Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Last Dance of the Buffaloes

Friday afternoon in Boulder, Colorado my father-in-law attended his first college football game.  Given that it was a season-ending tilt between my hapless Alma mater and the ever-so-slightly less so Utah Utes, which proved to be a damn entertaining contest in which the Buffs came up short.  Friday afternoon was the final game of Colorado's twelve-game season.  A season in which they lost eleven of the twelve games they played.   A season in which most of the eleven losses introduced the program and the University to a heretofore never attained level of ridicule.  Most of their games were tough to watch.  Trust me.  I watched them.

We knew not leaving Folsom Field on Friday afternoon that Joe's first would prove to be Jon's last.  On Sunday evening the same Athletic Director (Mike Bohn) who introduced Jon Embree less than two years ago as the Buffs "new" Head Coach announced that he had fired Embree.  Viewed through nothing other than the results on the field - Embree's teams lost twenty-one of the twenty-five games they played - the decision is almost impossible to question or to criticize.  Almost.

Embree was hired two Decembers ago roughly one month after the University decided it could no longer continue to employ Dan Hawkins.  Hawkins coached the Buffs for five (really four and two-thirds) seasons.  His final straw was a fourth quarter self-immolation against the Kansas Jayhawks in which the Buffs surrendered touchdowns in the fourth quarter at an alarming rate in giving away a four touchdown lead with roughly ten minutes to play.  It was a game they ended up losing.  Hawkins was fired upon the team's plane touching down in Colorado upon its return from the game.  At the time he was let go Hawkins had been victorious in only nineteen of the fifty-eight games he had coached. 

In hiring Embree the Buffs did three things.  First, they appeased the alumni base (including Yours truly) by bringing a "Buff" back to coach the team.  Jon Embree was a terrific player for CU in the early part of the 1980's.   I had the pleasure of watching him play from the student section at Folsom Field.  He was "one of us".  Second, they hired the first African-American Head Football Coach in the school's history.  Given the paucity of the African-American student population on the Boulder campus (African-American students comprised roughly 1% of the 25,000 member student body when I went there), a hiring that incoroporated diversity was not an insignificant thing.  Third, they hired a man whose bona fides as a human being are above reproach but who had never been a head coach.  A decision was made (tacitly at least) to hire on the cheap, which they did.  I read yesterday morning that Embree's salary as Head Coach was less than most of the assistant coaches in the PAC-12 Conference who are either offensive or defensive coordinators are paid.  In other words, their #2 makes more than our #1. 

There is an adage about getting what one pays for and an argument can certainly be made that for the past two seasons the Buffs did just that.  Embree's teams were perpetually undisciplined, disorganized and - most damning of all - non-competitive.  They made every opponent look like Everybody's All-American.  We saw firsthand on Friday afternoon - from our seats in the north end zone - that for all of their deficiencies, this herd of Buffaloes played hard.  Every player.  Every play. 

Jon Embree learned a rather harsh lesson on Sunday night about the perils of coming home.  He was reminded that what one thinks as 'home' in one's mind's eye might not in fact exist any longer.  The topography of the place may be as one remembers but the faces have changed.  And at day's end that is what makes all the difference. 

I know not what direction the Buffs shall look for a new coach.  Nor do I know how many coaches will be interested in taking over an acknowledged disaster, which is what it was when Embree arrived in December 2010 and what it remains in the wake of his departure in November 2012, at a school where the length of the leash continues to get shorter and shorter.  Embree is the third Head Coach who Athletic Director Bohn has fired in his seven seasons in Boulder.  In spite of his own inauspicious performance to date - most pointedly in this particular area of personnel-hiring, Bohn has once again been entrusted by his superiors with the responsibility of blowing the whole thing up and starting over. 

Some people simply should not be given access to TNT and blasting caps.  Just sayin'....

-AK

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