BOULDER, Colo. — Dan Hawkins was fired as football coach at Colorado three days after the biggest meltdown in school history put a cap on his five failed seasons with the Buffaloes.
Athletic director Mike Bohn promoted longtime assistant Brian Cabral to interim coach for the final three games of the season, beginning Saturday against Iowa State at Folsom Field.
Bohn said search for a new coach would begin immediately.
At 70 years old, former CU coach Bill McCartney has publicly expressed an interest in coaching again and remains a “viable candidate,” Bohn said. McCartney led the Buffaloes to their only national title in 1990.
“He’s a great statesman for our program,” Bohn said.
Hawkins was hailed as a “home run” hire by Bohn in 2006 after going 53-11 at Boise State. But he never had a winning season in Boulder in nearly five seasons, going 19-39 and losing his last 17 games outside of Colorado.
The final loss came Saturday. Colorado blew a 28-point lead at Kansas when the Jayhawks scored 35 points over the final 11 minutes for a stunning 52-45 win. It was the biggest collapse in the 121-year-old program’s history.
Dressed in Colorado colors — black suit, yellow shirt and striped tie — Hawkins stepped up to the podium at a news conference Tuesday, thanking former coaches, players and team personnel as he spoke for nearly 13 minutes, ending his speech with “Go Buffs.”
He didn’t take any questions from the media.
“I know it’s been a tough time for every Buff faithful. Hopefully, we can get those things remedied,” said Hawkins, who addressed the team and informed them of his removal first thing Tuesday morning. “I really hope the negativity that might surround me doesn’t surround them. They don’t deserve that. It’s my responsibility and I take full responsibility for that.”
Quarterback Cody Hawkins, the son of Dan Hawkins, was among the seniors who addressed the media, saying he found out Sunday night.
“I had a little time to deal with it,” Cody Hawkins said. “College football is a business. There are a lot of great guys in this business who kind of get put out on the street.”
Dan Hawkins was one of the hottest coaches in the nation when he was brought to Boulder to replace Gary Barnett, whose tenure was marred by scandal and a 70-3 loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game after the 2005 season.
This season, the Buffs started 3-1 but have lost five in a row in the Big 12, increasing the call for Hawkins’ ouster, especially after Saturday’s loss when he walked out on his postgame radio interview.
“We collectively believed that it was important to provide the opportunity for Dan as head coach and his current staff to pull things together, and things looked bright just one month ago,” Bohn said. “However, things have gone downhill from there.
“While we recognize the progress that we have made in several areas during nearly five years under Dan, the negativity and divisiveness that is associated with the current leadership has become detrimental and is beyond repair to our current enterprise and it’s time to make a change.”
As for future plans, Dan Hawkins said those remain unknown.
“Life’s an adventure: I’ve always sort of looked at it like that,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll coach again — at some point, at some place. … I’m going to be a passionate spectator here for the next three, hopefully four games.”
Over the weekend, it appeared that Hawkins may retain his job. Bohn issued a statement Saturday night after flying back from Lawrence, Kan., that did not mention Hawkins’ job status.
However, Hawkins continued to take heat for having his quarterback son throwing the ball in the fourth quarter instead of running out the clock with a big lead. Some argued Dan Hawkins was more focused about getting his son the school’s all-time passing record than he was about securing the win.
Cody Hawkins laughed at that notion.
“I was joking in the back … that I was going to come up here and the fist thing I was going to say, I was going to sit down and say, ’As of 1:30 p.m. today, I’m no longer part of the Colorado Buffaloes football program.’ Just to see what you guys would do,” Cody Hawkins said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. When I signed my national letter of intent to come play football here, nowhere on the contract did it say I’m going to come play for Dan Hawkins. Yes, that’s a big reasons why I came here, because I thought he ran the program the right way. But I wanted to be a part of Colorado.”
In his speech Tuesday, Dan Hawkins encouraged fans to support the program over the next few weeks and in the move to the Pac-12 next season.
Cabral, 54, who coaches the inside linebackers, is the longest-tenured assistant in school history at 21 seasons. He served as interim coach once before, in the spring of 2004, when Barnett was suspended.
“Here we go again,” smiled Cabral, who’s hoping to be considered for the opening. “My role again is very much like last time I sat here. … My role is to calm the storm.”