Throughout the process of changing head coaches, the group most impacted is the players.
Two weeks ago, Mel Tucker was seemingly committed to Colorado and gearing up for his second season with the Buffaloes. Two days later, he was introduced as the head coach at Michigan State.
On Monday, the Buffs finally got a replacement when Karl Dorrell was announced as the 27th full-time head coach in program history. Dorrell will be CU’s third head coach in three seasons.
Athletic director Rick George praised the players, and the seniors in particular, for how they handled the situation.
“I’m excited for our players, our student athletes, and I really appreciate their resolve and positive attitude over the past couple of weeks,” George said. “Our seniors have been incredible. They provided the leadership that this program needs on an interim basis. I couldn’t be more thankful for them. Our football student athletes are great young men.”
George said CU relied on the team leaders during the process. Twice, George and associate athletic director Lance Carl met with the seniors to keep them posted on the search. Because of that, they felt it was important to have Dorrell meet with the seniors on Sunday night at his home.
“For them, this is their last hurrah for their career,” Dorrell said. “It was a great statement of support and respect for us to do that the day prior to meeting with the team. They were very appreciative of that and we really had some great discussions. A lot of it is what you would expect kids to talk about, which was that they want to be developed. They want to go for it all. They want to use this year as a milestone for their life.”
Dorrell met with the entire team on Monday morning. During his introductory press conference, he spoke about earning the trust of the players and said he hopes to meet individually with all the players soon.
“It’s important that we really get a chance to know our players and know them on an intimate level and understand how they tick and what needs to be done to prod them to be successful, both on the field and in the classroom,” Dorrell said. “We have to develop the player, but first you have to care deeply about the person. That is when you get the most out of him. I made that point in our meeting earlier this morning how that’s relevant. That’s what is going to get us to be a championship team.”
Junior quarterback Tyler Lytle, who will battle for the starting job this season, said after a whirlwind process, Dorrell’s message was well received.
“The whole process has been pretty crazy, but I believe in Rick George that we have the right guy,” Lytle said. “We met with (Dorrell) this morning and he talked to the entire team. It went great and he seems like a really stand-up guy, really genuine. It was all very positive. We’re going on our third head coach and I think he inspired a lot of confidence when he spoke with the team. He really stressed to the team, ‘I need to earn your trust.’ Players seem like a priority. He really seems like a players’ coach.”
Dorrell spoke often Monday of being a teacher and the importance of developing the young men in his program.
“I want our players to aspire to do great things,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in the football arena. It can be in life.”
On the football field, however, Dorrell said he was impressed by the mindset of the players, and he hopes to help them achieve their goals on the gridiron this season.
“They think they can win now,” he said. “I was encouraged by that in our meeting this morning. So guess what? We’re going for it now. We’re going to ride their coattails. We’re going to ride and drive them to be as good as they need to be.
“When young people are inspired to do great things, you don’t ever want to detract from that. You want to ride that. You want them to be the best that they can be, and they’re telling you, superficially, that they’re really, really ready to give you their best.”