Former University of Colorado coach Jon Embree’s goodbye press conference was at 11 AM on Monday, followed by his replacement Mike MacIntyre’s welcoming press conference at 4 PM Monday, two weeks later. Finally filling the football coaching vacancy with San Jose State’s coach ended a bizarre and troubling saga, which exposed the ineptitudes of the Colorado Buffaloes’ sports administration. In the end they filled the position with the only man for the job and I mean that literally.
Everyone has dragged Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bohn through the mud over the last couple of weeks. It started with at least one major donor threatening to cut funds from the athletic department if Embree was not fired. This was coupled with a belief that Bohn could hire recently fired University of Cal Bears Coach Jeff Tedford that led to Embree’s dismissal before Tedford was contacted. Tedford has no interest sacrificing his huge buyout with Cal (any salary payments from another school would be removed from his buyout amount) to try and turn the Buffaloes around and so Bohn was left defenseless for the media barrage.
Despite Colorado’s 1-11 record, firing Embree after just two seasons came as a shock because of the state of the Buffaloes program after Dan Hawkins tenure, the Embree’s five year contract and the general support he had among fans and alumni. Things turned nasty against Bohn and the administration when race was brought up among their critics, including by Bill McCartney, the coach who led the Buffaloes to the 1990 National Championship. The history of unfair practices toward black coaches is well documented and the University of Colorado has a less than gleaming record on the issue. Even though Embree, and many others around the program do not believe ethnicity played into the firing, it left Colorado vulnerable.
Behind the scenes Bohn was scrambling to find a coach after his go to guy said no. He painted himself into a corner by stating that the Buffs had to hire an experienced head coach at the college level that had their academic standards and philosophy. This immediately ruled out several major candidates. Meanwhile, big names like Louisville coach Charlie Strong basically laughed the Colorado job off. The Buffs refused to interview anyone with NCAA violations which ruled out Jim Tressel and Bobby Petrino and they quickly rejected Mark Mangino’s self promotion.
Then University of Cincinnati coach Butch Jones dangled Colorado on a string. While Bohn’s staff built up the pick in the media, Jones led Colorado on for three days before declining and picking the University of Tennessee instead. In that time he acted selfish and entitled, refusing to answer questions. On Colorado’s part, they leaked to the media that he had accepted the job, which may have scared him away. When he left, Colorado was lost, with only smaller candidates to consider.
For those not familiar with the story, you may wonder how Athletic Director Mike Bohn has kept his job. MacIntyre represents his third football hire along with Hawkins and Embree, while also choosing to end Gary Barnett’s tenure at Colorado. It is believed that Bohn was forced into hiring Embree and more malicious narratives believe that he set Embree up to fail so that Colorado could get a different coach when Pac-12 money started flowing into the Athletic Department. That Pac-12 money, gained when the Buffs jumped from the Big-12 on Bohn’s shoulders, is the reason he still has a job. While he has turned around the basketball program with Tad Boyle, it was not a hard hire considering that his predecessor, Jeff Bzdelik, jumped ship. For Bohn, money has saved his job and he needs this football hire to work out.
In the end, MacIntyre is everything the Buffaloes need in a head coach. He turned the San Jose program around in three years. He has proven that he can recruit California kids and appears confident in his staff to recruit elsewhere. He has proven results not only as a head coach, but as an assistant in the NFL and around college football. Above all, he also wanted this job. MacIntyre said in his conference yesterday that when recruiting a kid your first question is, “Do you want to play for Colorado?” If the answer is no, you move on. Colorado should have used that advice when searching for a new head coach. Hopefully MacIntyre continues to want to be at Colorado, so that they can find their way out of the Pac-12 basement.