Dan Hawkins might keep his job as head football coach at Colorado regardless of how bad things get this season because the athletic department cannot afford the buyout if it fired him, let alone any additional expenses in hiring a replacement.
Hawkins' contract contains a clause limiting the school's liability to $850,000 per contract year if it should terminate him without cause. Hawkins would have more than three years remaining if he was fired at any point this season. His contract runs through Jan. 31, 2013.
The school's total liability could approach $3 million under the terms of the deal if any partial year was prorated in a buyout. If the buyout was limited to three years, it would cost CU no more than $2,550,000.
The Buffs started this season 0-2 with losses to Colorado State and Toledo, two games many believed would be wins on the Colorado ledger when the season started.
Hawkins presumably thought the same thing when he repeatedly said before the season started that his team was capable of 10 wins.
Hawkins and the Buffs practiced early Sunday morning and afterward the coach indicated no one in the program is in panic mode and no significant changes are in store for this week's home game against Wyoming.
"You just have to do what you do better," Hawkins said. "That's the trick. I've been coaching a long time. I know a lot of coaches. I've had a lot of coaches call me going, 'Hawk, you're fine. You know what you're doing.' And guys that have lost five games in a row. You've just got to keep doing your deal.
"Eventually, you will have a game, and I told our guys this, it will pop at some point."
Hawkins said he is proud of the way his team battled to the end against Toledo and the way it has handled its early setbacks.
If CU athletic director Mike Bohn and Chancellor Phil DiStefano decided a change needed to be made, Hawkins would have the option of filing a claim for damages not to exceed the $850,000 per contract year.
The process would then go to mediation where CU would hope to limit the buyout further. If the issue was not resolved after a month of mediation, it would be resolved in court.
The athletic department remains in deeply in debt with the majority of an $8 million loan from the campus and the CU system in 2006 still to be paid off. Part of that debt was caused by the last coaching change when Bohn fired Gary Barnett at the end of the 2005 season and hired Hawkins.
CU was heavily criticized for having to pay Barnett approximately $4 million when it fired him. The terms of Barnett's contract, negotiated by former athletic director Dick Tharp, required the settlement, and that led to CU trying to limit its obligations in Hawkins' contract.
The department would have to borrow money to buyout Hawkins and it would be hard-pressed to do so in the current economic climate in which state funding is being significantly trimmed and some CU employees have already lost their jobs.
Paying a coach millions of dollars not to coach might be hard to justify, maybe even more so than living with the results he is producing on the field.
Bohn indicated after Friday's loss at Toledo that it is too early in the season to consider making a coaching change, but he did not rule out the possibility should the program continue to struggle on the field.
The Buffs gave up 624 yards of offense and 54 points against Toledo. They have surrendered 1,000 yards of offense in the first two games.
"It's after the second game of the season and right now we're focused on creating an environment to get this turned around, and it starts with Wyoming," Bohn said early Saturday morning following the Toledo game.
The sour start this season is already having repercussions in recruiting.
Zack Craig, a cornerback prospect from Texas had committed to Colorado before the season opener, but he chose to change his commitment to Oklahoma State when the Cowboys offered him on opening weekend. It should be noted that Craig has a deep family history at OSU.
Littleton High School running back Mister Jones committed to CU in June, but he said Saturday he has decided to make official visits to other programs because he is concerned about the state of things in Boulder.
"I mean, it's obvious," Jones said when asked why he has decided to schedule visits. "They lost to like Toledo and Colorado State the last couple weeks. The CU program isn't doing too good right now."
QB Hawkins to start Saturday
Hawkins said after Sunday's practice that he expects his son to start against Wyoming. Cody Hawkins was hit hard on a 12-yard touchdown run near the end of the Toledo game and the defender was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit.