In another life, Dan Hawkins could be a preacher.
But Hawkins is a football lifer, and the former coach at Boise State and Colorado was introduced Tuesday morning as the new head coach at UC Davis during a press conference that at times seemed like an old-fashioned revival meeting.
Hawkins, returning to where his coaching career began, offered a loud, mesmerizing, upbeat and sometimes humorous and self-deprecating message to a captivated audience that included media and alumni at Aggie Stadium.
Among them included many who coached with or mentored Hawkins during his time as a player and assistant coach at UCD, including former Aggies head coaches Bob Foster and Bob Biggs.
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“I’ve always said this place was my baptism of excellence,” Hawkins said as he took several seconds to compose himself at one point. “It showed that a little guy from a town of 500 people (Bieber, Calif.) what you truly can accomplish. It’s really what life is about. The quality balance of life really started here. Everywhere I’ve went, I’ve tried to echo that same experience.”
Hawkins, who received a five-year contract for a base salary of $262,500 per year from the Big Sky Conference program, returns the college ranks as head coach for the first time since 2010. He replaces Ron Gould, the former Boise State assistant coach who was fired Nov. 21 after four years as Aggies coach.
Hawkins, 56, was a fullback on the 1982 UCD team that reached the NCAA Division II championship game before becoming an assistant coach to his mentor, the late Jim Sochor, from 1983 to 1985.
Hawkins, who has maintained a residence in Boise, and UC Davis Athletic Director Kevin Blue, who flew Monday to Boise to seal the deal, said it was a whirlwind courtship.
“I’ll tell you one thing, when this thing went down, I had a lot of people going, ‘Are you interested?’ ” Hawkins said. “I’m interested. But guess what. My clock’s ticking and this has to happen fast and it did. It basically happened from Wednesday to Sunday.”
Hawkins was working to finalize details to become the offensive coordinator at Florida International under new coach Butch Davis earlier this month, but the hire was never made official by the school.
“Our goal was to work efficiently,” Blue said. “Our university leadership understood what we needed to do in order to recruit the best candidate.”
Blue said he interviewed several other candidates but would not offer a specific number or any other details except to say he believes UCD has the right man for the job.
“Coach Hawkins represents exactly what we need,” Blue said. “He’s an Aggie. He understands the tradition and history of this place. Most importantly, he is a very progressive thinker and has a lot contemporary beliefs about the game. So he’s a great fit for what we need to continue to re-energize our football program.”
Hawkins is best remembered for his tenure at Boise State, which he lead to national prominence from 2001 to 2005. The Broncos went 53-11 overall under Hawkins, 37-3 in the Western Athletic Conference and appeared in four bowl games during his tenure.
But Hawkins couldn’t match that success at Colorado, where he was 19-39 overall and 10-27 in the Big 12 Conference in five seasons before being fired in 2010.
Hawkins coached briefly in the Canadian Football League and was offensive coordinator for a team in Austria earlier this year between stints working as a television college football analyst.
Hawkins began his head coaching career at Christian Brothers High and later led NAIA Willamette, Ore., to a 39-12-1 record from 1993 to 1997.
Hawkins has also coached as an assistant at College of the Siskiyous (1988-91) and Sonoma State (1992).