In a packed Athletic Building on a rainy day in Boulder, Colorado, now former University of Colorado Football Coach Jon Embree addressed the media, fans and players before turning the microphone over to the administration. It was an emotional roller coaster briefing after the news that Embree would be let go after two years raced through Colorado last night. Add Buffalo students and alumni to the equation and it was one of the most charged press conferences in recent memory.
The man who fired him, Athletic Director Mike Bohn, introduced Embree. The coach spent a lot of time talking about the kids in his program. He reiterated that he did things the right way no matter what anyone said. He told his players to never let anyone take anything away from them. He talked about being a mentor to the kids and looking out for them. At the beginning of the conference, the first of several times he choked up, a player in the back of the room yelled, “We love you coach.”
“I’m obviously disappointed sitting here today,” Embree said. “But I did things the right way. I don’t care what they say or what anyone says. We’ve had the highest GPA the last three years out of any time in the program. We’ve stayed out of trouble.”
Embree, who was given a five-year contract, was terminated after his second season that ended with a 1-11 football season. I asked Embree if he was under the impression that he had his entire contract to turn things around. The coach told me that I was going to get him in trouble and gave me a long stare down as he answered, “I thought I would be here to build it and at least try to have an opportunity to see it through.”
Embree left the room hugging his players for a long time. Then Athletic Director Mike Bohn along with Chancellor Phil DiStefano took the microphone, with CU President Bruce Benson streaming in from “out of the country.” Bohn reiterated that he felt the program was on the wrong trajectory. He refused to admit that he was to blame for the missteps of his coaches, both Embree and his predecessor Dan Hawkins.
The press conference turned ugly when the floor opened to questions from the media. Denver Post writers Terry Frei, a CU alumnus, John Henderson, and columnist Mark Kizsla were on the attack against Bohn along with current media members and former CU Quarterbacks Charles Johnson and Joel Klatt.
Bohn deflected blame for the missteps of his college coaches, saying that criticism could be spread around to everyone. He talked about everyone not being on the same page, alluding perhaps to the alumni and boosters being behind the firing. He also refused to say what had changed this weekend that led to the firing of Embree. He became very angry and lost his composure several times, especially when Klatt questioned his ability to pick a new coach.
For everyone involved, the conference was extremely awkward, from the players shaking their heads at everything Bohn said to the charged media. Bohn made a mistake in both introducing the man he just fired and then trying to follow him up. Bohn keeps his job because he made a lot of money moving Colorado to the Pac-12, but gained nothing from this press conference.