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Former Colorado coach Bill McCartney claims racism in Jon Embree firing

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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Bill McCartney, left (AP)

Former Colorado coaching legend Bill McCartney accused the university of racism in its handing of recently fired coach Jon Embree.

Embree, who is black, was fired after winning just four games in two seasons. McCartney, who coached the Buffs to a national title, said he won seven games in his first three years with the program and was given a contract extension in 1984. When asked on the radio why he thought he was given an extension and Embree was fired, McCartney didn't mince words.

"Honestly, I believe it's because I'm Caucasian. I believe black men have less opportunity, shorter time if you will," McCartney told ESPN radio in Denver.

"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?"

Saying Embree was fired because of his race has been a popular argument in Denver as the state continues to be divided on whether Embree should have been given more time to repair the damage left after Hawkins.

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(AP)

Colorado hadn't had a winning season since 2005 and had not been to a bowl game since 2007. It had won five games only once since then.

But under Embree, things didn't get better on the field. The team looked wildly overmatched against Pac-12 competition and Embree and his staff couldn't match wits with some of the more seasoned coaches in the league. Embree was hired because fans and boosters were clamoring for athletic director Mike Bohn to hire a former Buff and Embree was a cheap option.

Did he deserve another year? Perhaps. Colorado was definitely down when he got there and things outside of wins and losses — APR, recruiting, morale, etc. — were definitely better under this coaching staff than it was under Hawkins. But big-time college athletics is all about tangible results. Look at Southern Miss' Ellis Johnson. He turned a 12-2 team into a 0-12 team and was immediately canned without a second thought. He's white. He got one year. Few are batting an eye. Obviously, he took a good product and made terrible while Embree took a bad product and made it static.

McCartney wrote an open letter to Colorado administration and fans. He urged the administration to reconsider and hire Embree back. He urged fans to let the University of Colorado know that an injustice was done. McCartney has a stake in this. Embree played for him and he later persuaded Embree to get into coaching by joining his staff in the 1990s. He endorsed Embree two years ago when he got the job. It's not surprising he would stick up for his friend.

But at some point this program is going to have to move on. The division is only making Colorado an undesirable place to work, which isn't good for anyone. The Jon Embree Era is over. The decision will be one that's debated forever, but if Colorado wants to attract a worthwhile candidate, it needs to get everyone back on the same page.

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