Colorado fires head coach, defensive coordinator after 0-5 start
Five weeks into the season and a second coach in the Pac-12 has already gotten the ax.
Colorado dismissed head coach Karl Dorrell and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson on Sunday. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Pete Thamel and later confirmed by the school in a letter from athletic director Rick George to the fanbase. The Buffs lost to Arizona Saturday evening, 43-20, to drop to 0-5 on the year. Thamel also reported that more changes are expected.
“I want to thank Karl for his hard work in leading our program since 2020,” said George in a statement. “Ultimately, however, the results on the field just did not measure up to our expectations and standards, which made it necessary for us to make this change at this time. It was an extremely difficult decision and I wish Karl all of the best in his future endeavors.”
Added CU Chancellor Philip DiStefano: “I fully support Rick in making this difficult decision to dismiss Coach Dorrell. The football team is an important part of the university and I know our students, alumni, and fans have high expectations for a winning product on the field. I thank Coach Dorrell for his dedication to CU Boulder and his unwavering commitment to our student-athletes.”
Colorado named first-year offensive coordinator Mike Sanford the interim head coach in place of Dorrell.
Defensive line coach Gerald Chatman will serve as the team’s new defensive coordinator in place of Wilson. Colorado also announced that tight ends coach Clay Patterson is being elevated to the role of offensive coordinator.
Colorado has not looked competitive to open the season. It had a brief bit of hope with the quarterback change to freshman Owen McCown in the first half against UCLA — the third quarterback to start a game this year for CU — but that fizzled quickly. UCLA went up 21-3 and eventually won 45-17. Colorado had lost every game by at least 25 points entering a Week 5 matchup with Arizona.
And though it didn’t lose by 25 to the Wildcats — just 23 — it did give up 673 yards of offense and 495 yards passing to a Wildcat team that won just once a year ago.
The defense has been a disaster to begin the year. CU has given up a total of 2,544 yards in five games — a mark that ranks as the fourth-most surrendered by a FBS defense thus far. That includes 1,471 rushing yards allowed, the second-most by any FBS defense.
The winless start through five games is the worst start to a season since the 2006 squad went 0-6 to open the year. That team finished 2-10 in what was Dan Hawkins’ first year at the helm. He lasted five seasons at Colorado before being replaced. And with the team moving on from Dorrell, the Buffs will be looking for their seventh head coach in the last 20 years and their fourth since 2018.
Dorrell was hired in 2020 after Mel Tucker abruptly left to take the Michigan State job. Dorrell took over relatively late in the process, and then had to work through all of the challenges presented by COVID-19. Still, he managed to help the Buffs to a 4-0 start to the 2020 season and won the Pac-12’s Coach of the Year award for his efforts.
The program is 4-15 since. Among the losses, 14 have come by at least 15 points.
“Clearly, we’re not performing at the level we’d like to be performing,” CU president Todd Saliman said in an interview with BuffZone’s Brian Howell before the Arizona game. “I am grateful every day for our student-athletes and what they do to try to win, but we have not figured out the formula yet and we need to fix that. I am relying on the people who are closest to the action – the chancellor (Phil DiStefano) and the athletic director (Rick George) – to find a path forward for us. I expect success. I expect excellence and I expect us to turn this around, both in the short term and the long term. We have work to do.”
According to Howell, Dorrell’s contract — which runs through Dec. 31, 2024 — entitles him to the entirety of his remaining salary, roughly $8.7 million. Dorrell finding another job over the next two years would reduce the amount CU owes him, per Howell.
The Buffs could be on the hook for roughly $13 million if the entire staff is dismissed, per Howell.
Colorado is on a bye week this upcoming week. It’ll face Cal on Oct. 15. Dorrell is the second Pac-12 coach to be dismissed so far this season — joining former Arizona State coach Herm Edwards — and the fourth Power Five coach.