When the Buffs host Colorado State on Sept. 6, Dan Hawkins will begin his fourth season as CU’s head football coach. He talked with Coloradan contributor Mark Wolf (Jour’70) about football, music and kidney stones.
You were laid up in July with a kidney stone.
Bad things happen to everybody. You learn from them. It helps you get perspective on life. It gives you a little zest.
You and your family have vacationed at such spots as Machu Picchu in Peru. What’s on the Hawkins’ travel horizon?
Our next big adventure will be base camp at Mount Everest. We’re going to try to do that next year.
What are three keys to success for the 2009 season?
Leadership, momentum and turnovers.
Why did you challenge the Buffs to achieve “10 wins and no excuses” this season?
I talked about the expectation of winning 10 football games but there was no prediction.
The principle is excellence. On the field, off the field, that’s the bar. What I don’t want ever is for our guys to back off that standard of excellence, not just ‘Let’s win another game and get in a bowl.’ I just don’t live that way. I don’t operate that way.
Why did you decide to coach the wide receivers this year?
I’m going on my 27th year of coaching, and the sad thing to find out is I’m not really a coach anymore. I stand around and evaluate. When I became the head coach at Boise I was the tight ends coach. It was fun being in the trenches, being right on the tip of the spear. You can lead by example, whether it’s enthusiasm, tempo, drill setups, coaching style, handouts. You can get right in there and say, ‘OK guys this is where it’s at.’
If you were czar of college football, would you change the Bowl Championship Series?
It’s not perfect but the way it is now, every Saturday is extremely important for everybody. It can make or break your season. It’s not that way in basketball. In football you better play the opening weekend and you better play every Saturday.
Shortly after last season’s end, the Boulder Camera reported you established “accountability groups,” dividing the team into groups and having the entire unit bear the punishment if one player breaks a rule. How has that worked out?
It was awesome and part of trying to develop the leadership on our team. Young kids think, ‘I work hard and do things right and I’m a good leader.’ Well, no, you’re not.
Part of a leader’s job is to evaluate: ‘Are you doing the right things? Are you taking care of business?’ Just like in history, we all pay for the mistakes of the few. Guess what? One guy messes up — the whole group pays. That guy messes up a few times. Then maybe the other people are saying, ‘Hey look, you’ve got to get it figured out,’ or ‘We don’t want you.’ It’s a great social reinforcement mechanism.
Still listening to Great Big Sea [a Newfoundland folk-rock band Hawkins has championed]?
Oh yeah. I’ve been back on my Van Morrison kick lately. I saw him this spring at the Greek [Theater] in Berkeley.