They say time heals all wounds.

At Colorado, Jon Embree does.

The first-year CU coach has fans and boosters filled with hope and back on the Buffs bandwagon this spring.

Embree's presence has also paved the way for a legendary reunion at Folsom Field with Bill McCartney and Gary Barnett set to coach the alumni game on Saturday prior to the spring game.

McCartney was the head coach and Barnett was his offensive coordinator in 1990 when CU won the national championship.

After the Rick Neuheisel era, Barnett was brought back to return the program to dominance. He won a Big 12 championship and four North Division titles, but athletic director Mike Bohn fired him after the 2005 season.

"He's just a classy guy. For him to stay involved ... let's face it, he was treated unfairly," McCartney said of Barnett's return to Boulder. "I just think it says a lot about Gary's character to come back."

The former CU head coaches haven't stalked the same field together in almost 20 years.


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"We haven't done it for a while, that's for sure," Barnett said. "I'm looking forward to the whole weekend and seeing everybody and having some fun. Mac's team is going to struggle. He's got all the old guys."

Charles Johnson will captain McCartney's squad. Joel Klatt will do the same for Barnett's team.

The two former CU quarterbacks, who host a radio show together, were among the over 50 ex-players who met with Bohn and the search committee after the 2010 season to lobby for "a Buff" to replace the fired Dan Hawkins.

"I don't know that it's necessary," Barnett said when asked if CU needed to hire someone with strong ties to the program to get it back on track. "More than anything what it has done is brought everybody back. That's the real advantage of having a CU guy. There was a five-year span when people, for whatever reason, were not comfortable coming back.

"Jon's still got to go win football games and recruit and it's different now than when he left. But he's got a lot of supporters."

McCartney was also considered for the job again this time around. So were Brian Cabral and Eric Bieniemy, who are both on Embree's staff.

"It's really fun to see the momentum, just the shift in sentiment. It's surprising, to be honest. I'm overjoyed," McCartney said. "And I don't think it's just Embree. It's also the guys he hired. That's all created some optimism."

Embree played for and started his coaching career under McCartney. He was also one of Barnett's assistants when CU won its only Big 12 championship in 2001.

"I know everyone is excited," Barnett said. "Jon represents how many years? He started playing there in '83 and worked their through 2002. That's a long period of time at a place. That's a 20-year span of people, friends and colleagues. He's got a lot of ties to CU."

Barnett will also return to Boulder for the Cal game on Sept. 10 when the 2001 CU team is honored.

Gary Barnett and Jon Embree embrace after a 2003 game at Folsom when Embree was an assistant at UCLA and Barnett was the CU coach
Gary Barnett and Jon Embree embrace after a 2003 game at Folsom when Embree was an assistant at UCLA and Barnett was the CU coach (Associated Press)

"Gary is an integral part of this program. He always has been," Embree said. "I remember first meeting him in 1984 as an assistant coach and just his fire and intensity and then obviously coming back when Rick (Neuheisel) left and getting a Big 12 championship.

"Gary is a Buff. So that is why I wanted him back. I know people have opinions about him. People have opinions about me, too. But we're a family and he's a big part of that family. I think he needs to be here. He needs to be around."