BOULDER, Colo. -- The University of Colorado will pay coach Dan Hawkins around $2 million to go away. His replacement might not get that much to fix the Buffaloes' broken football program.
Athletic director Mike Bohn said the school's financial constraints means he won't be able to pursue just anyone to be the next coach at Colorado because the higher-profile names earn about $4 million annually, way out of the Buffs' price range.
"It's really not a level playing field of the haves in the Big 12 or the haves in the Pac-12," Bohn said Tuesday at a news conference to announce the dismissal of Hawkins. "We're not a $4 million institution. Would I like to believe we could get there some day? Sure.
"If we can emerge from not being dead last in the Pac-12 Conference as far as number of donors and amount of money raised -- that's a challenge for us," he said.
Bohn fired Hawkins on Tuesday, three days after the biggest meltdown in school history put a cap on his five failed seasons with the Buffaloes. Longtime assistant Brian Cabral will serve as interim coach for the final three games of the season, beginning Saturday against Iowa State.
Bohn said the search for a new coach would begin immediately.
However, Bohn may not be able to set his sights on the upper echelon, especially given Hawkins' buyout and the prohibitive cost of luring a quality coach.
"It is going to limit our pool," Bohn said.
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. But he's been out of football since 1994.
Hawkins was hailed as a "home run" hire by Bohn in 2006 after going 53-11 at Boise State. Yet he never had a winning season in Boulder, going 19-39 and losing his last 17 games outside of Colorado.
The final straw came Saturday when Colorado blew a 28-point lead at Kansas as 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 Tuesday, Hawkins stepped up to the podium and 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," Hawkins said. "I really hope the negativity that might surround me doesn't surround them. They don't deserve that."
Quarterback Cody Hawkins, the coach's son, 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.
"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," Bohn said.
As for future plans, 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 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.
"That couldn't be further from the truth," said Cody Hawkins, who needs 597 yards passing to eclipse the record held by Joel Klatt (2002-05). "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, without a doubt, is to stand in the gap. ... My role is to calm the storm."