What Is The Significance Of A College Coach's Fourth Year?
In major college sports, a fundamental axiom of coaching success is that a coach is best measured in his fourth year. During that year, a successful coach is still riding a wave of enthusiasm over his "newness" and a failure of a coach can no longer blame a previous regime's players since he has 4 year's worth of his own players. In fact, former Colorado basketball coach told a booster group, "If we aren't winning in our fourth year, there is no one to blame but Jeff Bzdelik." Sure enough, Bzdelik headed to Wake Forest following his third year in Boulder.
But back to Hawkins and his fourth season at Colorado. Clearly an on-field failure, it was time for Hawkins to be fired. However, with a cash-strapped athletic program facing a nationwide financial recession, Chancellor Phil DiStefano, it is believed, overruled Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bohn, who had made the decision to fire Hawkins and enter 2010 with a new coach. Some people close to the program even believe that Bohn actually TOLD Hawkins he would be fired, but the always-charismatic Hawkins made his case to Bohn's boss DiStefano, and Bohn was overruled. It was likely during this period where Hawkins thought he was being fired that he made the unfortunate "burned to the ground" comments.
What Do Hawkins's Comments Say About His Character?
From Hawkins's first days on campus in Boulder in 2006, those who knew him least liked him most. He brought enthusiasm, a sunny attitude, a Boulder-friendly "Zen" approach to coaching, and a commanding 54-11 record from his previous stop, Boise State. Fans, the media, Boulder locals, boosters... they all showed what came to be knows as "Hawk Love." But for those closest to Hawkins, "Hawk Love" faded and "Hawk Hate" prevailed before Hawkins had even coached a game. Off the record, even those boosters closest to the program said that Hawkins was arrogant, shirked alumni relations duties, was aloof during meetings with potential boosters, and even spent an entire in-home "get to know you" session with prominent donors on his cell phone. "A true asshole" was how one person close to the program described Hawkins... before he had even coached a game.
As the losing seasons mounted, Hawk Love dissipated even in those not-so-close to the program. Attendance at Hawkins booster events dwindled as tension as those events grew. Rather than make nice with boosters, Hawkins chose public venues to argue with and criticize those people who wanted nothing more than to see the same thing Hawkins supposedly wanted... to see the University of Colorado football team win. Late in the 2008 season, Hawkins's third at CU (and third losing season), Hawkins responded to online critics - often the most passionate, vocal, and knowledgeable segment of a fan base - by painting them all as "internet scum."
And as his 4th season became yet another failure, Hawkins resorted again, as is his wont, to cheap shots lobbed from the balcony when he made the now-infamous "burned to the ground" comment. People close to the situation believe that Chancellor Phil DiStefano, immediately before Colorado predictably lost its final 2009 game to Nebraska, was wowed by Hawkins's charisma, enthusiasm, and unfortunately Hawkins's most prominent characteristic, his excuse-making. There is even a belief in some quarters that Hawkins presented to DiStefano an elaborate PowerPoint presentation to lobby for a fifth year, a presentation allegedly seen in other venues by other folks who say it includes myriad excuses for Hawkins's failure, including the previous regime, the bad luck of close losses, the loss of key players due to injuries, and even a rationale of how firing Hawkins could financially sting the CU Athletic Department. Of course, no mention of on-field success was made by Hawkins. And he got his fifth year.
What The Fifth Year Means For Dan Hawkins
Hawkins's fifth year at Colorado has been, predictably, more of the same. Embarrassing home losses, a complete failure on the road, 5 straight conference losses, and the biggest blown lead in school history in a loss at inept Kansas. But his record isn't what will stick with Hawkins - everyone already knew he was a failure as a major college coach. His off-field performance IS what will stick with Hawkins as he attempts to seek work in the future.
Here's how Dan Hawkins failed OFF the field, and why no reputable athletic director will ever hire him again:
1. Refusal to Take Responsibility - rather than own up to his failings and be classy about his exit from CU, Hawkins chose to blame the past by saying the program was "burned to the ground". Hawkins will probably continue to blame everyone other than himself for his obvious failure as a football coach at CU. Conversely, if the next guy is successful at CU, expect to see Hawkins claim that he laid a great foundation...
2. Lack of Respect - Hawkins has repeatedly shown a lack of respect for boosters and fans, as discussed above. Further, Hawkins has showed the media extreme disrespect by acting like a boor on Big XII conference calls, and in his shameless, curt dismissal of CU Announcer Mark Johnson during a postgame interview at Kansas.
3. Lack of Perspective - Hawkins, in the face of everything obvious, continue to believe that his team is "close" to achievement, and claims illogically that success was only "a few plays away". In reality, even Hawkins's 3-9 2009 team, the key fourth year team, was 2 plays away from a dismal 1-win season, although Hawkins never admits that, instead claiming insanely that his team was "10 plays away" from a bowl.
4. Lack of Class - Hawkins, an obvious failure, has not only failed to resign and set an example for his players and for young fans of the program, he has demonstrated that he is willing to do ONLY what he is contractually obligated to do to retain his bloated salary. Curt, actually rude, contractually obligated media appearances have become the norm as a small, selfish man does the bare minimum to get paid. And recruting? Forget it... Hawkins has done almost nothing, truly leaving the talent cupboard for the poor soul who replaces him in 2011.
Remember, athletic directors are a fraternity...
Do You Think Anyone Will EVER Hire Dan Hawkins Again?
Probably Not... and It's Because He Got A Fifth Year at Colorado