Jon Embree

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


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?

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

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It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

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Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.

Rutgers taps Chris Christie aide to serve as new AD

Patrick Hobbs
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The chair in Julie Hermann‘s office hasn’t even cooled yet, but Rutgers has already found her replacement.

The Scarlet Knights have hired Seton Hall emeritus dean of law Patrick Hobbs as its new full-time athletics director. Hobbs served as the Pirates’ interim AD in 2010-11 but has no athletics experience outside of that.

He does, however, have significant experience managing scandal-ridden institutions.

In the same letter announcing the firings of Hermann and head football coach Kyle Flood, Rutgers president Robert Barchi detailed Hobbs’s hiring.

When I made the decision last week that we needed a change in leadership, I set out to find an interim Director of Athletics who could stabilize the Department before launching a national search.  On a strong referral, I met with Patrick Hobbs, Dean Emeritus of the Seton Hall University School of Law, who previously led the athletics program at Seton Hall University during a period of major change.

In addition to these assignments, Pat has served on various state legal and ethics boards and commissions and most recently was appointed by Governor Christie to serve as an independent ethics ombudsman to the Office of the Governor.

In my meetings and conversations with Pat, and also with Board Members Greg Brown and Ken Schmidt, it was clear to all of us that Pat had the attributes required for our next Director of Athletics.  We offered Pat the permanent job on Friday and we are proud to welcome him as our new Director of Athletics.

Hobbs left his full-time post at Seton Hall in 2014 to serve as the ombudsman to New Jersey governor Chris Christie‘s office in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, where his job was to police the ethics and policies among Christie’s staff members. In addition to that, Hobbs served on the New Jersey Commission of Investigation from 2004-14, chairing the commission the final four years.

Hobbs joined Seton Hall’s law faculty and was named dean of law in 1999.

Hobbs arrives at an athletics department plagued with scandal and dysfunction. He’ll have to replace a football coach fired in part for attempting to violate the church-state relationship between football and academics in an attempt to influence a players’ grade. Hermann, a storm of controversy in her own right, was hired after the school cleaned house when it was discovered men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was abusing players, and his replacement Eddie Jordan came under fire for not owning a college degree.

And, by the way, Rutgers has won just six of 34 football and men’s basketball games in Big Ten play.

Iowa State announces Matt Campbell as head coach

Matt Campbell
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Twenty-four hours after the news first broke, Iowa State has announced Matt Campbell as its new head coach.

Campbell, who turns 35 today, went 35-15 in four seasons in the same capacity at Toledo.

“Matt’s coaching and playing achievements are extraordinary, but we were even more impressed by his character, leadership and commitment to his family,” Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard said in a statement. “I could not be more excited to welcome Matt, Erica and their children to the Cyclone Family.  We are truly blessed to have one of the industry’s rising stars leading our football program.”

Iowa State represents the first time Campbell will leave the state of Ohio on a permanent basis — save for a brief stint as a player at Pittsburgh. A native of Massillon, Ohio, he played at Division III power Mount Union and deposited coaching stints at Bowling Green, Mount Union and Toledo.

“I couldn’t be more excited to receive the opportunity to coach at Iowa State,” Campbell said. “Two years ago after we played the Cyclones in Ames, I called my wife (Erica) and said you simply would not believe this place. Their fans, the game-day environment and facilities are all incredible.  I could see us living in Ames and me coaching the Cyclones some day. My family and I are truly humbled.”

Campbell signed a six-year contract with the Cyclones worth $2 million a year.