Athletic director Mike Bohn announced Thursday that Hawkins would be retained for a fifth season and Hawkins addressed the announcement for the first time after falling to the Cornhuskers at Folsom Field on a sun-splashed day beneath the Flatirons.
"In this economy, there`s a lot of people out of a job," Hawkins said. "So I think anytime you stay employed that`s pretty good. But, yeah, I felt fortunate to be named the head coach here and I feel fortunate to remain the head coach here."
Colorado fans might have thought they were done hearing about the 2004-05 recruiting scandal that led to the firing of former coach Gary Barnett, but Hawkins referred to it in his postgame remarks while discussing the program`s struggles during his tenure.
"This place was burned to the ground," he said. "It was burned to the ground in every way. So your efforts to heal and build are broad-based and there is a lot of spokes in that wheel. I think those are things clearly we focused on. We`ve just got to hang in there together.
"For those that are disappointed,just call Mike Bohn and say, 'Mike, what can I do to help? I don`t like this. What can I do to help?` And then jump in and help. Whether it`s the team or the university, when everybody rose in the same direction, good things generally happen."
Hawkins said he was honored that his bosses stuck by him and he believes everyone is on the same page in working toward building a better future in the program. Bohn stopped short of targeting a specific number of wins he would like to see from the team next year, and Hawkins followed his lead by sticking to a bigger picture instead.
"Obviously we want to win football games," Hawkins said. "We want to beat our rivals. We want to be in bowl games and win those bowl games. We want to graduate our guys and keep our guys out of trouble and have them represent the university in a first-class manner and all those things. When it comes down to wins and losses, sure, you want to beat your rivals, you want to win the north, you want to win the Big 12, you want to win bowl games. That`s certainly part of it."
Reactions by players to Hawkins keeping his job were naturally positive, but varied in nature. Senior defensive backs Cha`pelle Brown and Ben Burney said they never worried about it and didn`t spend much time thinking about the issue this season. Quarterback Tyler Hansen admitted feeling relieved.
Wide receiver Scotty McKnight, who scored a touchdown on the final play of the season, started the day a junior in the program with senior teammates to look up to. He begins preparation for next year today as a senior and a team leader. He said the biggest changes that need to be made in the program must come from the players.
"You never want to have a coaching change your senior year." he said "... I know inside the locker room we have full faith in this coaching staff. The mistakes that were made this year that changed games weren`t because of the coaches, they were because of the players. We just have to take that on ourselves. That starts now. Whatever we can do to eliminate penalties and turnovers, the coaches can`t go out there and play for us."
The Buffs go into the offseason looking for answers to what led to near record-setting penalty production, inconsistency and a lack of production from the offense and a rash of special teams blunders.
Perhaps the biggest issue needing to be addressed is why the team consistently played with little or no confidence and often fell behind early in games.
"For the other guys, it`s just a realization," Hawkins said of his underclassmen. "I think they went through the schedule and figured out they can play with pretty much anybody, but that we need to have a little swagger coming out the gates and clean up a few things along the way, whether they end up being sacks or penalties or turnovers.
"They`re no quitters. They never quit. We`ve just got to build a body of confidence in the offseason that we`re able to come out and have that same sort of intensity early on, and just cut out a few things. I think it was one of those seasons where, you know, gosh, if we could go back and take away maybe even 10 plays this year, we`re probably a bowl team."