Jon Embree

Ex-Buffs coach sees race as reason for Embree’s dismissal

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This past Sunday was, as is usually the case following the last major weekend in the college football season, a bad day to be a coach on the hot seat. Among the coaches fired on Sunday was Colorado’s Jon Embree, who had completed only his second year at his alma mater.

On Monday, Embree held an emotional press conference in which he was visibly hurt and stunned. When asked if he thought the next coach could be successful at Colorado, Embree replied sternly “How long does he have?” It was a not-so-subtle shot at the university’s administration, which was only re-enforced when athletic director Mike Bohn took the microphone next and stumbled his way through a Q&A with reporters over exactly what was wrong with the football program.

But now Embree’s dismissal has shifted into a discussion about whether race played a role in the manner in which he was terminated. That conversation gained intensity when former Buffs coach Bill McCartney said on a local radio show Tuesday that he was given more time to build the program — McCartney coached at Colorado from 1982-’94 and has a long history with Embree — than Embree because of the color of his skin:

“Honestly, I believe it’s because I’m Caucasian. I believe black men have less opportunity, shorter time if you will. It’s just like, Dan Hawkins got five full years. Why not give Jon Embree five years? You signed him to a five-year contract.

“Men of color have a more difficult road to tread. It didn’t happen to me. Why should it happen to a black man?”

McCartney also read an open letter on the air to the university’s fans and admins, which you can read HERE, and criticized chancellor Phil DiStefano:

“I heard the chancellor said it didn’t matter what color Jon was. I think that offends every person of color out there. This guy can match wits with any white guy out there. He’s the real deal.”

DiStefano said during the Monday press conference, “We didn’t hire Jon because he’s an African-American, and we didn’t fire Jon because he is an African-American.”

Technically, Embree was fired because he didn’t win enough, fast enough. The Buffs were victorious just four times in Embree’s two years. For the sake McCartney’s comparison, Dan Hawkins, the coach who preceded Embree, had 19 wins in almost five seasons at Colorado. McCartney himself had just seven wins in his first three years in Boulder before matching that win total in 1985 and going on to have a successful tenure with the program. That was a different era though, one when coaches generally had more time to get things moving in the right direction.

This week, Gene Chizik was fired two years removed from winning a national championship. Ellis Johnson was shown the door after one winless season at Southern Miss. Both coaches are white. That’s  not to say there isn’t a point to be made about the uphill battle minority coaches face in the profession, but winning is the most crucial metric for judging a coach’s success, not the color of their skin. Or, at least that’s what you hope.

Yes, Embree may have been in over his head from the first day he stepped foot back on to campus, but he certainly didn’t run Colorado football into the ground. This is a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005 and will now be looking for its third coach since then. Judging by Monday’s press conference, Colorado athletics has bigger problems than Jon Embree. The fact that Bohn admitted as much shows just how bad it really is in Boulder.

The question is did Embree have a fair chance to turn Colorado around with those issues taken into consideration? If not, why?

Oklahoma RB/KR Alex Ross joins graduate transfer market

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28: Alex Ross #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners returns a kick off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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One of the most dangerous kick returners in college football just joined the graduate transfer market.

Oklahoma announced Friday running back Alex Ross will graduate this spring and ply his craft elsewhere for his final collegiate seasons.

Considering his plight on the Sooners’ depth chart, Ross’s decision to transfer is entirely understandable. After accumulating 88 carries in 2014, second-most on the team, Ross saw his usage drop to just 32 attempts (for 172 yards and one touchdown) last fall as Joe Mixon gained eligibility and Baker Mayfield‘s presence in the running game rendered Ross largely to the bench. Both will return next season — along with presumptive Heisman candidate Samaje Perine — so Ross will not.

“Alex has been a great teammate and team guy for four years for us, and we’ve always been proud of him,” OU head coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “This is an opportunity for him to go somewhere else and play full time. We wish him the best.”

Ross ranks third in Oklahoma history with a 25.7-yard kickoff return average and surely would have broken the Sooners’ all-time kick return yardage record had he returned to Norman this fall. He took kickoffs back for touchdowns against West Virginia and Texas in 2014, and logged a 90-yard return in OU’s 58-23 Big 12-title clinching beatdown of Oklahoma State last November.

Ross was a second-team All-American kick returner on CBS Sports‘s list in 2014.

Charges against ex-Orange DB Howard upgraded in Syracuse stabbing incident

SYRACUSE, NY - SEPTEMBER 26:  Syracuse Orange takes the field amidst a cloud of pyrotechnic smoke before the game against the LSU Tigers on September 26, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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Former Syracuse defensive back Nasean Howard was arraigned last month on two counts of assault in the second degree after allegedly stabbing two of his former teammates.

