As the current Aggie football season winds to a close this Saturday with one final game against the dreaded Hornets of Sacramento State, it won’t be long before UC Davis introduces its new head coach to take the place of Bob Biggs, who is retiring Saturday after 20 years at the helm, the longest tenure in the history of Aggie football.
And for the first time in many decades, it’s expected that UC Davis will go outside the current roster of assistants to find a head coach.
If you go back through the history of the program, Crip Toomey handed off to Vern Hickey, who passed the ball to Ted Forbes, who handed it to Will Lotter, who handed it back to Forbes, who handed it back to Lotter, who handed it to Herb Schmalenberger, who handed it back to Lotter, who handed it back to Schamalenberger, who handed it to Jim Sochor, who handed it to Bob Foster, who handed it, finally, to Bob Biggs.
Basically, this coaching succession could be called “All in the Family,” but that’s about to end. Trust me on this.
It’s well known that UC Davis is a desirable place to coach. High expectations, to be sure, but a patient and understanding fan base that won’t call for the coach’s head if the local heroes suffer through a losing season every now and then.
While many talented folks would jump at the chance to coach here, one name that keeps bubbling to the top of the head coaching rumor mill is that of Dan Hawkins, who, like Biggs and Foster, is an Aggie alum, having played in the backfield with Ken O’Brien on the great Aggie team of 1982. That team reached the Division II national title game in McAllen, Texas, where it lost, 34-9, to Southwest Texas.
The personable and passionate Hawkins was a successful head coach at NAIA Willamette (Salem, Ore.), before turning Boise State into a national power with a remarkable 53-11 record over five years.
He then left Boise for the University of Colorado of the Big 12, where his high hopes for the Buffaloes quickly crashed and burned. After four straight losing seasons in Boulder, he was fired with three games left in his fifth season, 2010, finishing with a 19-39 mark.
In announcing the unusual step of firing his head coach before the end of the season, Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bohn said, “The negativity and divisiveness that is associated with the current leadership has become detrimental and is beyond repair to our current enterprise and it’s time to make a change.”
For his part at the time, Hawkins noted that “Life’s an adventure: I’ve always sort of looked at it like that. I’m sure I’ll coach again, at some point, at some place.”
Whether that place turns out to be UC Davis remains to be seen, but he was a popular figure on campus when he was here and he’s maintained ties with UCD loyalists over the years. For certain, he would be welcomed back with open arms, not to mention the expectation that he would lead Aggie football to the Promised Land.
Hawkins, now 52, reportedly received a $2 million buyout from Colorado, which might help to mitigate the dramatically lower salary UC Davis has to offer.
His success at the highest level of college football is well documented, as is his failure at the same level.
If he wants the Aggie job, Hawkins will have to convince the powers-that-be that UC Davis will not be just a résumé-building pit stop on his way back to the big-time.
UC Davis has always been a place where continuity breeds success, and success breeds continuity. Hawkins could fit nicely into that philosophy if he wishes to finish his coaching career at his alma mater.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org