Pac-12: Phil DiStefano

Pac-12 weekend notes

June, 24, 2013
A few interesting things happened late last week and over the weekend that merit an update.

Shell game

Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell, who said in April he was transferring to UCLA, apparently is now trying to rejoin the Panthers. He never enrolled at UCLA, so this probably comes down to the Panthers wanting him back. Shell's a talented guy, so they probably will. This makes running back an even bigger need position for the Bruins' 2014 recruiting class.

Oregon Syke'd

Oregon, which continues to await the NCAA's ruling on the Willie Lyles case, announced the hiring of Jody Sykes as senior associate athletic director/chief compliance officer. Hired away from Louisville, Sykes will be in charge of making sure the Ducks walk the straight & narrow when it comes to NCAA rules.

Sykes, according to a news release, "helped supervise all aspects of the office of compliance at the University of Louisville for the past seven years." The appointment is effective July 29.

Colorado searching

Colorado chancellor Philip P. DiStefano announced the formation of a search committee to find a new athletic director to replace the controversially fired Mike Bohn.

Members of the search committee include:
  • Ceal Barry, CU-Boulder interim director of intercollegiate athletics and chair of the search.
  • Kelly Fox, CU-Boulder senior vice chancellor and chief financial officer.
  • Doug Looney, alumni representative, former Sports Illustrated writer.
  • Joe Jupille, CU-Boulder faculty representative, BFA Intercollegiate Athletics Committee.
  • David Clough, CU-Boulder Pac-12 faculty representative.
  • Kurt Gulbrand, CU Foundation.
  • Brittany Lewis, CU-Boulder student-athlete (track)

Barry is currently serving as interim director of intercollegiate athletics and will hold the post until a successor is chosen.

DiStefano said it remains to be seen whether Colorado will hire a search firm, saying "I want the group to convene as soon as possible and get to know each other before we make that decision. I am open to using a search firm if the consensus is that we need one."

I'll help: There is no bigger waste of money in college sports than hiring a search firm. So don't.

DiStefano said the goal is to have a new AD in place "as soon as possible -- certainly by the start of football season this fall."
Why's he calling me meat? I'm the one driving a Porsche.

Colorado, Embree have awkward goodbye

November, 26, 2012
Jon Embree didn't win many games as Colorado's football coach, but he won the news conference Monday that formalized his termination.

Fired after just two years leading the Buffaloes, Embree, fighting off tears throughout and picking his words carefully, cut an effectively defiant and sympathetic posture, while athletic director Mike Bohn and chancellor Phil DiStefano struggled to articulate not only their reasons for firing Embree but also why anyone would want to replace him.

The latter part is the biggest issue going forward. Colorado will be hard-pressed to lure a top candidate to Boulder, and not only because of its quick trigger here. Colorado lags behind other Pac-12 teams in terms of facilities and has limits on multi-year contracts for assistant coaches due to state law. Further, Embree was the conference's lowest paid coach by a wide margin, his $725,000 being pretty much less than half of what every other coach in the conference was making annually.

And it was less than a third of what the top coaches were making.

Further, Bohn, aggressively cross examined by reporters, struggled to avoid making the job sound like an uninviting one.

"We've had headwinds with this program for quite some time, and we continue to have them," Bohn said.

Embree said stories that he was fired because he wouldn't let go members of his coaching staff were untrue.

"That's one of those Internet rumors," he said, adding that six assistants had offered to resign if that helped Embree's own cause.

Embree, who went 4-21 over the past two season, repeatedly defended his rebuilding job, saying that the program was vastly improved in every way but the scoreboard. He talked about "doing things right" versus going for the quick fix.

"There are a lot of things you can do that circumvent doing it the right way," he said, noting that some coach would resort to recruiting "mercenaries."

The issue of race also was part of the news conference. Embree said he noted to Bohn, "[Black head coaches] don't get second chances."

As for what reason he was given for his firing, Embree said, "All I was told was the trajectory of the program wasn't what they wanted."

In his opening statement, Bohn, after a heartfelt acknowledgement of the difficulty of the decision -- "We desperately wanted it to work," he said -- then awkwardly described the decision in business school jargon.

"In the end, it's about our functionality and the way our enterprise is run and the proactive approach we are trying to take to try to be competitive," he said.

He also spoke about the program's lack of momentum and the erosion of the fan base.

Awkward, in fact, describes the news conference perfectly.

Embree is a former Colorado player, yet he was coldly cast aside after being told that his job was safe. He feels wronged. And for good reason. He clearly has the sympathy of his current players, many of who attended the news conference to show support, according to reports.

Now the pressure moves to Bohn, who will be hiring a third coach since 2005. One side of the Buffaloes fan base is angry at him for dumping Embree after just two years, and the other half is angry at him for hiring a coach he'd have to fire after just two years, thereby inviting nationwide criticism.

Embree, of all people, perhaps provided the most optimistic footnote to the uncomfortable afternoon.

He said, "We're going to be -- I still say we -- we're going to be a good team next year."

Expansion? The case for Colorado

April, 30, 2010
Is it just me, or is Colorado making googly eyes at the Pac-10?

Apparently, it's not just me because John Henderson of the Denver Post makes the case that Colorado is a good fit for Pac-10 expansion.

What stands out about the article is Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano essentially handing Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott his telephone number and whispering, "Call me!"

The feeling appears mutual in Boulder. CU chancellor Phil DiStefano points to his school being in the same Association of American Universities with UCLA, California, Southern California and Washington. CU faculty also has more joint research projects with Pac-10 schools than its does with Big 12 schools.

And Colorado's biggest out-of-state alumni base is in California.

"The academics factor is absolute important to us," said DiStefano, who added he has not talked to anyone from the Pac-10 but has done some research. "There are very good schools in the Big 12. There's no doubt about it. But when the faculty looks at the Pac-10, they see places where our faculty and their faculty do interact and where we compete for students, both undergraduate and graduate."

See the part I bolded? We have to assume that DiStefano is being honest, though there's always the loophole that someone else representing Colorado's interests is talking with the Pac-10. But it's not ridiculous to speculate that DiStefano's full engagement of the topic -- and speaking specifically of a potential move from the Big 12 to the Pac-10 -- suggests he expects to talk with his friends from the West Coast at some point.

Recall this story about Utah?

Lya Wodraska of the Salt Lake Tribune asked Utah athletic director Chris Hill if he'd been contacted by the Pac-10. Wrote Wodraska, "He didn't say yes and he didn't say no, opting to be vague he said because no matter what he says because "I wouldn't want to be out in front," he said. "Everything you say, people take it and run with it."

It might not be time to run with expansion talk. But let's just say everyone should start stretching and warming up.