Colorado introduces Hawkins as head coach

BOULDER, Colo. -- They call it "Hawk Love" in Idaho -- that personal, even intimate, touch that coach Dan Hawkins seems to put on every aspect of the thriving program he runs at Boise State.

Now Hawkins is bringing his style to Colorado, a program that could use a little love -- along with some players and money -- to overcome a rough couple years both on and off the field.

"There have been some scars, but we'll get over that," Hawkins said Friday during his engaging, 45-minute introductory news conference. "So let's throw a little 'Hawk Love' out there and let's get going."

Wearing a gold blazer and surrounded by his four kids and wife, Misti, Hawkins said hello to CU, only a few hours after regents voted unanimously to give him a five-year contract that will guarantee him $900,000 a year.

Athletic director Mike Bohn was asked if Hawkins was the "home run" candidate he was talking about last week, shortly after he forced Gary Barnett to step down.

Hawkins interrupted: "He better have been," the new coach joked. "Just lie if it wasn't."

Indeed, it was a feel-good day in Boulder and the feeling only got better when, toward the end of his news conference, Hawkins and Bohn announced the school had received a $1.5 million donation to go toward an indoor practice facility expected to cost about $2.4 million.

It's exactly the kind of facility the school has needed for years -- and exactly the kind of big-money donation that has long been lacking.

"I don't think there's any question we are talking about a bright future here," Bohn said.

What Colorado needs as much as anything, though, is a football coach the school and community can rally around. Barnett became a divisive figure as his seven years at CU lingered, the memories of an unseemly recruiting scandal hanging over every move he made.

Hawkins carries none of that baggage.

What the 45-year-old coach does bring is a 53-10 record from Boise State over five seasons, four Western Athletic Conference titles, an exciting playbook that includes lots of long passes and trick plays and, to hear him tell it, a longtime desire to spend quality time in Boulder.

"Some years ago, my children and I ran around and played catch down on the field down there," he said. "I took my wife around here a little bit and we said, 'Yeah, we could do Boulder.'"

In words that he'll either revel in or be haunted by, he said Colorado should be shooting not just for the Big 12 title that seemed eons away in a 70-3 loss to Texas two weeks ago but for the national title, as well.

"I think that definitely has to be the goal," Hawkins said. "To me, there are only two types of class -- first and none. You're either trying to be the best, or you're not."

He said he wants to recruit the next Heisman Trophy winner and the next top pick in the NFL draft. Many at CU would be happy if he could simply land his own son, Cody, a star quarterback and national-caliber prospect up in Boise.

"I've always said the one key to recruiting is to recruit the mom," Hawkins said. "So I'm recruiting the mom hard right now."

On one hand, Hawkins' task is formidable: He must restore confidence in a program that has suffered under withering criticism. He must do it in a community that is known to want a top-notch program but has been unwilling to accept the inevitable warts, or financial expenses, that come with it.

On the other, his task is reachable: Colorado is only 15 years removed from its lone national title. Hawkins has established a solid foundation in California, a key recruiting area for CU. The school, with the flatirons in the background, is beautiful. And, of
course, the Buffs have shown how badly they want to sweep away the past and start over.

"This marks a new day for the university," president Hank Brown said.

Hawkins, who met briefly with the CU players Friday, will coach Boise State through its bowl game, Dec. 28 against Boston College. He will officially become Colorado's head coach on Jan. 1.

He hasn't hired his new staff, although it figures he'll try to bring some assistants from Boise State, where the offense led the nation in scoring in 2003 and the WAC in 2004. His offensive coordinator, Chris Petersen, was promoted to head coach Friday at Boise State.

Bohn's search took only a week.

The only other person known to have interviewed for the job was Jon Embree, a former CU player and current UCLA assistant. Embree, who is black, had the support of many in the CU community, including former coach Bill McCartney.

"I'm disappointed we didn't pick a black coach," said Milt Branch, who is on the board of directors of the alumni association. "I like Jon Embree, but I also have enough confidence in Mike Bohn to believe that his choice was the best available choice."

Hawkins certainly sounded like a winner Friday.

He doesn't shy from the image as a touchy-feely kind of coach.

"I'm a very genuine person, a down-to-earth person," he said. "I have a deep appreciation for everyone involved in the process."

In an interview earlier this year, he said he likes to give his players "a lot of ownership, a slice of the pie. I don't like negative reinforcement, because I'm more about pulling than I am pushing."

He'll have to do both in Boulder.

"We're going to have to love 'em up a little," he said. "It's sort of like a stepdad entering the equation. That guy doesn't come in and demand total authority. You've got to come in and earn it."