What went right, what went wrong, and, philosophically, what was misguided vs the right approach for CU? First, I want to revisit the hire and why I supported Jon Embree being hired as the Head Coach at Colorado. At the time it was not necessarily a popular hire. While every fans does seem to get caught up in the excitement of a new coach and rallies to give initial support while hoping for the best (even if that fan disagreed with the hire), there were a lot of questions regarding Embree. Hired ahead of the 2011 season, Embree had been away from the college game since last working at UCLA as the Passing Game Coordinator / TE Coach in 2005. Skeptics of the hire acknowledged that Embree had a history of finding and developing talent and that he had a track record of success, but brought up that his recruiting network wasn't current and that a background that didn't include head coaching or even coordinator experience meant that he wasn't on any other program's short list of candidates and would be a high-risk hire who would have to learn on the job. The rebuttal to that was that CU had an internal rift created by Hawkins and that the program needed to bridge and celebrate its successful past by bringing in someone who knew firsthand what worked at CU to create a successful football program and that it was vital to recapture the relationships and culture that had been lost. Further, that Embree's passion for CU and the leadership he had shown on his football arc from an in-state recruit who helped rally a great McCartney class to his important efforts as the leader of the Buffs4Life organization outweighed his lack of experience as a "football CEO". That any holes in his recruiting network were a minor issue, if an issue at all, since he would be able to hire a staff that would have current networks and his own proven salesmanship on the recruiting trail was something you either have or you don't... and he had it. Personally, I was an advocate for hiring Embree and a vocal supporter during the hiring phase. I thought the closest parallel was John Blake at Oklahoma, a career position coach who had deep ties as a player and coach to OU, was charismatic, had a passion for the university, and was hired after spending some time coaching in the NFL. Blake was hired after a failed experiment with Howard Schnellenberger, who never fit in at OU and failed to win there. Blake also failed, with records progressing from 3-8 to 4-8 to 5-6. However, he reset the Oklahoma culture and brought in talent that set the table for Bob Stoops to come in and win 7 games his first year and a national championship his second. I saw the Embree downside as the Blake hire... a guy who could fix the culture and stock the talent cupboard so that even if things didn't work out in the win-loss column that the CU program would be set up for future success under Embree's successor. And that the upside would be the best case scenario... that CU football would return to glory under one of its favorite sons. So, why didn't that happen and what went wrong? First and foremost, whether we're talking about college football, the NFL or any business organization, failure is almost guaranteed if ownership/directors/upper management is at odds with line management or does not give it proper support. We'd have to search long and hard for a pro league head coach who was successful if he had an ownership that was going on the cheap and failing to invest in the resources competitors were in an effort to win. We'd have similar difficulties in finding an example of a head coach and GM not being on the same page and the team being successful in spite of that. CU was completely dysfunctional and Embree found himself in the worst possible situation. At the time Embree was hired, Benson and DiStefano had not yet gotten religion on how important football is as the front porch of the university for driving donations, school spirit and applications. The program was being neglected as something they just wanted to stay away from negative press, avoid budget shortfalls across the athletic department (which meant borrowing heavily from football to fund other programs), and to find a way within the football resources to fund any facility enhancements without pushing boosters too hard into donating for athletics when they might be interested in putting some or all of their booster dollars into the CU hospital system or the expansion of the East Campus. Worse was the Embree-Bohn dynamic. Bohn was seen as weak by those who had been part of CU's football success in the 80s through the early 2000s. Further, there was anger toward him based on the way he handled Gary Barnett by vacillating between offering a contract extension and terminating him over the course of GB's final season. Beyond that, given the issues with the budget at CU a lot of football people were dumbfounded and pissed off to see investments in a basketball practice facility, soccer facilities on the East campus, new band uniforms and a host of other things