When CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn fired second year football coach Jon Embree this week most folks took it at face value. The Buffs were 1-10 this year – the worst record in school history – and went 4-21 in Embree’s two years as head coach.
When questioned by the media Bohn would ask, “As the erosion of some of that equity we had in the program began to become revealed, how can we continue down that path of unknowns and change?”
But wait… didn’t CU Buffs fans just watch Boise State import Dan Hawkins languish through five miserable years at the helm? Where was Bohn’s outrage when Hawkins was favoring his undersized, undertalented son at quarterback? Where was his commitment to the equity of CU’s football program?
In truth this firing violated what was expected to be a four-year rebuilding of the CU football program under Embree. Bohn’s question was a reference to Embree’s willingness to elevate young players above established starters, ignoring seniority in favor of grooming future talent. Bohn’s harsh reaction to this method of rebuilding speaks volumes about him as an AD and about CU as an elitist collegiate athletics organization.
The fact is that Jon Embree was not interested in favoring seniority. Embree wasn’t interested in favoritism at all. Instead of grabbing a couple meaningless wins behind his predecessor’s juniors and seniors, Jon put his freshmen and sophomores in a position to learn on the job. That decision would end up costing Embree his own job even as the winningest coach in CU football history cried foul.
It would be a leap to call Mike Bohn a racist for allowing Dan Hawkins to flounder for five seasons and then bailing on Embree’s certifiable attempts at rebuilding after just two. Still, there is obviously more at play here than wins and losses.
Hawkins was a member of the Old Boys’ Club and so was Bohn. Embree was just a former CU tight end and position coach – a players’ coach to be sure. He never lost the locker room, and his players have spoken out all week about a coach they saw as a father figure.
Understand that a potential recruit who believes he will have every chance to grab a starting role through dedication and hard work is just the kind of player Jon Embree wanted to coach. And that is exactly the kind of young man Jon would have attracted as a former player. As a father figure. As Bill McCartney said – a coach that was doing it right.
Instead recruits will be wary of the University of Colorado, seeing it as an elitist school with elitist leadership. So much for rebuilding. Get ready for more of the same at CU. At least Mike Bohn won’t be made to feel uncomfortable. Surely he will hire a football coach more worthy of black tie dinners who will be too well-groomed to challenge any of the university’s much-ballyhooed ‘equity’.
Sadly, Mike Bohn’s vision ended at the bottom of the stat sheet. He failed to see what Jon Embree was building in Colorado, reacting in fear to a sorely needed dismissal of business as usual. Embree dared to buck a failing trend at CU. And because he was a minority without the coaching pedigree of failures like Dan Hawkins, Embree’s boldness was his undoing.
Meanwhile Tad Boyle – another players’ coach – is working magic with the CU Buffs’ basketball team. A surprise appearance at the Big Dance coupled with winning the PAC last season has Boyle at the top of a lot of bigger programs’ wish lists. Boyle loves Colorado, though. Loves his kids. He is a man of character who is orchestrating a Renaissance in CU Basketball.
Maybe we’re lucky that Boyle is winning. Maybe we’re lucky he’s white. Or maybe we should just demand Mike Bohn’s resignation right now to ensure that another visionary Buffs coach isn’t shown the door for challenging established elitism at the University of Colorado.