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KLEE: State of CU football? Even worse than it looks

By: Paul Klee
November 26, 2012
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photo - University of Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bone speaks during a news conference one day after the firing of football coach Jon Embree in Boulder, Colo., Monday, Nov. 26, 2012.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) Photo by
University of Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bone speaks during a news conference one day after the firing of football coach Jon Embree in Boulder, Colo., Monday, Nov. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) Photo by  

BOULDER • After Colorado did the wise thing, firing Jon Embree as the football coach, I asked athletic director Mike Bohn for his level of interest in Troy Calhoun.

“I have great respect for Troy,” Bohn said. “But I know his ties and his commitment to the academy are extremely high. Obviously, I’ve recognized he’s a loyal Falcon.”

Good. Just to make sure the Air Force coach won’t punt on a great situation for a coaching graveyard, here’s a tip for coach Calhoun if his phone rings.

Do not pass Monument. Do not collect $2 million. Do not go near Folsom Field — unless the Falcons need a win. After hearing what I heard Monday, it’s worse than we thought.

CU hosted a news conference to explain the coaching change. A therapy session broke out.

Wish you could’ve been there. The 45-minute ordeal inside Dal Ward Athletic Center was fantastical, almost too bizarre to be true. This was football “Argo.”

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A critic laid out the extensive list of the problems facing CU football.

That critic was the athletic director.

It’s rough when anonymous posters blast a coach on the Internet, or when media slam the state of the football program. But when the AD is the one lowering the boom?

“We were exposed in this league,” Bohn said.

It gets better.

“We have challenges with some of our younger players in terms of their academic progress,” he said.

The worst thing CU did wasn’t firing a coach. It was broadcasting the news conference on Pac-12 Network so the football world could witness the slow burn.

“Our next head coach is watching. And they’re going to say, ‘How is Colorado responding? How are they going to do it? Are they committed to doing it?’”

Asked if the football program receives the necessary support from university administration, Bohn spoke the truth: “I think you’re identifying one of the big challenges we have as an institution here. That’s all of our key constituents being aligned and being onboard. ... And that’s been a challenge, it appears, for quite some time here.”

Truly, I found Bohn’s honest appraisal to be refreshing. He didn’t leave it to us to read between the lines. He laid it out there: Buffs football is as bad as it looks.

At least 90 percent of the room was there to support a coach who was in so far over his head, he couldn’t see Flagstaff Mountain. Embree went 4-21 in two seasons at Colorado. This one was the worst in the program’s 122-year history. He deserved to get fired.

But this is Boulder, where everyone deserves a medal. A former Buff who loves his players deserves another year. Just don’t throw our Feng Shui out of whack.

So Bohn got this one right. There’s more hope today than there was Saturday.

“When you look at the trajectory we were on, we were already on a slippery slope,” he said.

To be clear, Embree wasn’t the problem. With zero prior head coaching experience — zero experience as a coordinator, even — the 47-year-old simply wasn’t the answer.

The problem at CU goes way above the football coach. It goes to the top, where CU can’t seem to figure out it isn’t high enough on the athletics totem poll to be Harvard from Monday through Friday and Alabama on Saturday. CU needs to pick one or the other.

Embree was spot on when he said the current climate requires shortcuts to win.

I’m still not sure the administration gets it. Chancellor Philip DiStefano openly discussed his ideas for tinkering with the structure of the next coach’s contract. These aren’t things you tinker with; these are things you know, or have people that know do them for you.

“Do we put more (money) in the guarantee and still have incentives?” he said.

Bohn referenced “headwinds” that are holding the program back. Seven straight losing seasons. Facilities that don’t equal those of their peers. Necessary academic support. Competing in a Pac-12 with six teams in the Top 25. “And USC isn’t one of them,” Bohn said.

Again, this isn’t a critic painting a grim picture of the football program.

It’s the AD.

The first phone call should go to Calhoun. When he says no, call Jeff Tedford. His first year at Cal resulted in its first winning record (7-5) in 10 years. See if he can do it twice.

“Every AD has a list of candidates they hope they can attract,” Bohn said. “The question is, can we be successful in doing that?”

When Tedford chuckles and says no, call Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes and San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre. Maybe they weren’t watching Pac-12 Network on Monday.

Twitter: @Klee_gazette

Click here to read archived Klee columns.

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