BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado fired football coach Karl Dorrell after an 0-5 start in which the Buffaloes have been blown out by more than 20 points in each game.
The school announced the decision a day after a 43-20 loss at Arizona. It’s only the fourth 0-5 start in the history of Colorado (1980, 1984 and 2006).
“I want everybody to know that I have a ton of respect for Coach Dorrell and the way he led our football program with integrity,” Colorado director of athletics Rick George said. “He helped us navigate the challenges of COVID-19 and did so with a lot of class. He made our young men better off the field, both in the classroom and in the community. He led our program to the highest GPA in our history, and his team was involved in a lot of different community activities.
“Karl’s a good man, I have a ton of respect for him and I wish him nothing (but the) best in his future endeavors.
“However, the on-the-field performance fell well short of our expectations,” George added. “I know that starts with me. I hired Karl and it didn’t work out the way any of us wanted it to. There’s no excuses and I own my part in where we are today.”
Dorrell, 58, was brought in as a replacement when Mel Tucker bolted for Michigan State out of the blue in February 2020.
The hiring of Dorrell was met with surprise because he had been out of college coaching for a while. He was an assistant with the Miami Dolphins at the time, but he had been UCLA’s head coach from 2003-07.
Dorrell, who had built a house in the Boulder area, agreed to a five-year, $18 million contract that ran through 2024. The buyout, which will come out of the athletic department’s budget, is approximately $8.7 million, but could be reduced pending his next job.
Although the Buffaloes have had just two winning seasons since 2006 – and one of them was their 4-2 record during the pandemic in 2020 – George said he trusts Colorado can return to prominence.
“We will do what is needed to get a winning football team back on this field,” George said. “… This place can be and will be a football powerhouse. We have the facilities. We have the location. We have the programs. We have everything that we need to be successful on the football field.”
George also issued a call for local businesses to step up and make CU more competitive when it comes to NIL opportunities for the Buffs.
Colorado waited to announce the news until after Dorrell had a chance to inform his staff and players in a meeting. Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson was also let go.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford will serve as interim coach. Defensive line coach Gerald Chatman will serve as the team’s defensive coordinator, while passing game coordinator/tight ends coach Clay Patterson takes over as offensive coordinator.
The Buffaloes are idle this week before hosting California. They have seven games left and Sanford said the goal is to get an eighth game – a bowl berth.
“We have not been eliminated from any postseason to this point and it all starts with having a fantastic bye week,” Sanford said. “… These players haven’t quit. They have shown nothing but fight.
“This is a fresh start.”
Dorrell didn’t have much of an offseason program due to coronavirus restrictions his inaugural season, but he led the Buffaloes to a 4-2 mark – they started 4-0 – and an appearance in the Alamo Bowl. Dorrell was named Pac-12 coach of the year.
It was downhill from there.
Colorado went 4-8 last season and saw several key starters leave through the transfer portal. This season, Colorado has rotated through three quarterbacks in trying to ignite an offense that ranks near the bottom of the FBS ranks. The Buffaloes and rival Colorado State, which has a new coach in Jay Norvell, are the only two teams left in the FBS without a win.
The loss to Arizona became the final blow for Dorrell, whose team has been outscored by a 216-67 margin. The Wildcats were a team predicted to finish 11th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, with Colorado last. The Buffaloes’ defense surrendered 673 total yards Saturday – the most since allowing 616 to Arizona in 2015.
Dorrell weathered some rocky moments over his time in Boulder. A year ago, he apologized a day after losing his cool and pushing a photojournalist’s camera on his way off the field following a 37-14 loss to Southern California.
He also came under fire last season for skipping his customary postgame radio show after a 30-0 loss to the Gophers. In addition, Dorrell drew scrutiny when he didn’t make his players available after a 55-23 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Buffaloes have turned to coaches such as Jon Embree, Mike MacIntyre, Tucker and Dorrell to try to turn the Buffaloes around. MacIntyre led the Buffaloes to the conference championship game in 2016, but it was his only winning season out of six.
Tucker seemed to have the Buffaloes on the right path, bringing in several top prospects, before leaving for Michigan State after one season. That opened the door for Dorrell, who served as a receivers coach and later as offensive coordinator for Colorado in the 1990s.
A national search for a coach is expected to start soon.