On Thursday, Howard’s charges were upgraded to first degree assault, in addition to the second degree charges and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

The first-degree charge states Howard intended to cause “serious physical injury” — a safe bet considering he allegedly came at the two men with a knife — and carries a sentence stretching up to 25 years.

The 20-year-old Howard is accused of attacking Chauncey Scissum and Corey Winfield unprovoked during an on-campus birthday party for an unnamed Syracuse student. Scissum was stabbed in the jaw and, unable to protect himself due to a recent surgery, was protected by Winfield, who took stabbings in the arms, chest and ribs on Scissum’s behalf.

Defense attorney Irene Aurora Flores stated “there’s a lot more to the story” but declined further comment, according to the Associated Press.

Howard remains free on bail.

Pitt RB Chris James completes transfer to Wisconsin

SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 24:  Chris James #5 of the Pittsburgh Panthers carries the ball during the first half against the Syracuse Orange on October 24, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  Pittsburgh defeats Syracuse 23-20.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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Hailing out of Chicago, Chris James hoped to sign with Wisconsin after leaving Notre Dame College Prep but wound up heading east to play for head coach Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and running backs coach John Settle at Pittsburgh.

All three of whom are now at Wisconsin.

So, naturally, James is now set to join them. The rising junior has planned to transfer to Wisconsin for months, and on Thursday received confirmation he’d been admitted to the Big Ten school.

“Coach Settle sent me a text, saying ‘welcome to the Badger family,’” James told Badger Nation. “I am really excited. It’s definitely been a long journey.”

James said, naturally, that his childhood love for the Badgers combined with his former coaches now employed in Madison drew him to Wisconsin. The presence of Ron DayneMontee BallMelvin Gordon and a handful of other 1,000-yard backs couldn’t have hurt, either.

“It was funny because everybody who I knew was wearing red now,” James said. “It was kind of weird but I’m glad I got to chance to go back up there. Things really haven’t changed that much. Stepping into Camp Randall, I got chills, man. As crazy as it feels, it felt like home.”

James rushed 87 times for 437 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman in 2014, and accumulated 56 carries for 253 yards last season.

Two of Wisconsin’s top three running backs will be seniors this fall, so James figures to be a regular in the Badgers’ running back rotation when his eligibility resumes in 2017.

Coastal Carolina struggling to acquire funding for stadium improvements

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 23:  Alex Ross #4 of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers drops back to pass during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Coastal Carolina joins the Sun Belt’s football roster in 2017 (every other sport makes the jump this fall), and the Chanticleers would like to make some upgrades to 12-year old Brooks Stadium in advance of their move to college football’s top division.

Only, the school can’t receive approval to acquire the funding necessary to do so.

On Thursday, South Carolina’s Commission on Higher Education rejected by a 9-4 vote the Coastal’s request for $29.9 million to upgrade the stadium. This week’s rejection marked the fourth in three months, as the school has been unable to assuage the CHE’s concerns over how accurately Coastal’s projections forecast the true cost of the project.

The university has dropped its initial request by 21 percent, down from an original $38 million ask.

“We take the responsibility very seriously. This is not an easy decision. We champion everything that you’re about as an institution,” CHE chairman Tim Hofferth said prior to the vote, via Myrtle Beach Online. “ … At the end of the day, I’ve talked to a lot of athletic directors, a lot of presidents throughout the country, to bring it without significant private funding in today’s environment [is risky]. The question is what’s significant? I don’t know. There’s 13 [different] significant answers here. The fact of the matter is it’s very relevant and the thing that I’m afraid of, the costs on the operating side are nowhere near what you anticipate them to be. …

“That’s my greatest concern in this environment. I want to get there. I’m just not there yet.”

The CHE also said it would like to see Coastal raise more private money to fund the project.

“I would ask if it’s within a point of order, can we get some very specific direction as to what is going to be a comfort level for those that are on the commission?” Coastal president Dave DeCenzo said. “You probably can’t do it right now, but I respectfully request that something be given to us because I know there have been some comments at times of ‘Well, why is this new?’ We’ve been playing this ‘Guess what’s on our mind?’ as we get some feedback saying, ‘Well, you’re going to have to lower this, you’re going to have to do that.’ We need some very specific direction.

“Our definition of private money, if that’s unacceptable to you, if your definition of private money is this is a donor writing a check, is it 20 percent, is it 25 percent? Give us some guideline.”

Coastal has stripped down its original blueprint, down from a planned 22,000 capacity to 19,000, while abandoning plans to improve the stadium’s sound system and construct plazas and facades to make the structure more functional.

The NCAA requires FBS programs meet an average attendance of 15,000, which is not currently possible in the 9,214-seat Brooks Stadium.

Coastal Carolina has the opportunity to make a fifth proposal before the CHE next month.