Jon Embree's firing as CU Buffs coach: A sacrifice by AD Mike Bohn to save his own job?
Yesterday, CU students enjoying the last hours of their Thanksgiving break received a university e-mail informing them that Buffs football coach Jon Embree had been sacked; see it below. We predicted this move last week -- not that the mysticism of Nostradamus was required to see this one coming. Still, the prominence of athletic director Mike Bohn's name on the announcement suggests that he's trying to use Embree's canning to preserve his own job.
Here's a copy of the aforementioned e-mail, which concludes with a subtle plea for donors to open up their wallets to reward the school for its actions:
Dear Buffs Fan,
We are making a change in the leadership in our football enterprise and feel this is in the best interests of the program and the University of Colorado, particularly given our goal to compete at the highest levels of the Pac-12 Conference and nationally.
It was a difficult decision given Coach Jon Embree's history with CU, and one we arrived at after considerable deliberation. The entire university community fervently wanted Coach Embree to succeed. We appreciate his passion and dedication and wish him the best. We strive for sustainable excellence in all we do, and the entire university leadership is committed to doing everything we can to ensure success, for which we are accountable. We call upon alumni, fans and donors to join us in our competitive efforts.
University of Colorado President Bruce Benson
University of Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano
University of Colorado Boulder Athletic Director Mike Bohn
While most Buffs' fans cheered the axing of Dan Hawkins, Embree's predecessor (and the man who left him with such a bare cupboard), few took pleasure in the ouster of the onetime Buffs tight end. During his December 2010 introductory press conference, on view below in its entirety, Embree said all the right things, and his pledge to bring the Buffs' swagger back was as positive as his penchant for straight talk, in stark contrast to Hawkins' excuse-making.
But while his early efforts at recruiting, aided by assistants such as CU great Eric Bieniemy, were impressive, the Buffs' performance on the field was the opposite. Embree got a free pass for season one, and he would have been forgiven a losing record in season two as well had his squad been competitive. But no: The defeats weren't just humiliating, but historic -- so much so that distinguished alums couldn't keep quiet about their disappointment. Take this tweet from ESPN's Chris Fowler:
24-hr cooling off period. But I'm still speechless. In shock at HOW low CU Buffs football has sunk.And my '12 expectations were LOW.
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) September 16, 2012
Fowler's network piled on as the losses mounted, describing CU as the Pac 12's favorite fluffy pillow, and the embarrassment couldn't help having an impact on crowd size for home games. As we noted last week, the Buffs' season finale against Utah stirred so little interest among ticket buyers that the school offered to give away four freebies to season ticket holders just for sending an e-mail -- a last-ditch effort to stave off the worst attendance in decades.
Unsurprisingly, this effort was unsuccessful -- and while the Buffs at least made a game of their match-up with the mediocre Utes, the loss cemented one of the outfit's worst records since 1890, when it went 0-4, and its first season without a home victory in more than ninety years.
Even under those circumstances, a glimmer of hope for Embree remained. But while Hawkins was kept around one season longer than any sane fan believed possible, time ran out on the current regime much faster -- and a lot of that likely has to do with Bohn's knowledge that delay could mean his skin, too. After all, he spearheaded the hiring of both Hawkins and Embree.
Of course, Bohn's job extends beyond football -- and the Buffs basketball program is enjoying a major renaissance under coach Tad Boyle. But fair or not, Bohn's performance will be graded on the success or failure of the football program. Judging by the e-mail to students, he retains the support of top administration members. But if CU doesn't become credible on the gridiron mighty fast, his head will be the next to roll.
More from our Sports archive: "Bill McCartney's Jon Embree thunder-stealing shows why CU didn't want him as coach."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.