at a time when Dal Ward was becoming inadequate for the football program's needs, Folsom was deteriorating, and football was getting band-aid low cost projects like a practice bubble with limited utility and permanent lights on the west side of Folsom. Embree was loudly critical of Bohn at Buffs4Life events prior to Embree being hired as HC and some reports have suggested that Bohn was strong-armed into hiring Embree and it would not have been a decision he made on his own. Given this, I think it's reasonable to conclude that Embree was put into a situation that was almost impossible to overcome. No support, even neglect and obstacles, from the President and Chancellor offices coupled with different visions, lack of respect and maybe even an adversarial relationship between the Head Coach and the Athletic Director. So, before going further in any analysis I think it's important to make the point that the rest of this may be moot. Even if Embree had done everything right, he found himself in a job situation that may have been impossible and destined to fail. Hired with the knowledge that Embree was a first-time football CEO and would need support as he grew into his new responsibilities, CU instead put Embree into an organization that even an Urban Meyer would have found difficult to succeed in. How did racial issues factor in? It's hard to say that a situation where a state, city and university hiring its first black head coach amidst an entirely white administration, a heavily white student body and a local population that is 90% white is devoid of racial elements. It would be completely disingenuous to suggest that race didn't play a factor in the hiring of Embree, the work environment he experienced, and the level of support he received as he was fired after an unprecedented timeline of only two years on the job. Embree's greatest advocate in the hiring process had been the legendary Bill McCartney, who was a crusader on the issue of race and the moral failing of America in its awful record in providing equal opportunities to black folks. CU had failed McCartney on this issue once before when he retired and CU failed to hire Bob Simmons as his heir apparent, instead opting for Rick Neuheisal. (Simmons went on to limited success and mostly losing seasons as the Oklahoma State head coach while Neuheisel was unable to continue the McCartney dynasty and left for Washington due to a lack of CU administrative support.) The hiring of Embree certainly had race as a component. It fulfilled one of McCartney's dreams, if delayed over 20 years. McCartney even went so far as to announce the hiring to the Denver Post and talk about its social importance -- ahead of CU or Embree publicly announcing the hiring. For many observers, myself included, that was a red flag that this was being made about race when it should have only been about hiring a football coach. At the same time Embree was hired, for comparison, David Shaw was hired at Stanford without any hint of the university patting itself on the back for hiring an African American head coach or making much mention of it. That's as it should be in an ideal world -- being judged on quality of character and qualifications for the job, not the color of the person's skin. Stanford's situation was inherently different since they had hired black head coaches in the past (Dennis Green and Tyrone Willingham), so hiring a black football coach was a milestone at CU while it wasn't at Stanford. Still, it was not well-handled by CU and got the Embree era off on the wrong foot by making it somewhat racially charged when it should not have been. I admittedly was not as non-racial as I would like to evolve to at the time I considered the merits of CU hiring Embree. From a societal perspective, I thought it was important that - all things being equal - that CU clear that milestone of hiring a black football coach. More central to my thinking was that CU was in a deep hole on talent and that a black head coach may have an advantage in recruiting and that it might give CU the extra something it needed to attract players to the program at a time when on-field performance, facilities and the public handling of its program (openly talking to the media about budget problems, the mismanagement of the Barnett firing and the Hawkins firing then not firing in 2009 that was preceded by his OC, Mark Helfrich, leaving for Oregon during spring practices, followed by his in-season dismissal in 2010)... all had created a situation where CU football had become a national joke. CU football had to find advantages wherever it could, and a black head coach -- especially one who could personally talk about being part of CU's past greatness on the field of play -- looked like an important advantage that would make a difference in rebuilding the program. The race discussion continues from the initial hiring to the actual support during Embree's tenure and whether the lack of support had an element of racism from fans and the CU administration. This