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?

No. 17 Kentucky leads five newcomers in this week’s AP poll

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Carnage littered the AP Top 25 landscape following Week 4’s games, as seven ranked teams lost games — five of them to unranked opponents, and a sixth in horrific fashion.

As such, five new teams are in, led by No. 17 Kentucky. Following a 28-7 smashing of then-No. 14 Mississippi StateMark Stoops‘s Wildcats are 4-0 overall and off to their first 2-0 start since 1977. As such, they graced the AP Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 11, 2007, and just the second time since 1984. The No. 17 ranking is UK’s highest ranking since Oct. 21, 2007.

Also joining the rankings are No. 18 Texas, who was No. 23 in preseason, did not earn a single vote after losing at Maryland and now has vaulted back into the rankings after back-to-back double-digit wins over ranked opponents (both of whom are now unranked). Elsewhere, a pair of unbeaten Power 5 teams have joined the rankings for the first time this season in No. 22 Duke and No. 24 California, and Texas Tech came in at No. 25 after smashing then-No. 15 Oklahoma State by 24 points in Stillwater.

Only two of the seven losers remained in the poll: Oregon, who actually climbed a spot to No. 19 after blowing a 17-point third quarter lead to No. 7 Stanford and No. 23 Mississippi State for absolutely no reason whatsoever. (I expected this from the good-for-literally-nothing coaches’ poll, but I expected better from you, AP voters.)

Elsewhere, LSU leapfrogged Oklahoma for No. 5 after Army took the Sooners to overtime in Norman, and Penn State jumped Auburn for No. 9 ahead of a massive game Saturday night in Happy Valley.

Michigan, Miami and BYU moved up five spots, while UCF, Wisconsin and Michigan State gained three.

The full poll:

1. Alabama — 1,523 total points (60 first-place votes)
2. Georgia — 1,422
3. Clemson — 1,409 (1)
4. Ohio State — 1,363
5. LSU — 1,238
6. Oklahoma — 1,201
7. Stanford — 1,143
8. Notre Dame — 1,067
9. Penn State — 1,001
10. Auburn — 987
11. Washington — 946
12. West Virginia — 923
13. UCF — 727
14. Michigan — 698
15. Wisconsin — 662
16. Miami — 571
17. Kentucky — 541
18. Texas — 308
19. Oregon — 297
20. BYU — 270
21. Michigan State — 256
22. Duke — 244
23. Mississippi State — 241
24. California — 118
25. Texas Tech — 106

Five ranked-on-ranked matchups await us in Week 5:

No. 12 West Virginia at No. 25 Texas Tech (noon ET, ESPN2)
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
No. 7 Stanford at No. 8 Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
No. 20 BYU at No. 11 Washington (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
No. 24 California at No. 19 Oregon (10:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

Three new teams join coaches’ top 25

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Nearly a third of the coaches’ top 25 tasted defeat on Saturday, five of them to unranked teams. But the coaches’ poll voters are typically slow to react to the events unfolding in front of them, and so four of them remain in Sunday’s top 25.

Texas A&M, Boston College and TCU dropped from the rankings, while Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State and Oregon remained in the poll. Texas A&M and TCU have two losses so they have to go, even though A&M lost to No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson, and TCU lost to No. 4 Ohio State and newly-ranked Texas.

Virginia Tech remains ranked thanks to a now-worthless Labor Day win at Florida State, and despite a loss to previously winless Old Dominion. Mississippi State has yet to beat anyone with a pulse. Oklahoma State does own an impressive win over Boise State, but the Cowboys followed that up with a 24-point home loss to Texas Tech. Oregon fell back just one spot as punishment for its collapse to No. 7 Stanford.

Kentucky joined the poll for the first time this season, vaulting all the way to No. 17. Texas re-joined the rankings at No. 22, one spot ahead of undefeated Duke.

