During a tear filled press conference following his firing as Colorado’s head football coach, Jon Embree made a comment that has stirred debate and controversy over the past two days. He alluded that African-American coaches only get one chance to be a head coach in major college football. He stated that only Ty Willingham is the sole African-American coach to get a second chance in D-1 football, having secured head positions with Notre Dame and then later Washington. Which is a true statement, but this comment opened the door to that four letter word…race.
[Rumor Mill: Les Miles has an offer on the table from Arkansas]
Well, the racism pot has been stirred even more. Former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney came out on ESPN affiliate 102.3 FM and a drafted letter to the Denver Post, stating he believes racism played a major roll in Embree’s firing. McCartney made the following statements on air:
“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, (former coach) Dan Hawkins got five full years. Why not give Jon Embree five years? You signed him to a five-year contract. (Quoted from the Denver Post).
The former coach has also asked Buffalo fans to petition against Embree’s firing and for the ousted coach to be reinstated immediately. McCartney was the head coach of the Buffaloes from 1982-1994 where he amassed a 93-55-5 records and nine bowl appearances. He won a share of the National title in 1990. One more important fact, he was Jon Embree’s head coach, where Embree was one of the best players he had ever coached in the Colorado program. McCartney believes that he was given an opportunity to grow the Colorado program, along with his caucasian predecessors, but do his words hold any merit.
In the last two decades that McCartney has been out of coaching, a lot has changed with major college football. One of those biggest changes is the business of college sports and the pressure to win immediately. Not to mention the millions of dollars a winning football program can bring into a university. Those on both sides of the fence have their opinions, well here are some facts.
Dan Hawkins went 8-17 with one bowl appearance, a loss in the 2007 Independence Bowl. After that he went on to never win more then five games in a season and was fired when his five year contract was up. Embree went 4-21, including 1-11 this past season, and as we all know, he was fired after a close loss to Utah in the final week of the season. Both coaches had similar records, but a 1-11 performance can be considered a set-back instead of moving in the right direction. It is believed by many that Colorado made this move seeing no change coming with a poor recruiting class and two fewer wins than last season. Hawkins made an improvement in his second year, which may have bought him some time with Colorado’s administration.
In a sport that is made up of 46 percent of African-American players, you would think keeping a African American coach at the helm would be a good move. Well, many programs are are beginning to think this way. In 2008, there were only four African American head coaches leading FBS football programs, out of the possible 120 positions. As of 2011 there were 19 out of 120. This is a trend that will continue to grow over time. A man should be hired on his ability and never his race. What a coach produces should be the only thing to be evaluated, because if John Embree was Caucasian, no one would argue that 1-11 is acceptable.
To be honest, 4-21 is not going to get it done for a Big 12 program. In the times of high returns and million dollar bowl bids, regression cannot be tolerated. If the administration of Colorado was racist, they wouldn’t of hired Embree in the first place. Do you honestly think if Will Muschamp led the Gators to a last place finish in the SEC and a a sub .500 record this year that he wouldn’t be on the hot seat? This is a “what have you done for me lately” type of business. To pull the race card is not only ignorant, but shows a complete lack of understanding of what the implications of a poor football program can have on an institution as a whole.
Do I think Embree’s firing was race related? No. I think it was his poor recruiting and his 1-11 record this year. He regressed in his second year, and you just can’t do that in today’s day and age. Do I think he deserved one more year? Maybe. If he only won two games next year, should they have fired him then? Just like any other career in this country, if you do not produce you get fired. That’s the bottom line.
What do you think Gamedayr Nation, was ‘race’ a factor? Let us know in the comments below!
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