devolves into speculation and it's a dangerous topic on which to speculate. There seems to be an element that was going to support Embree no matter the results because of his race (and him being a Buff great - and him having the support of Bill McCartney with those attached coattails from CU supporters). There is likely an element of the CU community that is less at ease among black folks, which would cause either over-compensation or lack of support -- either of which makes for a less comfortable and natural job environment. There is also likely an element of folks within the CU family who are racist. This is America and that's still a part of things. But all of the above is something that Embree and any black professional is familiar with, has dealt with, and knows how to navigate. The real issue that would be insurmountable is whether booster support and administrative support both suffered due to racism. To that, I just don't know. Embree was never given the resources that materialized with the MacIntyre hiring and the replacement of Mike Bohn with Rick George as athletic director. Was this just a timing thing of Embree walking into this job two years too early and any coach, regardless of race, would have been saddled with a lack of support from above while MacIntyre simply had better timing by coming in after the powers that be had "gotten religion" on the importance of football to CU? Personally, I believe that in this case organizational incompetence is color-blind and Embree was put into a toxic environment that wasn't racially motivated... and that firing Embree after two years was a matter of administrators "getting religion" and that part of that was a decision that CU was re-setting the rebuild, that Embree wasn't the best candidate to do that through changes to system and staff, and that CU needed to make a splash with a new head coach who was a winner at the P5 level (even if CU didn't end up able to land such a candidate for the job). What about actual job performance and program philosophy? Putting the fact that it may have been an impossible job within the then-current CU climate, there were 3 areas that I think were the chief mission of Embree as Head Coach (in no particular order): 1) Assemble the right staff and offensive/defensive systems for CU. 2) Raise the talent level so that it was representative of a P5 football program. 3) Fix the culture within the program from a losing environment to having pride and standards for CU football. The fact that I believe that MacIntyre had to come in and handle these same three things points to my belief that Embree failed or met with limited success on each of those factors. However, let's look at them in some detail. Regarding staff, Embree did an admirable job of finding good position coaches and focusing on the right recruiting areas. RB Coach - Eric Bieniemy (elite record in college and pros of finding and developing RBs - strong CU ties) QB Coach - Rip Scherer (strong NFL record with OC/QB history at Arizona, Alabama and GA Tech) TE Coach - J.D. Brookhart (NFL background plus OC/TE/WR at Pitt, HC at Akron - CO native who played at CSU) WR Coach - Bobby Kennedy (WR coach at UT, UDub, and Wake Forest - Boulder native who played at UNCo) OL Coach - Steve Marshall (Pac-12 vet at Cal and UCLA, plus CU under Barnett and 8 years in NFL) DT Coach - Mike Tuiasosopo (western coaching at Utah State, Nevada and Utah before DL Coach at Pac-12 Arizona) DE Coach - Kanavis McGhee (Buff great who played 5 NFL seasons before moving to HS coaching & administration in Houston area) LB Coach - Brian Cabral (Buff legend who was a CU coach for over 20 years and had success as interim HC in 2010) DB Coach - Greg Brown (Previous stints as CU coach going back to McCartney, 15 years of NFL, plus Arizona, Purdue & Wyoming - CO native) As position coaches, that was a powerhouse staff that was also well-constructed for in-state, Texas, California and Polynesian recruiting. Problems arose, however, at the coordinator level. Greg Brown had never had full coordinator responsibility (co-coordinator at UA under a defensive coordinator who became HC in Mike Stoops). Eric Bieneimy had never been a coordinator at all and was spread thin by also being made the recruiting go-to guy. J.D. Brookhart was well-suited to his role coordinating special teams, however him and Scherer both being more qualified as OC than EB created some tension. Where Embree failed here was two-fold. Not only did he not recognize that his own lack of Head Coaching and Coordinator experience necessitated that he hire veteran Offensive and Defensive Coordinators to run those respective shows, he also created internal conflict through his close relationship with EB and the questionable status of EB being in charge over some more established former Offensive Coordinators on staff. I think we can also question Marshall as a retread hire on the OL where CU needed a more significant upgrade to get that part of the team turned around, but it's very hard to put the