Dan Hawkins was named the 23rd head football coach in University of Colorado history on December 16, 2005, officially taking over the reins of the program on New Year’s Day 2006.
He has completed three seasons at Colorado with a 13-24 record, his eighth season as a head coach on the Division I-A level with a 66-35 mark. He is the 12th active winningest head coach with an overall career mark of 105-47-1 (69.0 winning percentage) mark for those coaches with at least 100 games under their belts.
Hawkins, 48, came to Colorado from Boise State, where he compiled a 53-11 record in five seasons as head coach. That included three 11-plus win seasons, and 31-game winning streaks in both Western Athletic Conference play as well as at home on Boise State’s famous blue artificial turf field. His teams won or shared four WAC titles, including three outright under his direction.
In the modern history of Division I-A football, only Bob Pruett (Marshall, 58-9), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma, 55-11) and Pete Carroll (Southern California, 54-10) won more games in their first five seasons than Hawkins’ 53 at Boise State (a number also matched by Miami’s Larry Coker).
“Coach Hawkins represents a level of competitive spirit, integrity, work ethic and passion that will serve this institution, football program and entire athletic department well for many years to come,” CU athletic director Mike Bohn said at the press conference announcement of Hawkins’ hiring. “This is an exciting time at the University of Colorado and he is the perfect fit for what we were looking for.”
In his first year at Colorado, the Buffaloes posted a 2-10 record, his first losing season as a head coach. Offensive struggles were the biggest contributor to the mark, as CU finished 102nd nationally averaging just 291.4 yards per game. Defensively, CU fared a bit better, allowing 340.9 yards per game and ranked 66th overall, though were stingy against the run, as opponents averaged just 112.4 per outing (30th nationally). And there were other positives, most notably the fact that his Buffaloes were in every game, fighting until the end despite being outmanned at several positions. Evidence of that was the fact that CU was plus-8 in turnover margin, a rarity for a team eight games under .500. CU played turnover-free in a school record four games on the season, and cut its penalties nearly in half from the previous year.
His second CU team improved by three-and-a-half games to a 6-7 mark, and earned him his first bowl invitation as the Buffalo coach, against Alabama in the Independence Bowl. Still in a rebuilding mode as evidenced by 29 lettermen who were underclassmen (including 16 freshmen, seven true), and battling depth problems and injuries at key positions like linebacker, the secondary and the offensive line, the Buffs made a lot of progress. CU opened the year with a thrilling 31-28 win over Colorado State in Denver in overtime, and along the way knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma, 27-24, and secured a tough road win at Texas Tech, the 31-26 win the Red Raiders’ lone home loss of the year. Colorado ended the regular season with a resounding 65-51 win over Nebraska, and top player honors included Jordon Dizon being named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a Butkus Award finalist. It marked just the fifth time in school history that CU defeated both NU and OU in the same season. Alabama got the best of the Buffs in the bowl game, however, 30-24.
The win over the No. 3 Sooners made him the fifth coach in CU history to lead the Buffs to a win over a top three ranked opponent, but just the second to accomplish the feat in his first two years as coach.
In his third season, the Buffaloes went 5-7, and considering the team battled over 120 games lost to injury by players in the two-deep, were a 57-yard made field goal by Nebraska away from qualifying for a second straight bowl games. CU defeated No. 21 West Virginia, 17-14, in overtime at Folsom Field, the signature win of the season, which opened with a decisive 38-17 win over Colorado State, the largest margin of victory in the series since a 41-14 CU win in 2001. The Buffs were 2-6 in the Big 12, with wins over Kansas State and Iowa State; in the former, a 14-13 win, CU’s defensive held on to that 1-point lead for almost the entire second half, the longest the Buffs had to hold off an opponent with a 1- or 2-point lead since 1936. In the finale at Nebraska, the Buffs led most of the game and were ahead 31-30 with 1:43 remaining when the Huskers made their school record field goal to end CU’s season.
His overall record includes a 39-12-1 mark in five seasons as the head coach of Willamette University (Salem, Ore.), where he won or shared three conference titles between 1993 and 1997. Thus in 10 years of combined conference play between Boise State and Willamette, Hawkins’ teams won or shared seven league championships while going a remarkable 58-6-1, including six undefeated seasons, in league play (a 90.0 winning percentage).
At Boise State, he was 37-3 in WAC conference games, leading the Broncos to outright championships in 2002, 2003 and 2004 with 8-0 league marks, and the co-title in 2005 with a 7-1 record. At one point Hawkins guided the Broncos to a league record 31 consecutive victories, a streak that began late in his first year and continued well into his fifth campaign. His winning percentage for overall and league games stands as the highest in WAC history.
In 154 career games as a head coach, his teams have been shut out just once, scoring at least one touchdown in all but three games while being held below 13 points just 12 times (seven times at CU, and only once at Boise State). The Broncos scored 40 or more points in 37 of his 64 games, as BSU averaged 41.6 points per game in his time there, the top figure in the nation for the five-year period between 2001 and 2005 (ahead of Texas and Texas Tech, who averaged 40.3 and 38.4, respectively). That included 50 or more points 19 times and 20-plus on an amazing 59 occasions.
