, two Big Ten championship teams, two Big 12 South title winners and one Big 12 championship club. The 1982 Western Michigan team ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 78 points in 11 games.

Hankwitz began his coaching career at a graduate assistant in 1970 at Michigan and served as junior varsity defensive coordinator in 1971-72 before joining Young's staff at Arizona.

A three-year letterman at Michigan as a linebacker and tight end, Hankwitz earned his bachelor's degree in education there in 1970. He played on the 1969 squad coached by Bo Schembechler that won the Big 10 title and played in the Rose Bowl. A native of Ludington, Mich., he was a 13-letter prep star in football and basketball at Mason County High School in Scottville, earning All-State honors in each sport.

Hankwitz and his wife, the former Cathy Leeds, have one son, Jacob, 9.

Mackovic said today that spring practice, originally scheduled to begin Saturday, March 8, is likely to be pushed back until after the University's annual Spring Break recess March 15-23. UA was to hold four practices prior to the break.

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