fault on any of the position coaching decisions. On defense, Brown wasn't established as a DC and there was the dynamic of Cabral being retained when he had reason to believe he should have been HC after his interim audition and, at the least, should have been given the opportunity to coordinate the defense. In the final analysis here, there were too many egos with not enough strength at the coordinator level to support a Head Coach in his first gig who needed people in those positions that would make the rest of the staff fall into line with their roles. In terms of philosophy, the Embree / Bieniemy philosophy on offense of making CU a running team again that also modernized with an Oklahoma State style system and the high-speed pace of Oregon made complete sense. The problem here is that they were unable to implement this approach. No one on the offensive staff had experience with it and we saw things like the Oregon flashcard system being thrown away during the first half of the first game against CSU after an entire "practice secrecy" offseason being dedicated to that implementation. Defensively, the philosophy under Brown seemed no different than what CU ran under Hawkins / Collins with a "multiple" set that lacked identity. It's still unclear whether the primary emphasis of that defense was pass defense, stopping the run, creating turnovers or something else. Was it "bend but don't break" or was it "pressure the offense into quick possessions and turnovers while giving up some big plays"? I still don't know. It does appear that if Embree had been given a 3rd year that he was going to replace Brown and Cabral while going all-in on Bieniemy implementing an Oklahoma State offense. Philosophically, I agree with that line of thinking. Practically, it's questionable whether the continued faith in EB as an OC was in any way justified and whether the right DC was going to be found when there never seemed to have been a "defensive philosophy" ever communicated by Embree. In the final analysis, I think we can say it was mixed results on the staff front. Excellent job on position coaches, poor job on coordinators, and at the end of the day it's hard to have confidence that the coordinator issue was going to be solved. Philosophically with the systems, again it is a mixed bag. Right idea but unable to implement due to hiring decisions at the coordinator level. As we turn to recruiting, Embree must be commended for having a plan. He hired for Texas. He hired for Louisiana. He hired for strength in Utah, Arizona and Nevada. He hired for California. He hired for Hawai'i and Polynesia. He hired for strength in Colorado. He hired for relationships outside the standard geography to pull talent from New Jersey and Washington D.C. It was a great recruiting plan with good people in place to make it happen. -- including a re-emphasis on Texas recruiting that had been lost during the Hawkins era and also attempting to make in-roads in Louisiana where CU had found some great players in the past. Recruiting fell short in a few notable areas. Embree and EB shot for the moon at RB and TE with an expectation that their significant chops at those positions would carry the day. Close, but no cigar. The backup plans to their top targets were a significant drop off. I think some criticism is rightfully placed for not developing contingencies well enough. More importantly, quarterback recruiting was a hot mess. From the jucos to the transfers to the freshman signings, not a guy who was brought in was capable of winning games at CU. At the time of termination, Sefo was committed so that may have been getting onto the right track. Certainly an upgrade to a P5 level QB, although Sefo hasn't shown yet that he can win either. Most glaring as a negative was the amount of time and energy spent on recruiting players who were unlikely to be academically successful at CU with the result that Admissions denied official visits, the recruit never made it to campus, or the recruit washed out soon after arriving. There seemed to be a disconnect between what the plan was to upgrade the talent level of the program and the reality of the administrative requirements on how the football program has to be run in the current era. Further, despite so many ties to the state of Colorado on the staff, the approach taken to recruit these in-state prospects did not resonate with recruits, their parents or the HS coaches. With recruiting, I think we can say it was a mixed bag. In many cases, Embree had the right idea and set the table the right way but implementation became a problem. There also seemed to be more evidence here of Embree having an adversarial relationship with superiors with him feeling that he was not being given the flexibility on admissions he needed and the administration feeling that Embree was not willing to play ball within the rules they had set. By the third recruiting class, after 2 years of bad on-field results and a general sense that things were not working at CU, recruiting was on a