Over the last couple of weeks, I've been asked time and again whether I thought Colorado football coach Dan Hawkins would be fired.

Each time, I answered in the affirmative. The evidence at hand, beginning with a four-year span in which he's lost twice as many games as he's won, strongly suggested a change. That's simply how college sports work these days: very little patience and a tendency to make a change for change's sake.

But there's a difference between "will he be fired" and "should he be fired."

To the latter, I would say "no." As the speculation surrounding Hawkins' future has mounted, I've held out hope that athletic director Mike Bohn and chancellor Phil DiStefano will buck conventional wisdom, do the right thing and give Hawkins a fifth year.

It looks like that will be the case.

It's easy to say Hawkins should be fired. But if I were the CU athletic director, I'd announce my decision today with this plan:

First, make it clear that DiStefano is 100 percent on board with the decision. Given that DiStefano likes Hawkins -- in particular his emphasis on academics, community service and social conduct -- that should be easy.

Then I'd say I've asked the chancellor to take these steps:

One, make it apparent to everyone that the decision to bring Hawkins back was a mutual one, made in the best interest of the team, the department and the university.

Make a commitment to give Hawkins every chance to succeed.

Such a commitment must begin with admissions. CU is in the huge minority in Division I athletics when it comes to granting exceptions in terms of academic requirements. Even such academic stalwarts as Cal and Stanford grant such exceptions. If DiStefano wants Hawkins to succeed on the field, he must be willing to make that field level wherever possible.

Such a decision would also be a major step toward CU's always-present goal of increasing diversity on campus. Allow Hawkins -- and CU's other coaches -- to widen the scope of their recruiting, and it will increase the number of CU students who come from varied and diverse backgrounds.

Simply, back up your words with actions.

Provide financial assurance. What is clear is that a decision to bring Hawkins back will not boost ticket sales. Rather, CU can expect at least a minor drop in season ticket sales, luxury suite renewals and perhaps even marketing support. The athletic department must be assured that university financial support will be available when those economic realities hit.

Then, I'd have a sit-down with Hawkins.

I'd tell him I admire what he has done in terms of establishing a culture that stresses accountability and responsibility. I have great respect for his insistence that his players give back by completing community service projects. And, his emphasis on academics is something that every coach in the nation should be required to emulate.

Players are, after all, "student athletes." Requiring them to complete both ends of the bargain is not unreasonable.

Then, I'd make it clear that a handful of victories can no longer be acceptable. The pure economics of the situation will require a show of improvement next year. Consistency on the field must be as evident as in other areas of the program. Ultimately, the program will be judged by wins and losses -- and the evidence thus far has not been good.

How to change that part?

Staff overhaul. Einstein is famously quoted as saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Hawkins' staff has remained far too static, with the results being predictable. He must make significant changes -- not just cosmetic touch-ups here and there.

As an example, I'd point back to the 1984-85 CU teams.

When then-A.D. Bill Marolt gave Bill McCartney a contract extension in the midst of a 1-10 season in 1984, he did it on the condition that Mac make staff changes, and the coach agreed.

The following season, McCartney brought Mike Hankwitz, Steve Bernstein, Steve Logan and Oliver Lucas on staff. All were outstanding recruiters. But Logan also had a role that has been greatly underappreciated by CU fans over the years. When McCartney made the decision to switch from a passing team to a wishbone team for the 1985 season, he brought in Logan to help install the offense.

The change was dramatic. CU went from a 1-10 program to a bowl team in one season.

Hawkins must be willing to consider equally dramatic changes in his staff make-up and team philosophy.

Then, I'd make it clear to Hawkins that there will be no talk -- public or private -- about any kind of contract extension. Coaches love to use recruiting as a wedge for contract talks. There will be no such wedge next season. Hawk must make his team's performance his primary recruiting tool.

And finally, in return, here's what I would promise Hawkins:

More money for his assistants when he goes out to hire new coaches. Salaries for CU assistants have long been a problem. Some of the money that would have been spent to make a coaching change will instead go toward making significant improvements in the salaries for assistants. The message would be "Go get the best assistants you can find. We'll pay them."

A continuing effort to improve facilities -- in return for the coach's vow never to publicly or privately bemoan where CU stands in that regard. While CU's facilities do not measure up to those at many other Big 12 schools, Hawkins must trust that CU is doing its best to improve in that area. If he wants to stay, he must remain positive-- again, publicly and privately -- in that regard.

The coach's duties as a public "spokesman" for the program will be reduced. While it's great to have your coach at booster meetings, service club luncheons and state tours, it still takes away from his primary duties. Give him more time to spend on football -- and expect results.

Yes, I'd keep Dan Hawkins. I'd buck conventional wisdom and address some of the inherent problems within the program and university.

Changing coaches won't fix those problems.

But fixing those problems might prevent you from having to make a change.