Boise State also won 28 games by 25 or more points under Hawkins, and 43 by double-digits; however, his teams also excelled in close contests, as the Broncos were 10-5 in games decided by seven points or less. His teams were well balanced across the board, as evidenced by the Broncos owning top 10 marks for five-year NCAA numbers in his tenure not only in scoring, but also in total offense (3rd, 465.7 yards per game), passing offense (10th, 274.6), rushing defense (6th, 107.8) and kickoff returns (1st, 23.5 average for 245 total returns).
At Boise State, Hawkins had a knack for molding a talented group of players and coaches into a dominating force, part of the reason he was named the WAC Coach of the Year on two occasions (2002, 2004) and was a finalist for the 2004 Paul “Bear” Bryant College Football Coach of the Year Award.
Hawkins took over the Boise State program on December 2, 2000, replacing Dirk Koetter, whom he had served as assistant head coach, after he took the head coach position at Arizona State. Hawkins had joined the BSU staff in 1998, and coached the tight ends and special teams in addition to assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator duties. Hawkins also oversaw a highly successful community service and public involvement program for the Bronco football team during this time.
Before ascending to Boise State’s head man, as tight ends coach Hawkins helped developed a wealth of Bronco talent. In each of his first four seasons on the Bronco staff, a Boise State tight end earned either first or second team all-conference honors. Twice Bronco tight ends were drafted into the National Football League, most notably Jeb Putzier, who earned first-team All-WAC honors in 2001 after putting together the most productive season by a tight end in school history and would be a sixth round draft pick by the Denver Broncos. Special teams also blossomed under his direction, with top national rankings by teams or individuals in kickoff returns, placekicking and punting.
Koetter would serve as head coach in his final game, the 2000 Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl, but Hawkins took over leading the team in practice and preparation for the game, which Boise State defeated UTEP, 38-23. Though Hawkins served in his assistant coaching role in that game, his work as head coach was already evident to close observers of the program.
As just the eighth head coach in the school’s 33-year history, on the surface, Boise State went 8-4 in his first season in 2001. But the Broncos were transitioning from the old Big West Conference, in which they had claimed back-to-back titles, into the stronger Western Athletic Conference. Hawkins met the challenge by posting a 6-2 league mark, tying for second overall, doing so after opening with losses to No. 21 South Carolina and Washington State, who would appear in the national rankings some three weeks later.
His biggest win that season came on October 20, and had an indirect link to his future school, Colorado, at the time. He took his Bronco team on the road where it would defeat Fresno State, 35-30, ranked eighth in the nation with a 6-0 mark at the time. Fresno State began its season with a 24-22 win over the Buffaloes in Boulder and had designs on crashing the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) until being derailed by Hawkins’ Broncos, the school’s first-ever over a ranked opponent.
That set the stage for the next three seasons, when the Broncos strung together consecutive records of 12-1, 13-1 and 11-1 in posting a 24-0 record in WAC conference play in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
The WAC championship won in 2002 came in just the school’s second year in the league and was the first to go undefeated in league play since BYU did so in 1996. Along the way, BSU overwhelmed its eight league opponents, scoring an average of 51.1 points per game while owning a victory margin of 37.2 points, which broke BYU’s league mark of 34.0 set in 1979. Boise State led the nation in scoring (45.6), total offense (501.5) and passing efficiency (169.4) and led the WAC in five defensive categories, with Hawkins’ success recognized at the conference and regional levels as he was selected the WAC Coach of Year, and the Co-Coach of the Year for Region 4 by the American Football Coaches Association (the latter with Oklahoma’s Stoops).
The Broncos appeared in the nation’s top 25 late in the year, and following a 34-16 win over Iowa State in the Humanitarian Bowl, Boise State was ranked No. 12 in the final USA Today Coaches Poll (and No. 15 in the Associated Press ballot).
It was more of the same in 2003, as the 13-1 Broncos again appeared in the rankings in November and ended the year ranked 15th by the coaches and 16th by the Associated Press. The only setback came at Oregon State (a 26-24 defeat) in the third week of the season; the Broncos would end the year with 11 straight wins (which started a 22-game winning streak, the longest in the nation by the end of the 2004 regular season). The season was culminated by a 34-31 win over No. 19 TCU in the Fort Worth Bowl on the Horned Frogs’ home turf.
Hawkins’ 2003 team again produced the top offense in the nation averaging 43.0 points per game, and in the five major offensive categories in football, Boise State was ranked among the top 10 in four of them. The defense was no slouch either, as the Broncos was ranked among the top 12 in three categories (rushing defense, pass efficiency and scoring defense). Quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year and was one of five Broncos to be named first-team All-WAC.
