UC Davis’ Dan Hawkins today (Dec. 12) was named the nation’s coach of the year among Football Championship Subdivision schools.
The honor follows his being named co-coach of the year of the Big Sky Conference, after he and his team earned UC Davis’ first championship in the Big Sky and a berth in the FCS national playoffs for the first time since moving up to Division I in 2007.
Hawkins, in his second season as head coach at his alma mater (he graduated in 1984), led the Aggies to a 7-1 record in the conference and a 10-3 overall record after going 3-5 and 5-6 the year before. Along the way in 2018, the Aggies made it into the top-25 FCS rankings for the first time — rising as high as No. 4.
A national panel of 153 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries voted for coach of the year — officially the STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award, named for the man who coached at Grambling State University for 56 years.
Hawkins is UC Davis’ first recipient of the Eddie Robinson Award in its 32-year history and the Big Sky’s fourth national coach of the year in the conference’s 56-year history.
“We are all very proud of Coach Hawkins for this well-deserved recognition,” UC Davis Athletics Director Kevin Blue said in an Aggie Athletics news release. “He embraces the traditions and history of our program while also leading our team in a modern, innovative and inspiring way that is a perfect fit for UC Davis.
He embraces the traditions and history of our program while also leading our team in a modern, innovative and inspiring way that is a perfect fit for UC Davis. — Athletics Director Kevin Blue
“He’s a great representative of our athletics program and university, and we're very happy for him,” Blue said.
The unassuming Hawkins was quick to spread the praise: “We have really talented players — it all starts there — a talented staff, but none of that happens, or comes together, unless you have leadership that says, ‘We can work together to create one of the best academic schools in the country, and we can succeed in sports.’ They are not mutually exclusive from one another.”
STATS FCS stated in an online story about Hawkins’ selection that “his intellectual approach is ideally suited at UC Davis, whose football program has led the Big Sky in its NCAA academic standing for five straight years” — from 2012 (when UC Davis joined the conference) to 2016 (the last season for which Academic Progress Rate data are available).
“But he’s also reinvigorated the former Division II power,” STATS FCS declared. “For two seasons, his Aggies have featured a high-powered offense, led by the last two Big Sky offensive players of the year, wide receiver Keelan Doss (2017) and quarterback Jake Maier (2018).”
Very special centennial year
The 2018 campaign was a special one from the start, since it marked the Aggies’ 100th season of football, but Hawkins made this a year one that no football fan will ever forget. He labeled “these players and this team” as “the new gold standard for UC Davis football.”
Hawkins will be honored at the STATS FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas — on the eve of the national championship game to be played in that city's Toyota Stadium.
The playoffs to decide which teams will compete in the championship game are still underway. Twenty-four teams made it into the tournament, with eight of them seeded. With the No. 6 seed, UC Davis had a first-round bye, then hosted Northern Iowa in the next round — another first: our first time hosting a game in the first season we made the playoffs.
The Aggies defeated the Panthers, 23-16, in a packed Aggie Stadium Dec. 1, to advance to the quarterfinals against Eastern Washington, the only team to defeat the Aggies in the regular season. The Eagles emerged victorious with a last-minute touchdown, 34-29.
Aggie Athletics contributed to this report.