Hawkins leaves behind legacy of losses

Dan Hawkins came to Colorado after racking up 45 wins and four conference titles in his last four years at Boise State, helping lay the foundation for the unprecedented success the Broncos have enjoyed since his departure.

"I thought he would bring that same level of play to Colorado," said Colorado chancellor Philip P. DiStefano.

There weren't many mile-highs over Dan Hawkins' four-plus years at Colorado. The highest was a win over then-No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007 that keyed off the only season under Hawkins that ended with a bowl.

Any glimmer of hope that win provided was snuffed out by a mountain of 16 losses over the next two seasons.

They hoped he'd at least near the heights former coach Bill McCartney once did as coach in the early '90s. Hawkins never did.

Even that 2007 season ended with three more losses to unranked teams, including an Independence Bowl loss that denied Hawkins his best opportunity to secure a winning season in Boulder.

His one big high was far outweighed by numerous lows, beginning with an embarrassing loss to FCS opponent Montana State in his first game as Buffaloes coach. Last year, his team went on national television and fell behind Toledo by 30 points to begin 0-2 in a season that Hawkins said would feature "10 wins and no excuses." The Buffaloes finished 3-9.

If he didn't regret his "Go play intramurals, brother!" rant at the 2007 signing day news conference, he should have. It did nothing but provide an embarrassing YouTube moment for a coach short on success at the major level. And as another coach in the Big 12 can attest, YouTube fame never dies. For better or worse, that might be his most lasting moment as Colorado coach.

But no low was more spectacular than the one he treated Colorado fans to on Saturday, a loss like no other. He refused to run the ball consistently ("We just didn't want to be one-dimensional," he said) with a four-touchdown lead against a team that previously had a strong case as the worst team in a BCS conference, and the only team in the Big 12 worse than Hawkins' squad.

He provided Kansas with its biggest comeback in school history, and the largest blown lead (28 points) in the 121-year history of Colorado football. Worse, he allowed it to happen in just over 11 minutes.

Give Hawkins credit: He went out with class. Ten minutes of Tuesday's farewell was spent thanking anyone and everyone for the time he'd been given to lead the Buffs.

"They, like the rest of us, wish we had more wins," Hawkins said.

By now, everyone knew those wins weren't coming under Hawkins, who also wished the program well, alluding to the "national championship chapter that's right around the corner."

Hawkins' replacement, interim coach Brian Cabral, emotionally thanked the coach as well.

"There's no question Hawk gave us everything he had," he said. "No question. It wasn't for a lack of trying."

But despite those efforts, Hawkins never even came close to the success everyone in the program hoped. He never reached the heights of former Kansas coach Mark Mangino or the popularity of former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, but neither went out with the panache of Hawkins' blazing fiasco.

That capped off a string of 17 consecutive losses outside Colorado, and the program's first-ever 0-5 start in Big 12 play, and the loss to the Jayhawks leaves the Buffaloes alone at the bottom of the Big 12 totem pole.

A reporter asked Hawkins on Monday how you come back from a loss like that.

Truth is, you don't.