Jon Embree's firing as CU Buffs coach was racist, says ex-coach Bill McCartney
Jon Embree's firing as CU Buffs football coach has been cheered by some fans -- like those who identify with our gallery of CU Buffs suck memes. But others argue that Embree was sacked before he had a real chance to turn the moribund program around. They include former CU coach Bill McCartney, who suggested on 102.3 ESPN Radio yesterday that the decision was racially motivated. Hear the appearance and get more details below.
McCartney is a regular guest on the station thanks in part to his friendship with afternoon co-host Charles Johnson, who shares the CJ & Kreckman program with Nate Kreckman. Johnson is also a longtime pal of Embree, a fellow former CU player under McCartney during the golden years, when the Buffs earned the 1990 national championship due in large part to confusion that allowed a fifth down in a key contest against Missouri.
After Embree's firing, both CJ and Kreckman argued that despite CU's horrendous record and series of historically bad performances over the past two seasons, the coach deserved another year at the helm. After all, Dan Hawkins, Embree's predecessor (and the person who left the cupboard so bare), was allowed to keep his job for five years despite persistent mediocrity that only seemed to grow worse over time.
In addition, the pair were notably tough on CU athletic director Mike Bohn during a Monday interview, with CJ asking him in a couple of different ways why he shouldn't lose his gig, too, given the explanations offered for Embree's canning. Bohn's answers, some of which had to do with his prowess as a fundraiser, were both weak and defensive.
Still, it was their chat with McCartney that got the attention of outlets such as Yahoo! Sports, and no wonder. When asked why he was given a contract extension even though he only won seven games during his first three seasons, McCartney replied, "Honestly, I believe it's because I'm Caucasian. I believe black men have less opportunity, shorter time if you will.
"It's just like, Dan Hawkins got five full years," he continued. "Why not give Jon Embree five years? You signed him to a five-year contract.... Men of color have a more difficult road to tread. It didn't happen to me. Why should it happen to a black man?"
The audio for the interview is below. That's followed by McCartney's open letter to CU asking the administrators to reconsider disappearing Embree and hire him back. In the interview, he reads the letter; the comments quoted above are heard immediately afterward, at around the 4:45 minute mark.
Bill McCartney letter:
Please forgive my presumption that you might care to hear my opinions on a hot topic. Obviously, not everyone cares and so I intrude.
On June 10 1982 CU hired me to be their football coach. Arnold Weber was university president and Eddie Crowder was the athletic director. Three seasons later we had won only 7 games. Gordon Gee was now the president and Bill Marolt was the athletic director. These four men were true professionals and provided unconditional support through difficult times. Never once did they interfere or question the directions of the program. Just the opposite, they offered me a new 4 year contract. From this time forward we won over 80% of our games.
Consequently, I have a debt of gratitude that is on-going. It has been 18 years since I coached. In that stretch I have responded to every request for my participation. I have genuinely supported each coach since then.
When Jon Embree was hired, I was thrilled. I had recruited Jon to CU. He turned down USC, UCLA and Ohio St. He was truly a national recruit. He was an exceptional player; a fine leader with tremendous football instincts. Jon was unselfish and very competitive. I encouraged him to pursue coaching and he proceeded to build a solid resume. Finally CU hired one or their own! Not only that- but with a pedigree that is exemplary. This guy is good.
To short circuit a 5 year contract before two full years is an indictment of true integrity. Webster's Dictionary defines integrity as utter sincerity, honesty, candor, not artificial, not shallow and no empty promises.
Men and women of Colorado don't let this happen. Please weigh in. This is wrong. It undermines the values of the university. This is a great school! Boulder is a special place. Please stand up and be counted.
Bill McCartney Head Football Coach 1982-1994
More from our Sports archive: "Jon Embree's firing as CU Buffs coach: A sacrifice by AD Mike Bohn to save his own job?"
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.