Despite all those accomplishments, Boise State entered 2004 unranked, but at least on the national radar. After a 53-34 win over Oregon State in the second game of the year, the Broncos entered the rankings at No. 23 and were a regular from that point on. BSU survived scares from BYU, Tulsa and San Jose State (winning the latter 56-49 in two overtimes) to finish the regular season undefeated at 11-0 and ranked its highest ever — 10th — in both major polls (and ninth in the final BCS Standings). In one of the season’s most anticipated bowl games, and arguably the most intriguing non-BCS bowl since the creation of the system some seven years earlier, Boise State dropped a 44-40 thriller to 10-1 and No. 7 Louisville in the Liberty Bowl.
That 2004 team prided itself on all-around excellence, with top rankings in all three phases of the game, placing in the top 21 nationally in nine major statistical categories including scoring (second), punt returns (third), total offense (fourth) and rushing defense (10th). BSU was ranked either first or second in 16 conference categories and had 16 players earn some kind of All-WAC recognition for a second straight year.
Important to note about the 2004 season was that it might have been Hawkins’ best coaching job to date in his illustrious career. Despite returning just 10 starters from the ’03 team, he guided the Broncos to their first perfect regular season since the school moved to four-year status in the 1960s. The team spent a school record 13 consecutive weeks in the national rankings and peaked at No. 7 in the BCS Standings in early November.
His final team there in 2005 went 9-4, but had only four senior starters, the lowest total among all 119 I-A schools while also playing one of the toughest schedules in school history. That squad rallied from a 0-2 start, winning nine of the final 10 games in earning a fourth straight bowl berth. Three of the four losses came at the hands of ranked teams, including Hawkins’ finale in the MPC Computers Bowl, a 27-21 setback to No. 19 Boston College; the Broncos spotted BC a 27-0 lead in that game, only to see a fourth quarter rally come up just short. Despite some inexperience at the onset, the team of largely underclassmen finished in the top 25 in eight statistical categories including scoring (ninth), sacks (17th) and rushing offense (19th).
Overall, 20 of his players at Boise State earned first-team all-WAC honors, with three earning some kind of All-American mention and 10 either being drafted or signing as free agents with National Football League teams. Including his three years as an assistant coach, Hawkins helped the Broncos to an overall record of 79-21 and six conference championships in eight years, including Big West titles in 1999 and 2000.
Hawkins’ first collegiate head coaching position was at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., taking over the program in 1993 after the school had suffered two straight losing seasons, including a 1-8 campaign the year before his arrival. He proceeded to guide the Bearcats to winning seasons over the next five years, with two appearances in the NAIA playoffs.
Under his guidance, Willamette was 39-12-1, including a 13-1 record and a runner-up finish for the NAIA National Championship in 1997. The Bearcats had finished the regular season with a No. 7 national ranking and won three playoff games, including one in overtime, to reach the title game before succumbing to Findlay (Ohio), 14-7.
He was named the 1997 District Five Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association, and was selected three times as the Mount Hood League (Columbia Football Association) coach of the year. Those accolades came in 1995 when Willamette was co-conference champion, and 1996 and 1997 when the Bearcats won the outright conference title with undefeated records in league play.
Hawkins spent time as both an offensive and defensive coordinator before taking over as head coach at Willamette. In 1992, he was in charge of the Sonoma State University defense. From 1988-91, Hawkins was the offensive coordinator at the College of the Siskiyous (Calif.), helping lead the team to the Golden Valley Conference championship in 1991.
A 1984 graduate of the University of California-Davis, Hawkins earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. In 1993, he earned a master’s degree in educational administration from St. Mary’s (Calif.) College. He’s the fourth head football coach in CU history, the last three in succession, to hold two degrees.
Hawkins began his coaching career with his alma mater, serving as the head freshman coach as well as the linebacker coach for the varsity in 1984. After three years at UC-Davis, he served as head coach at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento in 1986 and 1987.
He agreed to a five-year, $4.25 million contract with the Buffaloes, effective January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2010, not including incentive compensation for academic progress, student citizenship and community outreach and various performance incentives ranging from rewarding bowl appearances to winning a national championship. The CU Board of Regents approved a two-year extension for him in May 2008, extending his deal through December 31, 2012.
He was born November 10, 1960 in Fall River Mills, Calif., and graduated from Big Valley High School in Bieber, Calif., where he lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track. At UC-Davis, he lettered four times at fullback for coach Jim Sochor; as a junior, he was a member of UCD’s NCAA Division II runner-up team.
He is married to the former Misti Rae Ann Hokanson, a registered nurse. They are the parents of four grown children, daughters Ashley and Brittany, and sons Cody (a junior quarterback at Colorado) and Drew (a redshirt freshman quarterback at Boise State), and the grandparents of one. His interests range from doing things with his family, such as skydiving with his daughters and taking family vacations to places such as Machu Picchu, to reading (he owns quite a collection of books), to studying game video while listening to jazz music.