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November 26, 2012
BOULDER, Colo. - In front of a crowded Varsity Room in the Dal Ward Center, Jon Embree took to the microphone to comment, answer questions and shed light on the circumstances surrounding his termination.
"Thank you to the players," he began, holding back tears. "You guys have given me a lot and thank you for letting me help you guys become men. We talk about the heart of a buffalo, keep that with you at all times."
That prompted one of the many current Buffs in attendance to shout back, "Thank you coach, we love you."
Only two years ago there was a call, rather a movement, to hire a coach with ties to the University of Colorado to replace Dan Hawkins. Fans, media members and former players all joined in and shut out any candidate without those credentials. What they got was Jon Embree and a 4-21 record over two seasons.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, that decision led to Monday's presser.
"It is obviously disappointing sitting here today," Embree said. "I did things the right way, we had the highest GPA the last three semesters that the school has ever had I want to thank my staff, my support staff. My football staff, you did the best you could and I appreciate that.
"As we move forward, I'll always have (the players') back and I'll do anything I can for you. I want to thank my family for sacrificing a lot for me to have this opportunity and we'll be better for it. To my kids, the ones carry my last name and the ones I coach, don't let anyone take anything away from you. They can't if you don't let them."
With that he fielded questions, mostly about his feelings regarding the decision of Atheltic Director Mike Bohn.
"I'm not in the right frame of mind to answer some of that stuff," he said. "Obviously I don't agree."
Part of that is that he was under the impression that he would have his full contract (four years) to see through what he started in Boulder. The decision leaked late Sunday night, just two days after the Buffs finished the year with a 42-35 loss to Utah. Embree said in that post-game press conference that he felt his job was safe. Less than 48 hours later, he was gone.
"I know that on Saturday Utah didn't get an extra touchdown," he said of the decision and its timing. "(Our) record stayed the same."
Some speculation and information has said that Embree refused to make certain staff changes to appease Bohn.
"There was no conflict," Jon said. "That's one of those internet rumors or something. My coaching staff had six of them said if they needed to resign so we could keep the job they would. Those are the kind of men I coached with."
Embree was then asked to look at the prospects of the next coach.
"How long does he have," he questioned. "We're going be a good team next year. We've got a lot of guys coming back. The main thing that our guys figured out was about playing hard all the time. We went against some really good teams that we weren't able to quite match up with, and at end of the day there was never any quit. They fought to the last play. That mentality I expect it to continue with them through the offseason."
Along the lines of those 2013 season prospects, Embree said that if the Buffs made a bowl game with him in charge he would have paid for the 2012 senior class to attend.
That is the backbone of his commitment to the university. He said that despite the firing, he has no plans to abandon his posts with the Buffs4Life organization or his support for the program.
"It doesn't change it," he said. "It is who you are. It's a special group to be a Buff."
The now former coach had less than a day to gather his thoughts and reflect on his time as the headman of the Buffs.
"If I did it different it wouldn't have been the right way," he said. "I was brought here to build something. I had one and a half recruiting classes so to speak. They've represented themselves well. I'm not going to do it any other way but the right way and that takes time. I'm disappointed with the results on the scoreboard. Everything else that's been done here, they're better."
But for Embree, it was the scoreboard that may have ultimately done him in.
"You can try to do things the right way or you can throw caution to the wind and do whatever it is you have to do to win," he said of the rebuilding job he faced. "If you want to get in that game, then you have to get in it. You can't have one foot in, it doesn't work that way.
"You hire the next guy and say, 'you have two years,' keep your fingers crossed. That's when you talk about paying for athletes, grade things. There are a lot of things you can do that can circumvent doing it the right way, basically get mercenaries."
The press conference was packed with media but also current and former players. When asked what it said about him that so many came out he said, "maybe they heard me sometimes when I was yelling at them."
"I tell them this all the time and I mean it," he said. "I love them and I treat them like they're my own kids. That's what makes this hard. It's hard leaving these kids."
However that time is now and Embree will no longer be the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
"The unique thing about college football," he explained. "You get to help someone go from a boy to a man. I've heard from a bunch of former players last night. It's good to know you can help change lives, that's why I came back to college."
Aside from conversing with present players and making sure his assistant coaches were taken care of, Embree said that his first job was to reach out to former Colorado tight end Daniel Graham. Embree said that Graham is his only former player that has yet to graduate from college.