Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )

Was color involved in the decision to fire Jon Embree? Absolutely.

Green.

Buffs fans witnessed the 4-21 record, the humiliating loss to Sacramento State, the blowouts against Pac-12 teams that pulled their starters before halftime, the nation's worst defense, the inept offense run by four different quarterbacks, and the last-straw special teams gaffe against Utah which finished the argument that the 2012 CU team is the worst in the program's 123-year history.

What Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn also took notice of was thousands of empty seats at Folsom Field and prominent boosters putting their checkbooks away.

The bottom line is this: the product Embree ran out onto the field behind Ralphie put CU -- a cute little mom and pop store with a proud history -- out of the business of winning against big-box brands like Oregon, Stanford, USC and UCLA.

In fact, the Buffs couldn't even compete for one quarter against Fresno State.

In ticket sales alone, there was a decrease of $2.6 million from 2011 to 2012. That doesn't include all of the revenue the athletic department lost in concessions, merchandise sales and parking.

Don't get me wrong. Given the state of the program when he inherited it, Embree should have been given at least another year to show progress.


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Bohn's handling of the firing was clumsy. If he didn't want a "Buff" two years ago, then he shouldn't have been pressured into hiring one.

But did the decision to make a coaching change have anything to do with skin color? Not in this case.

Historically, racism has been a serious problem in college football. There is no arguing with the sickening statistic that Tyrone Willingham is the only black head coach to ever get a second chance.

Still, it should be noted that Bohn and CU gave Embree an opportunity to be the head coach at his alma mater, even though he didn't meet the typical requirements of having worked previously as a head coach or at least a coordinator in college or the NFL.

From tight ends coach to CEO of a program in a major conference? Not many coaches of any race have experienced such a dramatic ascension.

So why did Dan Hawkins get five years? Because CU had serious budget issues when Bohn wanted to give him a pink slip after the two bad seasons that followed a bowl game against Alabama.

The athletic director was vetoed by Bruce Benson and Phil DiStefano.

Now Bohn -- who has a lot of equity with his bosses for making sure the Buffs roamed out of the Texas-dominated Big 12 and into the brilliant shared business plan of the Pac-12 -- will have some major television cash flowing into the Dal Ward Center.

CU can afford to erase the mistake that Bohn believes he made in hiring Embree.

If Bill McCartney and Embree honestly believe this move was made because the head coach was black, then I respectfully disagree.

I just hope they are both aware of how damaging associating the institution (that they claim to love) with racism could be for CU.

Buffs fans ask me all the time: Is Tad Boyle going to leave? What would make him leave?

Well, if I were them I would worry more about this verbal firestorm chasing the beloved basketball coach out of Boulder than future job openings at Kansas or UCLA.

If the national perception of CU is that the athletic department is racist, Boyle won't be putting together top-25 recruiting classes anymore.

At least not for the Buffs.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanThorburn