Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )
Emotions were running high at the Coors Events Center on Sunday night.

And not just because No. 23 Colorado delivered another impressive win -- this time 89-74 over a dangerous and previously unbeaten Air Force team.

As a highly entertaining Front Range basketball game was unfolding, many in the crowd of 10,607 started murmuring as word of Jon Embree's firing made its way through the arena.

A number of fans approached me at the press table to verify that CU is in fact looking for yet another head coach to lead the football program out of the abyss.

The reactions varied and included:

"It's awful."

"Mike Bohn's only claim to fame is right here. Without Tad Boyle and this basketball team, he'd be gone."

"It wasn't going to get better next year. They had to do it."

I asked Boyle, who used to play pick-up games with Embree in Boulder long before either was a head coach, for his thoughts on the news.

"I just found out. All I can say is I'm sad," Boyle said. "I'm sad for everybody involved, and certainly for coach Embree and his staff. It's a sad day ... I feel awful."

Two years to rebuild a program?

"It's tough," Boyle said. "This year has been hard on everyone involved, the last two years have been hard on the football program. The last seven years have been hard for Buff nation. I'm sad."

It usually takes five years for a football coach to rebuild a program.

Bill McCartney was given an extension after a 1-10 finish his third season. He took CU to a bowl game in his fifth season before eventually winning a national championship.

Dan Hawkins (19-39) clearly didn't get the job done in five years and should have been fired after his fourth season.

Embree, whose résumé is now stained with a 4-21 record, was obviously not treated fairly compared to his predecessors.

But life in this impatient era of big-time college football is not fair.

Gene Chizik, whodelivered a BCS championship to Auburn less than two years ago, was also handed a pink slip on Sunday.

Turner Gill was sacked by Bohn's alma mater, Kansas, after two seasons and replaced by Charlie Weis (1-10 overall and 0-8 in the Big 12 with one game left in his first season with the Jayhawks).

CU president Bruce Benson, chancellor Phil DiStefano and Bohn were apparently shoulder to shoulder on this decision after being pressured by fans and ex-players into hiring a "Buff" two years ago.

"We strive for excellence in all we do, and the university leadership is committed to doing everything we can to ensure success for our football program, for which we are accountable," the trio said in a joint press release.

Bohn helped lead CU's move out of the Big 12 and hired Boyle. He also said Hawkins was a "home run" hire and Embree is a "great Buffalo ... and we're excited he's agreed to come back and lead us into the Pacific-12 Conference."

That's two errors when it comes to hiring football coaches if you're scoring at home.

CU's three not-so football wise men need to do one of two things in the aftermath of the 1-11 debacle in 2012 and seven consecutive losing seasons:

1. Hire the best available coach. No matter what his name is. No matter what it takes to pry him loose from his current job. No matter what the cost.

2. Or just admit that CU is not committed to competing at the highest level of college football like many of its peers in the Pac-12.

After Friday's loss to Utah, Embree took responsibility for two terrible seasons and promised better days were ahead. Unfortunately, it seems everyone was out of patience after seven years of bad Buffs football.

"It was sad to see him go," quarterback Jordan Webb said. "It sucks, but you've got to keep pressing forward."

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanThorburn