BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– University of Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bohn and Chancellor Phil DiStefano laid the groundwork to fire head football coach Jon Embree prior to the Buffs final loss of the season, according to internal CU documents obtained during a CBS4 Investigation.
The CU football team lost its 10th game of the season 42-35 to the University of Utah on Nov. 23.
Two days later, at about 5:30 p.m. Nov. 25, Bohn informed Embree he was fired.
The following day Embree talked about his dismissal.
“There was no indication, no indication,” Embree said after he was fired. “I thought I would be here to build it, see it through.”
Embree said he was under the impression he had another year to turn around the CU football program.
But CBS4 has obtained internal CU emails showing Embree’s bosses were preparing to fire him prior to the final loss.
Bohn emailed DiStefano at 10:01 a.m. Nov. 23, hours before the final game began.
The document is labeled “Colorado Football Strategy Session.”
Bohn wrote, ”Phil, please see below a draft agenda for our post game meeting for your review. I also have some handouts on search related initiatives ready to distribute. MB”
The one-page document contains 15 bullet points. Number 8 is “Recruitment strategy for new leadership.”
Another item is labeled “Process” and item number 12 is “Expectations of search procedure.”
Another section of the documents addresses “Financial Impact,” including “existing staff buyouts, new staff transition.”
CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard told CBS4, “Certainly it’s clear from the document that Mike Bohn was thinking of a new coach. He was thinking about going in that direction.”
Hilliard said he couldn’t say much more about the document and its implications due to personnel issues.
“Wow,” said Embree when he heard about the email Thursday afternoon. “I am surprised.”
“They made it sound like it was a hard decision but it sounds like it was in the works for awhile. They made it sound like they were agonizing about it all weekend but they weren’t. It just makes you wonder when they were starting this process. They had an idea and they were waiting to execute it,” said a miffed Embree.
Embree asked CBS4 to provide him with copies of the internal CU emails, which he had not seen or heard about before.
“It doesn’t change anything,” said the former CU coach. “From a business standpoint I understand. It’s part of the business.”
At the news conference announcing Embree’s dismissal, reporters asked Bohn about the timing of the decision- when was it decided Embree would be canned?
“It was late because we wanted it to work because it had nothing to do with the last game,” Bohn replied. “It came to the point late that we had to make a change.”
Another set of emails showed that at the same time Bohn and DiStefano were preparing to fire Embree, administrators who were apparently unaware of Embree’s pending fate, were simultaneously preparing for an announcement prior to the final game that two assistant coaches would be fired.
Two sources connected to the football program said CU was planning to fire defensive coach Greg Brown and linebackers coach Brian Cabral.
On Nov. 22, the night before the final game, Associate Athletic Director David Plati sent out an email about the planned firing of Brown and Cabral that was disseminated among half a dozen CU administrators, athletic officials and lawyers.
“Mike (Bohn) and I spoke at length tonight about our various scenarios; all stink, of course, so it’s basically choose between the lesser of all evils,” wrote Plati.
He made it clear that in firing two assistant coaches, CU officials would have to deal with media questions about Embree’s status.
“We absolutely cannot have Jon’s status be up in the air at this point,” wrote Plati, ”It will fuel a firestorm on a national level- always does when a coach doesn’t get the vote of confidence.”
“To put it out there that Jon’s status is in question or will be evaluated, even if he is retained, will hurt us in recruiting, with the athletic alumni who are still close to 100 percent behind Jon, and the Black Coaches Association, which isn’t going to stand still watching two black coaches be fired two years in a row after being given only two years; they didn’t go after Kansas last year likely because it had an AD change,” wrote Plati.
“There will be no way the dismissal of two assistant coaches will hold until Monday; we think it is best that Mike announces it pregame on KOA, I have an advisory saying so to handout in the press box, and Jon addresses postgame. It will take one tweet by someone after the game for it to explode otherwise and thus a story will be ‘we knew, and we didn’t comment.’”
Brown and Cabral were not fired prior to the Utah game, apparently because Embree hadn’t informed his team of the planned coaching changes.
CU has since hired Mike Macintyre from San Jose State as head football coach. He was scheduled to spend Thursday in Boulder with Mike Bohn.
Embree told CBS4 he is hoping to catch on as an assistant coach in the NFL.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: CU Internal Emails
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com