The wins will come.

In the meantime, top University of Colorado leaders said they are proud of the elite students that its head football coach recruits to play in black and gold.

Shortly after CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn confirmed on Thursday that Dan Hawkins will continue to coach the Buffaloes for a fifth season, CU President Bruce Benson praised the decision, saying it's “exactly the right thing for the university.”

“I think he's doing the right things, and we're proud of him, and we're going to stay the course,” Benson said, noting Hawkins' recruiting standards. “We really want high-quality kids, and it will come. It's going to take a little while, but I'm a big supporter.”

Fans have criticized Hawkins this season for mounting losses in what was supposed to be a turnaround year. The Buffs are 3-8 heading into Friday's rivalry game with Nebraska, and the team is 16-32 in four seasons under Hawkins.

Although CU's record this season might not show Hawkins' success, Benson said, his players' academic performance does.

“The GPA on the team was the highest it's been in many, many years, and the kids aren't getting into trouble,” he said. “We used to have a lot of that.

“We had a structural problem — we were bringing in kids we shouldn't have been bringing in — and all it takes it one bad apple and then you have a scandal,” Benson said. “I don't like scandals.”

Benson wouldn't speculate beyond next season to say whether Hawkins would keep his job through the end of his extended contract if CU continues to lose.

“I'm on a day-to-day contract myself, and I'm under scrutiny,” he said. “We go day-by-day and see how things are going.”

Last year, CU extended Hawkins' contract through the 2012 season. Had Bohn decided to fire Hawkins after this season, it would have cost the university more than $3 million.
University of Colorado Head Football Coach Dan Hawkins listens to a question  during his radio show at the Boulder Draft House on Wednesday evening. At
University of Colorado Head Football Coach Dan Hawkins listens to a question during his radio show at the Boulder Draft House on Wednesday evening. At left is radio announcer Larry Zimmer and at right is contributing editor for BG Brooks. Photo by Paul Aiken The Boulder Camera (PAUL AIKEN)

CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano said money had some bearing in the university's decision to keep Hawkins at the helm.

“I think it was part of the equation,” DiStefano said on Thursday. “You have to consider the cost of buying out a coach. But that wasn't a major factor.”

What was, DiStefano said, was Hawkins' ability to handle his student-athletes.

“This year, he had 19 football players who were on the academic all-American team in the Big 12,” he said. “He has a low tolerance for student athletes who get into trouble, and when you take everything together, I think it was a good decision to keep him.”

DiStefano said he's hopeful that Hawkins' success with his young players off the field soon will translate to success on the field.

“Everyone is disappointed in the wins and losses, but I think those wins will come along as well,” he said Thursday. “Next year — hopefully starting with tomorrow — they will come.”

CU graduate Chris Venne, 34, said he's not so sure and thinks the squad's lackluster season points to the need for a change.

“Dan Hawkins is clearly a bust,” he said, conceding that $3 million is a lot to pay to dismiss a coach. “Sometimes you have to ride it out and send him packing.”

Long-time Boulder resident and consummate CU fan William Brodie, 62, disagreed and said Hawkins' character and student standards are enough to keep him here for now.

“I've followed a lot of coaches, and I think they should give a guy like him at least one more year,” Brodie said. “I know it comes down to if a coach doesn't win, the rich alumni want to get rid of him, but it shouldn't be like that.”

CU senior Stephen Pavone, 21, said aside from Hawkins' “bizarre” news conferences, he supports giving him one more year.

“I've been disappointed because the team has seemed heartless at games, but I don't know if it's the coach,” Pavone said. 

The CU student's father, Chris Pavone, said he agrees and thinks it takes time to get rolling with a new system.

“I hate to see (coaches) get turned over that often,” he said.