Hawkins gets another year despite 4 losing seasons
BOULDER, Colo. (AP)What does University of Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn have to say to doubters and detractors who contend he's sticking with football coach Dan Hawkins only because he couldn't come up with the $3.1 million buyout and the millions more it would take to replace him?
Twelve seconds of silence.
"Yeah," Bohn responds when asked if he's still there. "I'm thinking about what I want to say."
Another 18 seconds of silence.
"Our financial, uh ... Can you ask me the question again so I can get a little excited? I slept in my clothes last night. I'm a little slow," asks Bohn, who flew back into Denver early Thursday after accompanying the men's basketball team to the Maui Invitational in Hawaii.
So, what does he have to say to those critics who will insist that money and not merit guided his decision to keep a coach who is 16-32 with a 2-20 road record and a 10-21 mark in the Big 12?
"Well, money is always a consideration in big-time college football," Bohn said. "It wasn't THE determining factor. The bottom line was Dan Hawkins is the right coach for CU at this time."
Hawkins has cleaned up a program tarnished by scandal under Gary Barnett, but he's been unable to find success on the field and has endured four straight losing seasons, which usually lead to moving trucks, not reiterations of support.
The Buffaloes (3-8, 2-5) wrap up their season Friday against Big 12 North champion Nebraska (8-3, 5-2) at Folsom Field in a game that many thought would be Hawkins' farewell.
Chancellor Philip DiStefano and Bohn informed the team after its walkthrough on Thanksgiving Day of their coach's status to quell doubts about his future.
"It was really important for me to look these kids in the eye and Dan in the eye rather than being out in Maui" and doing it by phone, Bohn said.
DiStefano said he supports Bohn's decision to honor Hawkins' contract, which runs through 2012.
"Dan represents the university's values on and off the field, and his team has been competitive this year," DiStefano said. "He has done all that we have asked him to do, and although we all desire more victories, we also recognize starting over with a new coach right now takes us away from, not closer to, our goals for CU football."
Of the Buffs' eight losses this season, three have been by a touchdown or less and two others, at West Virginia and Texas, were competitive before fourth-quarter flameouts.
Hawkins signed a five-year contract in 2006 after leaving Boise State, where he was 53-11, and was given an extension 13 months ago before injuries unraveled the Buffs, who finished 5-7 last year.
Hawkins declared "10 wins, no excuses" as his mantra for this season, but the Buffs quickly rendered that goal laughable, leading to widespread dissatisfaction with Hawkins, who became increasingly defensive.
Bohn asked that Buffs supporters now rally around the program and its players, if not Hawkins.
"The program is bigger than any one individual and the institution is bigger than any member of the leadership team or anybody associated with this outstanding university," Bohn said. "And I recognize that there's a schism among the fan base. We're going to work hard to close that."
Bohn said he expects some backlash.
"I'm certainly aware that people on both sides of this issue are passionate," he said. "And that's why I believe one of my biggest challenges will be trying to collectively put that passion together because when we are unified, Folsom Field and our football program can compete with anybody in the nation."
Hawkins will almost certainly have to have a winning season next year to keep his boss's trust and his job.
"Clearly, I believe the longer a coach or anyone is associated with a program that the scoreboard ultimately becomes an important barometer," Bohn said.
Hawkins had more votes of confidence than wins this season, but as the losses piled up, more and more calls came for his ouster, and the din heightened when blue chipper Darrell Scott bolted the Buffs at midseason.
Hawkins acknowledged this week that he regretted recruiting his son, Cody, to Boulder to be his quarterback because his kid unfairly became a lightning rod for critics before his benching at midseason.
Some students took to wearing powder blue to games this season instead of gold and black to protest the program's slide into mediocrity. It was the color the team wore from 1981-84 when they went 10-34 overall during one of the worst stretches in school history.
That stretch is now rivaled by Hawkins era, and the question now is about the color green: Will alumni and boosters open up their wallets with Hawkins given a fifth season instead of a pink slip?