May 3, 2011

Q-and-A: Former Colorado coach Dan Hawkins

Dan Hawkins exudes good vibrations. Always has and always will. It's in his DNA. That's why "Hawk" still is flying high even after losing his job as Colorado coach after five seasons.

"You have to stay upbeat," he says. "You have to be positive."

Not long ago, Hawkins' coaching future was one of the brightest in the nation. He forged a 53-11 record at Boise State from 2001-05, going 37-3 in WAC play, with four bowl bids and four conference championships. Then, it was off to coach Colorado.

But he never got the Buffaloes off the ground. Hawkins went 19-39 in five seasons in Boulder, including a 10-27 mark in the Big 12. His best season was 2007, when the Buffs went 6-7 overall, 4-4 in the Big 12 and earned their lone bowl bid under Hawkins.

His Colorado career likely will be remembered for three things: a stunning win over No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007; his famous "Go play intramurals, brother" rant earlier that year; and the biggest collapse in school history, when the Buffs blew a 28-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 52-45 loss to Kansas last season. Three days after that meltdown, Hawkins was fired.

Hawkins, 50, spoke at length for the first time since getting fired after last season to Rivals.com, touching on topics ranging from his coaching future to if he regrets having his son play for him at Colorado.

Did you get a fair shot at Colorado?

"I learned a lot. It was a great adventure. I always am a 'get out of your comfort zone' guy. I learned a lot. I did. A bunch."

Are the resources in place for Colorado to be successful?

"When you are the head guy, it's no excuses. You either get it done or you don't. All the other particulars don't matter. I grew a lot and learned a lot. The interesting thing is I'm probably a way better coach now. I probably know more and am more organized and more convinced about what should be done now more than ever. But when you get fired for not winning enough games, sometimes people think you don't know anything.

"I had a discussion with Pete Carroll about this. After he went through the New York Jet deal and the New England Patriot deal and got hired at USC, I think he was more convinced than ever about what needed to happen. But sometimes in our society, we don't view failure as that type of a learning operation."

Do you have any regrets or things you'd do differently at Colorado?

"There is a whole variety of things. I am not trying to escape the question. It's a whole bunch of little things. Would I do a bunch of things different? Sure I would. Hindsight is always crystal clear. But going through it as we went through it, I think we made the best decisions possible given the circumstances at hand. You have to go with that. There are many things you learn from where you go, 'Yeah, I probably could have handled that better. I probably could have changed that, I probably could have fixed that, I probably could have fixed this.' "

'What's interesting is it was extremely tough on him, but I think that it also did a lot for him. It probably was his first real bout with adversity, and he handled it like a champ.'
- Dan Hawkins, on his son Cody
If you had to do it again, would you still have your son play for you?

"What's interesting is it was extremely tough on him, but I think that it also did a lot for him. It probably was his first real bout with adversity, and he handled it like a champ. ... [Having him play for me ] -- because it's such an easy mark, it becomes a lightning rod. Maybe that is one more lightning rod than you want to have. But I look back at where we were at quarterback and what we needed to do ... "

Do you know new Colorado coach Jon Embree?

"I have talked to him a couple times, but I don't really know him."

What would you tell him about the job?

"It wouldn't be one thing; it would be multiple things. It's a complex puzzle. People try to boil it down to simple elements. And maybe when you get down to the end of it, you could. But he'll do a great job. He's a former Buff and he has the former Buffs fired up. He'll galvanize that passion ... and get those guys going. I have confidence. And I hope he does. There are a lot of great people at Colorado and a lot of great kids on that team. I hope they do well. I really do."

Is Colorado a better fit in Pac-12 than the Big 12?

"I think academically they are more in line with some of those institutions in the Pac-12. Colorado is a good school. It doesn't have General Ed or that kind of major. They all are legitimate majors, so you need legitimate students to go there. And if you look at the money being spent in the Big 12, they probably are more in line with the Pac-12. And the alumni base is so huge out west, particularly California. There are a ton of out-of-state students at Colorado. The further east they go, they lose that. I think it is a better fit than the Big 12."

Can the Big 12 survive as a 10-team league with Texas having its own TV network?

"[Big 12 commissioner] Dan [Beebe] put together that TV deal that certainly will help. While Texas will garner a lion's share of the TV revenue with their own network, if those other schools can at least get a decent pot to at least hang in the ballgame, it will help and they will be OK.

"I think Missouri is a viable place. Bill Snyder has learned to compete without the best resources [at Kansas State]. And even though Kansas has dropped off, they still have invested a lot into their facilities."

Where you surprised Texas went 5-7 last season?

"I know people are up in arms: 'How does that happen?' I don't think people truly grasp how hard this winning thing is. You get a bit of crumbling and you have people lobbing rocks at the tower. I'm sure they were under pressure, and that makes it harder to get back on your feet.

"Everybody wants the coach and team to be perfect. It won't happen. There will be some down years ... that's part of it. Will you be allowed to learn and develop from that? Mack [Brown] made some big changes. People say, 'You are getting all that money, that shouldn't happen.' Well, show me a place where it doesn't."

Since you left Boise State, the program has continued to roll and get better. Are you surprised?

"No, not at all. I talk to Chris Petersen a lot. 'Pete' and his posse are awesome. There are some great, great people and coaches there. He has done a terrific job and was a big part of the reason why we won when I was there [Petersen was Hawkins' offensive coordinator]. You have a place and look at its history -- they won a national title as junior college, one as a Division II school and one as an I-AA school. The area, town and school always are very supportive of football.

"They have a philosophy and way of dealing with kids and practice and work and all of it. They're just rock-solid and firm. And Boise has continued to invest in their program. Almost every year, something has been added, whether it's the football offices, locker room, weight room, indoor facility -- they continue to invest in the program and retain quality coaches. They have the formula figured out."

Why is Petersen still there?

"I think he has the big picture in mind. It's not just football. He's very cognizant of his family. I think he has the big picture in mind. All he wants to do is win and be around people supportive of winning. That doesn't necessarily mean he has to make more money or be in a different conference.

"Where 'Pete' and I were a little bit different was 'Pete' coached [as an assistant] at Pitt and Oregon, so the allure of a bigger place isn't there for him. But I hadn't done that, so it was different for me. Coming to Colorado for me was a lot of things. It was a geographic change, a different conference, a different level and a whole new learning experience and ball of wax. 'Pete' has gone through that a bit. That doesn't hold any mystery or intrigue for him."

What's your next move?

"I have been working these Nike combines. I have been to a lot of spring practices -- Oregon, Oregon State, BYU, TCU, Missouri, Air Force, Colorado State, Colorado School of Mines and Rutgers.

"We are headed to Stockholm, Sweden, for a month to see Cody [Hawkins] play. Semi-pro is probably an accurate term. In his league. they can have one import, and he is it.

"I also am cracking open the early stages of working on a Ph.D. in psychology. I haven't gotten it finalized, but I'm sure I'll be doing something with ESPN this fall. I haven't signed that contract; we are talking about what it will look like."

Do you think you'll coach again?

A. "Yes, I'll get back in it. I had an opportunity on a couple of things this offseason, but I was kind of picky. [Hawkins reportedly was a finalist for the Texas State job that went to Dennis Franchione.] I love working with the kids; the competitiveness and intensity of it is fun. Just being able to make a difference.

"I don't have to be a head coach. I spent a lot of time doing it. I can be a coordinator or position coach. To me, it's about the people and who you are with and what their values are. It's not so much, 'Are you the head guy, the quarterback coach or whatever?' "

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.




 

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