The full poll:

1. Alabama — 1,597 total points (61 first-place votes)
2. Clemson — 1,497 (2)
3. Georgia — 1,473
4. Ohio State — 1,431 (1)
5. Oklahoma — 1,300
6. LSU — 1,234
7. Stanford — 1,206
8. Notre Dame — 1,136
9. Penn State — 1,108
10. Auburn — 997
11. Washington — 959
12. West Virginia — 946
13. Wisconsin — 776
14. UCF — 705
15. Michigan — 603
16. Miami — 554
17. Kentucky — 531
18. Michigan State — 376
19. Mississippi State — 311
20. Oregon — 281
21. Oklahoma State — 199
22. Texas — 171
23. Duke — 170
24. Virginia Tech — 160
25. Boise State — 145

Gene Smith addresses report saying Ohio State considering making Ryan Day head coach-in-waiting

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It was another wild Saturday in college football, but perhaps the biggest development came from off the field.

After Urban Meyer returned to the sideline for the first time this season, Ari Wasserman of The Athletic reported Ohio State is considering naming offensive coordinator Ryan Day its head coach-in-waiting.

Day, of course, served as the No. 4 Buckeyes’ acting head coach through training camp and the first three games of this season, leading the club to three wins. And Ohio State was impressed with him well before August, too. After his first season in Columbus, Ohio State promoted him to offensive coordinator, handed him a 3-year contract and made him the school’s first $1 million coordinator.

But Saturday’s report indicated Ohio State is considering tying Day to the program for the long-term on a more formal basis.

On Sunday, Ohio State AD Gene Smith addressed the report, largely by talking around it.

“We obviously are appreciative of Coach Day’s great work, and hope he continues to be one of our offensive coordinators for a long time, but we are more than confident Coach Meyer will be our head coach for quite some time,” Smith tweeted.

Wasserman’s report said the plan is still in the discussion phase and that Ohio State is in no hurry to push Meyer out of his job, and this statement doesn’t contradict or refute that.

Smith could have ended all speculation by saying something to the effect of, “There are no discussions of naming Coach Day or any other assistant as our head coach-in-waiting. Coach Meyer is our head coach and will remain so as long as he likes.”

But he didn’t, and so the speculation lives.

 

No. 10 Washington rides defense to win over slumping Arizona State

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Take one of the Pac-12’s best rushing attacks, mix in the league’s best receiver on the other sideline and stir after dark to get some wild, offensive-laden craziness in Seattle, right? Uh, not even close.

No. 10 Washington rode their incredible defense and used a handful of big plays from their offensive veterans to secure a bruising 27-20 win on Saturday night and drop the fighting Herm Edwards’ of Arizona State to a slumping .500 on the season.

Huskies QB Jake Browning crossed the 10,000 yard passing plateau for his college career and continued closing in on several school records with an efficient 202 yard game. That included three excellent throws into the end zone for touchdowns, one to Aaron Fulleranother to Ty Jones and the best of the bunch in the fourth quarter to help salt the game away to a tip-toeing Cade Otton.

The signal-caller’s play balanced out another solid (if not quite the usual spectacular) effort from Washington’s one-two punch in the backfield as Myles Gaskin recorded 86 yards on the ground and Salvon Ahmed chipped in with 71 more on limited carries. The team punted just three times all game and probably could have gotten off to a better start had their signature Chris Petersen trick play on the first play of the game — in this case, a double-pass — not been picked off.

The real star of the show might have been the defense though. Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven looks like a budding All-American and finished with 20 tackles and two forced fumbles while the entire front seven was a load for the Sun Devils to handle. Eno Benjamin had just one long run on his way to 104 yards plus a TD and otherwise had to fight for running room on every carry.

He was still a bright spot for ASU all things considered… namely how rough of an outing it was for QB Manny Wilkins (104 yards passing) and star receiver N'Keal Harry (five catches, 20 yards). The entire group seemingly continued their struggles from last week’s loss against San Diego State and will now need to find some way to regroup with the heart of their Pac-12 slate coming up next month. After grabbing the nation’s attention with a victory over Michigan State, now will really be the time we’ll find out what Edwards can do as a college coach as he tries to rebound from a losing streak for the first time.

The Huskies, meanwhile, can rest easy knowing they didn’t get swept up in the wild nature of the day in college football with so many ranked teams falling to unranked squads. It was by no means a crisp outing for Petersen’s group but it is a precious win nevertheless and does set up a very intriguing game next Saturday night against a ranked BYU squad. At this point late into the night on Saturday, surviving and advancing is nothing to overlook and, thanks mostly to their defense, Washington did just that against Arizona State.