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?

Not everybody seems happy about USC’s hiring of Clay Helton

Clay Helton

If there is one thing that can be said about USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach on a permanent basis, it is that it provides stability for the program moving forward. Current players have responded well to Helton. Future Trojans players are responding well to Helton on the recruiting trail. Former USC players? Well, that’s a different situation.

We saw some of this at Miami in recent years with former Hurricanes ripping now former head coach Al Golden. That was a bit of a different situation with Golden being a coach that went against the grain of all that was perceived to be representative of The U. Helton is different because he has been loyal to the program as an assistant coach during a turbulent time. He at least deserves respect of those following and those who have played for USC for that alone. The problem is Helton lacks the kind of appeal most wearing USC lenses expect from their coaching hire and it seems more likely to believe athletics director Pat Haden settled for Helton instead of being able to expand the coaching search and bring in a high-quality coach for the job.

There is one way to swing the emotions the other way for those unhappy with the decision. If USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship this week, that would be one step in the right direction for the Helton haters and the Haden skeptics (myself included). The pressure will be on more next season regardless of what happens this week in the Pac-12 championship game and whatever bowl game USC ends up playing. USC will be loaded with talent and will be a trendy pick to make a run in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, even the College Football Playoff.

USC names Clay Helton permanent head coach

Clay Helton

The top coaching vacancy in college football has been filled. USC has announced it will remove the interim tag from Clay Helton and make him the permanent head coach moving forward.

Helton has gone 5-2 since taking over the program following the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian as head coach. The most recent win this weekend against UCLA both snapped a three-game losing streak to the crosstown rival Bruins and clinched USC’s first trip to the Pac-12 championship game as Pac-12 South Division champions. Helton has been with the USC program since 2010 under various assistant roles. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013 and named interim head coach that season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. He stayed on the staff following the hiring of Sarkisian from Washington.

Helton had become a clear player favorite in the program, as Helton calmed a troublesome environment of uncertainty in the middle fo the season and delivered a division championship. The only losses under Helton came on the road against Notre Dame in Helton’s first game as interim head coach and more recently at Oregon, a program that revived itself as well. If nothing else, Helton’s being named the head coach provides for some stability for the program, although there should be some questions moving forward whether it will be the right move or not in the long term. The USC job was thought to be the top job on the market and worthy of some high-caliber candidates. There had been rumblings USC reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, a former Oregon coach of course, but the odds Kelly was going to leave the Eagles on his own a year after getting general manager power were always low.

USC will continue to bring plenty of pressure to win, and win big. Helton will continue to guide a roster packed with talent and getting back to full strength after a stretch of sanctioned seasons. If Helton does not win, he will quickly enter the hot seat conversation.

USC plays Stanford for the Pac-12 championship this week.

Will Mark Richt coach again? “Oh yeah, no doubt”

Mark Richt

On Sunday the end of the line for Mark Richt at Georgia was finally reached. The Bulldogs and the head coach will go separate ways after a 15-season run in Athens, but this will not be the final stop for Richt as a head coach. On Monday, during a press conference with the media to address the coaching change, Richt was asked whether he will coach again.

“Oh yeah, no doubt,” Richt said in his response. “I’m going to listen to anybody that’s interested in talking to me,” Richt said when again asked about what’s next for the now former head coach of Georgia.

The press conference with Richt was a bit unusual for these types of settings. First, Richt continued to show his Georgia pride by wearing a black coat and red tie and had a Georgia pin on his coat. Second, he sat right next to Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who offered no insight whatsoever on what’s next for Georgia. When asked about the coaching search or the status for assistants, McGarity continued to shift the focus on Richt.

Richt expressed his enthusiasm for getting to coach one final game for Georgia. He will coach Georgia’s bowl game, wherever that may be, giving him one last chance to end a season with a bowl victory, which he has done nine times previously.

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.