Three years? Five years?
As long as it took Bill McCartney (eight years before the good times really started to roll)?
The first-year Colorado head coach was asked during his Tuesday press conference if he had a long-term Rose Bowl plan mapped out.
"I don't have any timetables like that. I'm more of a now guy," Embree said. "Where are we now? What do we have to get better at? I'm looking at it from that standpoint.
"If you start looking three, four, five years down the road, there may not even be a Rose Bowl at this rate the way this thing is changing."
That pretty much sums the state of the program: The Buffs could be involved in a playoff bracket by the time they're nationally relevant again.
There simply aren't any quick fixes to the many problems plaguing this team.
Patching holes with junior college transfers is not a viable option at CU. The coaching staff will have to throw a couple more recruiting classes into the fire before the roster is grown up enough for big-boy football.
Most of us understand the process, as painful as it is to watch. There are plenty of others in this Twitter society who believe Embree's honeymoon period came and went faster than Kim Kardashian's marriage.
Tyler Hansen is caught somewhere in the middle.
Obviously, the senior quarterback had an incredible win-now sense of urgency entering the season.
"I think it's going to be sooner than people think. It won't be immediate, but in a few years it will happen," Hansen said. "I'd be the first to tell you that the four years go quick. If you don't take advantage of your opportunities ... it's a shame things didn't turn out differently.
"But I'm happy I'm here. I have 100 percent trust in these coaches that they're going to turn this thing around."
Despite the half-empty cupboard Embree inherited and the training room full of injured players now unavailable, a 1-8 record is unacceptable.
At full strength, CU should have found a way to end the road losing streak in Hawaii. The Buffs should have closed out those fourth quarters against Cal and Washington State.
No one is more frustrated with this Pac-12 pledge hazing than the head coach. That's why Embree continues to challenge the players to make a stand.
"I understand all the things that are going against us," Embree said. "But being a competitor and being a guy in that locker room, you've just got to go find a reason why you can go out there and fight and compete."
For the fourth time in five weeks, the Buffs will face a ranked opponent. CU will wear all-black uniforms for the ESPN game against No. 21 USC.
Fans will also be dressed for mourning under the Friday night lights at Folsom Field.
The telecast will likely be nothing more than a four-hour infomercial on the greatness of Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and the bowl-ineligible Trojans.
"One of these days one of these big games will be about us," Embree said. "One of these days maybe we can get GameDay back here. In the nature of being in this conference and the history that we've had here at Colorado, if we get back to being successful, GameDay will want to come here.
"But we've got to do our part."
There might not be a specific timetable for rebuilding the program, but Embree is suddenly up against a tight deadline if he wants to produce CU's first Pac-12 win in 2011.
In the event that the Buffs were to win the Trojan War, the goalposts should be torn down and carried to Pearl Street as part of the celebration.
At this point any old win -- on Senior Day against Arizona, over Rick Neuheisel's mediocre UCLA team or at the expense of fellow conference rookie Utah -- would be a much-needed small step on the road to CU's long-term recovery.