The wait is over, time to start anew. Vic Lombardi of Channel 4 news has announced that Dan Hawkins will no longer be the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes. According to Channel 7 news, linebackers coach Brian Cabral will be the interim head coach. Hawkins, once one of the hottest coaching candidates out of Boise State, will leave Boulder with a dismal record and a tenure that will go down in Colorado history as one of the worst ever.
Hawkins went 19-39 as the Colorado head coach without a winning season in his five years at the University. Equally dissapointing was Hawk's Big 12 conference play record going 10-27 since arriving in Boulder. He will be remembered for many things none of which center around winning football games. When he arrived on campus, he was energetic, engaging and had the ability to make you believe he was going to turn things around. Five years later, the coach changed. The fire was gone, the energy a distant memory and when he talked, he failed to make the fans believe he was the right man for the job.
So much to say, so much to reflect on over the past five years. It's sad in a way looking back on five years with little progress to show for.
It was an extremely challenging ride for the fans, for the alumni and for former players who made it well known Hawkins was not in their favor.
As stated above, the Hawkins era began with excitement. He had success as the head coach of the Broncos, going 53 - 11 with two bowl wins. The first spring game under Hawkins saw him take the microphone and get the fans ready for a new era called "Hawk Love." But we learned early under Dan Hawkins that talk is cheap. The first game of his tenure was arguably the worst loss in Colorado football history as FCS school Montana State came into Boulder and beat the Buffs 19-10. CU went on to finish 2-10 under Dan Hawkins in his first year. Most knew going in that 2006 was going to be a struggle after the scandal under Gary Barnett. Fans realized that they had to be patient.
The second year under Dan Hawkins was probably the highlight of his stint at CU. Colorado was able to upset #3 Oklahoma, beat Nebraska and advance to a bowl game against Alabama. Five star RB recruit Darrell Scott committed to Colorado in the offseason headlining a solid recruiting class on paper.
But it was all downhill after that. Ironically, the 2007 season, Hawkins second in Boulder, was the last time the Buffs won on the road losing 17 straight away from Folsom Field. Hawkins was 2-23 on the road overall.
In 2008, after going 3-2 (11-19 in his career at Colorado), Mike Bohn and the University athletic department made a fatal move, extending Dan Hawkins' contract two years from 2010 to 2012. If Hawkins had not been extended in 2008, making a move prior to the end of the 2010-2011 season would have been financially tolerable but with the extension, Dan Hawkins returned for a fifth season as CU head coach.
After being awarded with two additional years, Hawkins and company finished the remaining seven games with only two wins and five defeats, missing post season play.
Hawkins' fourth year was the beginning of the end. Embarrassing opening losses to Colorado State and Toledo put the embattled coach squarely on the hot seat. After the Buffs went 2-6, the gem of Hawkins' recruiting classes, Darrell Scott, decided to leave the program without notice, without a call to the coaching staff. Colorado would go on to win three games in 2009, a final straw in what many thought would be the end of the Dan Hawkins' era. All signs pointed to Hawkins being fired but in what seemed like a last minute change of heart, he was retained. Regardless of what rumor you believe either Colorado's inability to explain a $3 million buyout to the admininstration, whether the University couldn't afford the payout or if Hawk convinced chancellor DiStefano to bring him back for one more year while Mike Bohn was in Hawaii, the fifth year turned into be just as big of a disaster as the previous seasons.
With the exciting move to the Pac-10 occurring in 2011, the Buffs introduced themselves to the west coast with a 52-7 loss to the Cal Bears. Colorado was able to rattle off a couple of solid wins against Hawaii and Georgia but five straight losses in conference play capped off by an embarrassing 35 comeback loss to a two win Kansas team all but sent the fan base over the edge. It was over before that day in Lawrence but that day was the cherry on top, the epitome of the Dan Hawkins era that saw underperformance and a lack of accountability.
Looking back over it all, you just have to shake your head. The easy way to describe it is nothing got better, nothing ever seemed to improve and the same things we were talking about three years ago, we are still talking about today.
The easy part is done, getting rid of a coaching staff that has underperformed greatly over the past five years. The hard part is still ahead. Finding a head coach and just as important, a group of effective assistant coaches and recruiters is now priority number one. If the Buffs want to return to relevance, the athletic department and donors will have to make an investment beyond what was made when they brought Dan Hawkins in.
Former CU running back and current Minnesota Vikings running backs coach Eric Bieniemy and former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney have been rumored as potential candidates to take over for Hawkins, possibly coming back to Boulder together to restore pride in the football program.
Other names floating around include Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and LSU coach Les Miles although it looks unlikely that LSU would part with Miles after last weekend's win over Alabama.