downward trajectory and the lack of appeal of a CU offer had become especially apparent with in-state prospects. Last, there is the issue of fixing the culture. Here, I believe, is where Embree had the most difficulty. He challenged the current team and got in their face over how they had never played in a bowl game. He made it clear that his recruits (especially the 2012 class) were the foundation of turning the CU football program around. He emphasized the history and tradition of CU football and the level of success that the team was expected to live up to. There's a lot of that which could work. But it failed. Miserably. Players still on the roster from the Hawkins era felt disrespected, unappreciated and generally unwanted. Players from the 2012 class felt entitled and that they were something special without ever having accomplished anything. All players ended up demotivated by having their leader set a standard and expectation for them that they were incapable of achieving, which had the effect of undermining confidence, effort and enjoyment of football. Instead of instilling Buff Pride, the tactics used made it easier for most to quit rather than face the inevitable failure of measuring up to unrealistic expectations. On the 3 factors, I think it can be said that recruiting wasn't beyond repair (needed wins and everything else was in place)... but that the inability to set a defensive identity or hire an OC who could implement an offensive philosophy coupled with motivational tactics that backfired to divide the locker room and demotivate the team made it so that this was a downward spiral that wasn't going to get turned around by hiring a new defensive coordinator and installing a new offense. I strongly supported a coaching change after only two years and still maintain that it was the correct decision. However, the firing was mishandled. First, Embree had been given nothing but assurances that he was being supported, his job was not in jeopardy, and that he should exercise plans to fix what wasn't working. Because of that, the firing came as a shock to him and much of the CU community -- including the media. This caused a firestorm of accusations of unfairness, especially because... Mike Bohn was not fired at the time. As noted earlier, Bohn was not respected by Embree or the very people who most vehemently supported someone from McCartney's CU circle being the man to lead the program after the mishandling of the Barnett termination, the poor decision to hire Hawkins, the much worse decision to sign Hawkins to a contract extension, and then the bungling of the Hawkins termination that resulted in a lost recruiting class (or two) and a lame duck coaching year prior to Embree being hired. In hindsight, Mike Bohn needed to be fired before Embree was fired. Whomever the new CU Athletic Director would have been (let's assume it's still Rick George) should have been the person to hire the next CU coach and, possibly, CU's administration should have put the decision of whether to fire Embree at all onto the shoulders of Rick George. No further evidence than the Butch Jones circus should be necessary to prove the point that Bohn-DiStefano-Benson had no business making any decisions on the CU football coach. Not only did they publicly fly Jones to Boulder without a deal being in place, they failed to finalize a deal while he was here and then had a public embarrassment of Jones hiding behind a food cart as he snuck out the back of Dal Ward trying to avoid being photographed and then Jones taking the Tennessee job over the CU job. CU was a laughingstock. And CU football greats like Embree, Bieniemy, Barnett, McCartney and others could do nothing but shake their heads and say, "These are the guys who dare to judge Jon Embree's coaching performance?". In a lot of ways, I look back and say that Embree was done wrong from several standpoints. He also made his own mistakes that he did not seem to have the ability or insight to fix, which make me believe that a change in coaches was absolutely necessary. But the biggest takeaway from all this is that CU put Embree in charge of a very difficult rebuilding project, did not support him with the resources necessary to turn things around, did not personally support him or be honest with him, and then screwed up both his firing and the transition to a new coach. Upon reflection, I have no emotional negativity toward Embree. If I'm pissed off, it's at Bohn, DiStefano and Benson. And I am reminded that in life timing may not be everything, but it's a lot of the thing. Might Embree have become a highly successful CU Head Coach if the CU administration had "found religion" two years earlier... and replaced Bohn with George (or similar) and driven a massive facilities project at the same time that Embree was hired? We'll never know. And maybe the greatest shame in all of this is that while Embree was given a chance to fulfill his dream of being the CU Head Football Coach, he wasn't really given a chance to be successful.