Reports: Hawkins out as Colorado football coach

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DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s biggest collapse in the football program’s 121-year history was the last straw. Multiple media outlets are reporting that embattled Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins will be fired Tuesday.

Hawkins has been on the hot seat since last year, when the Buffs went 3-9. The cries for his ouster grew louder Saturday after Colorado blew a 28-point lead at Kansas with less than 12 minutes left and lost 52-45.

It was the 17th straight loss outside Colorado for Hawkins, who is 19-39 in five seasons in Boulder, including 3-6 this year.

A school spokesman said he couldn’t confirm the TV and newspaper reports that athletic director Mike Bohn would replace Hawkins with associate coach Brian Cabral for the final three games.

Bohn didn’t return messages Monday night and Hawkins didn’t respond to a text message from The Associated Press.

Over the weekend, it appeared Hawkins’ job was safe. Bohn issued a statement Saturday night after flying back from Lawrence, Kan., that made no mention of Hawkins’ job status.

Hawkins continued to take heat, however, for having his quarterback son, Cody, throwing the ball in the fourth quarter when running out the clock with a big lead was in order. Some critics suggested he was more concerned about getting his son the school’s all-time passing record than he was about winning games.

When the elder Hawkins was asked on the Big 12 coaches’ conference call Monday why he didn’t run the ball more in the fourth quarter, he said: “We didn’t want to just totally get into a ground attack. We had had success mixing it up. We had had success running it and throwing it. We just didn’t want to be one dimensional.”

That strategy helped fuel Kansas’ comeback as the Jayhawks scored the game’s final 35 points in an improbable comeback. Afterward, Hawkins walked out on his post-game interview with KOA radio when he was asked about not running the ball more in the fourth quarter of what would have been the Buffs’ first road win since 2007.

Hawkins said Monday that he and his son were only concerned about winning, not about Cody breaking the school’s career passing mark.

“He’s going to be the first guy to tell you, that doesn’t mean as much to him. It’s about wins,” Hawkins said. “Those things are always a byproduct. That’s not what you’re trying to get. You’re trying to win.”

Hawkins said he would change some things about his coaching in the fourth quarter, but stressed he always feels that way after reviewing film.

Hawkins also said during the teleconference that he wasn’t haunted by rampant speculation he’d be fired.

“There is always risks to be taken and that’s the nature of this job and that’s the nature of this profession,” he said. “I don’t think you walk around with that haunting you. I don’t think that’s your driving force by any means.”

The Buffaloes are 0-5 in their Big 12 farewell tour before heading West to the newly named Pac-12 next season. They face Iowa State at home on Saturday, and school officials were preparing for protests and empty seats if Hawkins were still in charge.

Cody Hawkins is the only healthy quarterback on the roster with starter Tyler Hansen recovering from a hard hit that hospitalized him two weeks ago. If his father is fired, it could prove awkward on senior day, when parents join their sons on the field for pregame ceremonies.

Hawkins was one of the hottest coaches in the nation when he took over at Colorado in 2006 after going 53-11 at Boise State. He replaced Gary Barnett, who lost his job after two scandal-plagued years and a 70-3 loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game in 2005.

Meanwhile, Hawkins’ former assistant, Chris Petersen, has built Boise State into a national championship contender, leading many critics to suggest that Bohn hired the wrong man away from the Broncos.

Bohn, Chancellor Phil DiStefano and President Bruce Benson took heavy criticism for not firing Hawkins last year.

After starting 3-1 this year, the Buffs have lost five straight and will have to beat Iowa State and Kansas State at home and Nebraska on the road to avoid a fifth straight losing season.

Hawkins is making nearly $1.5 million this season in base salary and incentives, less than every coach in the Big 12 except Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. His buyout would be around $2 million.