September 29, 2009

Q&A with Colorado coach Dan Hawkins

Colorado is off to a rough start, falling to Colorado State and Toledo before rebounding to beat Wyoming on Sept. 19.

The Buffs were off last week and play at West Virginia on Thursday.

Coach Dan Hawkins talked with senior writer Tom Dienhart about the team's slow start, his "guarantee" of a 10-win season, how he handles his son/quarterback and other topics in this week's Q&A.

Is there one reason you can pinpoint as to why the season has started so roughly?

"We just started a little slow. We got behind in both games and had to alter a few things that way, so I think we faced a couple of momentum-changers. I think that was a lot of it. I think we answered in the second half against Colorado State. But in both cases, we just got gashed for some big plays. It was a scoreboard factor and an emotional factor."

Do you regret making that comment about "10 wins, no excuses"?

"The thing is, I never made that statement. Somebody put something on the Internet and everybody runs with it. When I talked about the expectation of excellence, what I talked about was the expectation of winning 10 games. But what came out was I guaranteed it and promised it. I didn't say '10 wins, no excuses.' But why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

"But what I was talking about was having that expectation of excellence, having that expectation. I just don't know how you go out and just be mediocre. I don't know how to do that. I would say this - that since the day I came here, they said, 'How long do you think it will take [to win]?' I said, 'Hey, I would be disappointed if we aren't back in the thick of it next year.' I would be. I'm just not a guy who believes in low standards and low expectations. I never have been that way, ever."

Did you get a sense of relief when you beat Wyoming?

"I don't know if it was so much that. I liked the way our defense played, and we got our running game going. We didn't have to play from behind."

Do have anyone you have been talking to as a way of coping with the tough start?

"Not really. I just try to hunker down and keep working. We have a lot of people who are very supportive. They know, and they've been through it. You hang in there. It's not so much where I am calling people and asking, 'What do I do?' Because you know what to do."

Are you aware of any of negativity surrounding the team's slow start?

"You know that stuff goes on out there. I don't read the paper, I don't get on the Internet and I don't really have an email address. But you know there is some of that stuff on the periphery. And that's part of it. But you aren't living in it, that's for sure."

Is everything in place for success at Colorado?

"This place has a tremendous amount of potential, and it went through a tremendous cultural situation [since the end of the Gary Barnett era] that probably very few programs in the country ever have gone through. And I think every day there are new pieces put in place and growing. I am going on my fourth year here, and I'll bet I have been around here in the athletic department probably longer than 75 percent of the people."

There has been that much turnover in the department?

"Yes. Every aspect that you talk about needs to be built or rebuilt [since the previous regime], and I think our administration is doing a good job. I think [athletic director] Mike [Bohn] is doing a good job. We just have to keep plugging. You just have to keep trying to improve, no matter what it is your practice situation, your weight room, your alumni relations, facilities, whatever it is. When you go through what this place went through the best part of any organization is its heart and soul. When that is ripped out, there is no facility that can replace that."

How tough is it when your son, Cody, struggles at quarterback?

"He's probably the only guy who can really answer that. I think he handles it pretty good. He has a pretty good perspective on life and football, and understands. He knows when he doesn't play well, and he knows when he plays well and still takes criticism. He has a pretty level head on his shoulders."

Because he's your son, do you think you stay with him too long when he's struggling?

"I don't look at it like that. I always talk about handling the quarterbacks - it doesn't matter who the guy is, in the NFL or Pop Warner - that's a unique position. And I think the last thing any quarterback needs is somebody who isn't supportive. He needs someone who will be supportive. I was the same way with Bernard [Jackson] in '06. That doesn't mean you sit down with guys and talk about throws and reads and plays. But that guy better be your guy until he is not your guy and you go with somebody else. Look at in the NFL, when they just even talk about bringing someone else in, what it does to a quarterback's confidence. All of a sudden, he goes, 'Holy smokes.' "

Is there any aspect of team that hasn't developed like you thought?

"I don't think that's the case. We know that we are trying to grow up at d-line and wide receiver. We knew that coming in."

Has the offense been impacted by the loss of coordinator Mark Helfrich to Oregon?

"Not at all. Mark is a good coach and a smart guy and all that. But the way we game plan and do things is more of a shared deal than one guy necessarily. It's the same terminology, same formations, all that stuff. It's not really a big change there."

Do you think Colorado's non-conference schedules have been too difficult? In 2006, you played Arizona State and Georgia. In 2007, CU played Florida State and Arizona State. Last season, you played West Virginia and Florida State.

"I don't know about that. We just play it like it's dealt, you know? It is what it is, so you deal with it and play it."

Can you win the Big 12 North?

"Yes, totally. Totally. Teams get hot. Teams get cold. You have some injuries. There are a lot of things that can go on."

Will you be Colorado's coach in 2010?

"Yep. I try to keep my feet on the ground and keep plugging."

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for He can be reached at

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