UC Davis foot­ball soars with Hawkins

The Sacramento Bee - - Sports - BY JOE DAVID­SON jdavid­[email protected]

Dan Hawkins wakes up fired up.

He doesn’t need cof­fee. It needs him.

The UC Davis foot­ball coach booms of good cheer even when side­ways wind and rain pelts him in the chops. His sport has a lot to of­fer be­yond block­ing and tack­ling, wins and losses, broth­er­hood and mem­o­ries, Hawkins will re­mind.

Hawkins ap­pre­ci­ates ev­ery ounce of what he has. He has a dream gig, coach­ing his alma mater, stir­ring a sleep­ing gi­ant in what he ex­pects to be his last rodeo. And coaches un­der­stand each other, their joys and pains.

Af­ter UCD beat Sacra­mento State in the Cause­way Clas­sic in Reno last month, Hawkins took a mo­ment to laud the coach be­fore him. Ron Gould was a good man and a good coach who wasn’t a good fit for UCD. He was re­placed by Hawkins, a good man and good coach who is the ab­so­lute right fit for the Ag­gies.

“A lot of these play­ers were Ron’s guys, his re­cruits,” Hawkins said of his Ag­gies. “He de­serves credit. I’ve been where he’s been – told you’re not a good coach. You’re a good coach when you win and a lousy one when you don’t.”

Such is the scathing na­ture of the beast. Af­ter enor­mous suc­cess in the 1990s at Wil­lamette Univer­sity, a small school in Ore­gon, and at Boise State in the 2000s, Colorado

hired the hottest name in the col­lege game in 2005. En­cour­ag­ing sea­sons of

6-7 and 5-7 turned into down­ers of 3-9 and 3-6, and Hawkins was sud­denly out.

No one was hurt more than Hawkins. He was skew­ered by Colorado fans and me­dia, but he sol­diered on be­cause foot­ball of­fers les­sons of ad­ver­sity most of all.

UCD play­ers to­day point to Hawkins as the pri­mary rea­son for the Ag­gies’ rise, in­clud­ing a

10-2 show­ing this sea­son and an FCS quar­ter­fi­nal play­off game on Satur­day af­ter­noon at Big Sky Con­fer­ence ri­val East­ern Wash­ing­ton, streamed live on ESPN3.

Hawkins points to ev­ery­one for the rise – play­ers, staffers, video guys, bus drivers, even the band. The se­cond-year Ag­gies coach is giddy that UCD’s rau­cous band will be trav­el­ing to Cheney, Wash.

He re­called invit­ing the band to sleep in the Wil­lamette gym in the 1990s when UCD was play­ing at Port­land State. He also re­called get­ting “tears in my eyes” at the sound of the Ag­gies drum­mers warm­ing up when he played full­back for UCD in 1981 and ’82.

“I love those kids,” Hawkins said of the band. “It’s great for col­lege foot­ball. I’m su­per jacked about this.”

As for hav­ing the band lead the Ag­gies onto the field, Hawkins tapped the brakes on that ex­press.

“We don’t want the tuba player to pull a hammy or to run into some­one,” Hawkins said with a laugh.

UCD is in its 100th year of foot­ball, but this very well may be its best team. It is cer­tainly led by their most en­er­gized, quirky coach who shares the same vi­sion as UCD coach­ing icons Jim So­chor, Bob Foster and Bob Biggs, in­clud­ing mo­ti­va­tion with pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment rather than a brow­beat­ing.

“Coach has a lot of en­ergy, a lot of pas­sion,” said quar­ter­back Jake Maier, the Big Sky Of­fen­sive Player of the Year. “He truly does care for ev­ery one of his play­ers. We love him. He’s very gen­uine.”

Hawkins also ap­pre­ci­ates that there are still foot­ball pro­grams for stu­dent-ath­letes to call home in Cal­i­for­nia. It’s a dif­fer­ent land­scape from when Hawkins played a gen­er­a­tion ago.

A good many of UCD’s op­po­nents from the 1970s and ’80s have folded. The state has be­come a grave­yard of dis­carded pro­grams.

So long Chico State, Hay­ward, San Fran­cisco State, Santa Clara and Sonoma State. Eight fouryear pro­grams have folded since 1993, in­clud­ing Saint Mary’s in 2004, Menlo in 2014 and Hum­boldt State this win­ter, all un­done by fi­nances. Since 1991, Divi­sion I pro­grams that have dropped with not even a whis­per of a re­turn in­clude Fullerton, Long Beach, Pa­cific and Santa Bar­bara.

UCD nearly lost its foot­ball pro­gram be­fore a stu­dent ref­er­en­dum saved the day in 1992. A sim­i­lar ref­er­en­dum saved Sacra­mento State in 1995.

“On one hand, I get it, but on the other hand, I don’t,” Hawkins said dur­ing Cause­way week. “There’s just so much you can get out of this sport. It’s a sport un­like any other.”

COACH HAS A LOT OF EN­ERGY, A LOT OF PAS­SION. HE TRULY DOES CARE FOR EV­ERY ONE OF HIS PLAY­ERS. WE LOVE HIM. HE’S VERY GEN­UINE. Jake Maier, quar­ter­back

DANIEL KIM [email protected]

UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins cel­e­brates a win over North­ern Iowa on Dec. 1.

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