Embree fired after just two seasons

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
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Colorado fired coach Jon Embree on Sunday because patience is a thing of the past in college football.

Embree, 46, a former Buffaloes tight end who called Colorado his dream job when he was hired two years ago, went 1-11 this season and 3-10 in 2011. Both years, the Buffaloes finished last in the Pac-12 in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

Dan Hawkins, the man Embree replaced, was given five years to go 19-39. Heck, Colorado icon Bill McCartney followed up consecutive losing campaigns with a 1-10 mark his third season in 1984 but was retained.

Two years isn't enough to evaluate a coach who was given a major rebuilding job.

[+] EnlargeJon Embree
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiCoach Jon Embree wasn't given much time to turn a struggling Colorado program around.
The feeling among Colorado boosters and administrators, however, was the Buffs couldn't continue in their present direction after they moved in up in the college football pecking order by joining the Pac-12 before the 2011 season. There was little to suggest things were going to get better anytime soon.

Yes, Colorado was young this fall. Yes, Embree inherited a struggling Big 12 team lacking the talent to compete in the Pac-12. But there were few signs of improvement this fall, at least too few for Embree to be retained for a third season.

Fair? No. The ugly reality of a sport that has become the primary revenue stream for many universities? Absolutely.

So what's next?

The name that certainly will come up is Jeff Tedford, who was fired by California last week. Tedford rebuilt a flagging program in Berkeley from the ground up, but it's also possible Tedford, who will pocket a nearly $7 million buyout from Cal, won't be in a hurry to take a new job.

After that, line up the usual suspects. There are plenty of strong candidates out there. Head coaches? What about Charlie Strong, Louisville; Art Briles, Baylor; Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech; Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State; Gary Andersen, Utah State; and Troy Calhoun, Air Force.

Top coordinators ready to make a jump? Oregon's Mark Helfrich; Washington's Justin Wilcox; UCLA's Noel Mazzone; Alabama's Kirby Smart; Clemson's Chad Morris; Oklahoma State's Todd Monken; and Michigan State's Pat Narduzzi.

Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason also will merit a look.

Colorado offers plenty of challenges -- including restrictive rules on giving assistant coaches multi-year contracts, which is now the standard at A-list programs -- but the program has won before, including a split national title in 1990.

Firing Embree was cold blooded. He was a Buff, and there's no question of his dedication and affection for the program.

But this is the game now. Cold blooded is part of it. Embree hadn't convinced folks who matter in Boulder that he was the guy who could rebuild the program.

So now Colorado is again hunting for a head coach, pining for the dusty days of yore, when Bill McCartney rules a Big 8 power.

Ted Miller | email

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