I will not support anything CU football related until Mike Bohn, CU’s Athletic Director, is fired for the damage he has and continues to cause to this program. Jon Embree was fired on Sunday after finishing his second season as the head coach of the Buffs and while the record was terrible, it should have been expected. Years of poor performance prior to Embree’s hiring had greatly dwindled the talent pool at CU. Entering the PAC-12 in his first season as head coach didn’t help keep the flaws of the program under wraps. He wasn’t given a chance to prove he could recruit great talent, and he was fired for trying to build a collegiate program the right way.
This season’s results were not an accurate reflection of what the program would have looked like in two more seasons under Embree. For years the CU football program had been on the decline. The character of the school, students and coaching staff were brought into question with Barnett. Rape allegations, poor academics and questionable play led to his dismissal. Hawkins was brought in to clean up the program and win games at the same time. His plan was to remove everything, good and bad, associated with CU from before he arrived and bring his kid in to play QB. He had five seasons of losing records and was eventually let go . The school turned to Jon Embree, former CU tight end and National Champion. He had been an assistant coach at both the college and NFL level before he arrived at his first head coaching job in Boulder.
Two years ago the Buffs left the Big XII for the PAC-12. The Big XII wasn’t at the level that it had been in the past and CU couldn’t win in that conference. They headed for the PAC-12 for academic and philosophical reasons. It had nothing to do with football because CU went to a tougher conference when they couldn’t compete in the weaker one. So, the talent pool had dwindled due to Hawkins poor recruiting and ignoring in-state talent. Embree comes in and has to deal with a team that lacked the talent to compete in the PAC-12. He reached out to the local talent pool and recruited Colorado hard and landed some very talented players. CU hadn’t been good though to attract top talent, so it wasn’t possible for him to get great recruiting classes overall. That also takes time, time which Embree wasn’t allotted.
In the PAC-12, CU was exposed for what they were, inferior. I will grant you that they were out coached much of the first season that Embree was there, but it was a learning experience that I feel he grew from. He was out coached occasionally this season as well, but with the lack of talent on his squad it didn’t really affect the outcome of those games. The overall speed of the team wasn’t up to par for their conference. The QB’s on the team were mediocre and their best wide receiver was out for the season with an injury. Embree may have been able to win 1-2 more games than he did this season, but the talent level was what really stood out when comparing the Buffs to the rest of the PAC-12.
Some people have attacked Embree’s recruiting as a reason for letting him go. He has one real recruiting class under his belt and most of the kids he has recruited haven’t played yet because they are only sophomores. You shouldn’t be judged on your recruiting classes until you have had time to develop the players and fit them into your plan for the team. Once again, he wasn’t given adequate time to develop the talent that he recruited. Sophomores and freshmen made up a great deal of the starting lineup and made CU the youngest team in college football which means they were also the least experienced team in college football. Inexperience against the spread option and regular spread offenses in the PAC-12 leads to lopsided losses.
Now that is all the on the field issues that troubled this CU team. How did they fair off the field? Their GPA was higher than it has ever been. They haven’t had any notable negative instances off the field. There were no big arrests, accusations of sexual assault, recruiting violations, or ridiculous trash talking. They stayed out of trouble and out of the news and handled their business quietly, which is how the great programs are developed.
By all accounts Embree was loved by his players, a fact made evident by the support they showed at his press conference on Monday afternoon. He loved them and wasn’t afraid to show his affection during his press conference. I’ve been around a lot of coaches and 4 football programs during my decade of playing football. I can tell you that the emotion showed by Embree on
Monday was genuine. His love of the program and his players would have led to great things in the future. I’ve seen teams that believed in each other and their coaching staff and experienced a great deal of success with those teams. Winning games can’t be the first goal when rebuilding a program. Wins will come after a culture that breeds a winning attitude is cultivated. That culture was being established with the emotion and passion that Embree showed at his press conference and the players had began to buy into.
I can’t sit here and tell you that Embree was going to lead the CU Buffs to another National Championship, I can’t even tell you that he ever would have had a winning season as the Buffs head coach. What I can tell you is that he was going about getting to those goals in the right way. He recruited heavily in Colorado and then moved onto other top prospects. He recruited young men with great character. He stressed and achieved academic excellence. He embraced the history of the institution and surrounded the program with successful alumni. Two seasons to turn around an awful program is a ridiculous and unrealistic time table no matter what the circumstances. CU has sacrificed one of their own in order to save face after a lost season and now should be punished for a long time for taking the cowards’ way out.