Karl Dorrell knows he could be fired any time but he lives for life or death

Aug 24, 2022, 3:52 PM | Updated: 7:38 pm
Karl Dorrell...
Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

Oddsmakers think the Colorado Buffaloes will struggle to win four football games this season, and gamblers agree that the Buffs winning three games or fewer is one of the most popular picks in the sport.

Head coach Karl Dorrell believes things have turned around in Boulder, but that doesn’t stop him from liking to live as though he could be axed from his gig at any point. Or worse, fall six feet under at moment.

DenverFan shared an enlightening lunch with Dorrell at Blake Street Tavern on Tuesday. There, the Buffs third-year coach stayed mum on a starting quarterback, expressed his hope in the team’s depth but, more importantly, promised that the Black and Gold are on track with or without him.

“I’ll tell you right now, if I died tomorrow, there are people that drop off anytime, and I’m at that age frame of mind that it could happen this year. Something could happen to me this year, just because I’m in my 50s,” Dorrell said. “I don’t take anything for granted. But the point is this. At the end of the day, if I were not here and was not the leader in this program, this program is in much better shape than when I got here. It’s ready to be built on. So if it doesn’t work out for me right now because I had a heart attack, I know it’s in much better shape now than when I had it two years ago.”

As morbid as Dorrell may sound, he may be speaking truth to the whispers of the program, which has been on life-support for a while. In a pandemic-shortened first season, Dorrell authored just one of two bowl appearances the Buffs have had since 2004. Since Colorado was atop college football at the turn of the century, many things around them have changed, including conference, playoff, and NILs.

The era of McCartney is so far gone that the current program might as well be playing a different sport, at the very least wearing other colors.

So to say this is a life-or-death year for Dorrell or the Buffs would be false. That Colorado already is dead. But can Dorrell bring some respectability to Boulder?

“I’m hoping I’m here a long time. I have a home here, right, that old story, but the bottom line is is to build it right,” he said. “We’ve done that, and for the type of players, we have in the program now that are better, more committed and inspired and competitive, great work ethic, things like that. Those things were missing from the bulk of players when I first got here; I couldn’t say that then, right? My job is to get it turned around. And now we’re at that point it’s turned around.”

Dorrell, 58, is likely too young personally for the death conversation he wanted to bring up. His program, however, isn’t. Stuck in a Pac-12 in hospice, the threat of the Buffaloes not ever jumping into the de-facto pro minor league that’s broken out is very real. Super League, SEC or Big Ten, whatever it may be, the Buffaloes are D1, but they’re on the outside looking in.

But that still can change. With the big Denver media market, more than mediocre football plus the prestige of the past, the Buffs could get back to relevance. That’s now, it’s not too late just yet for the Buffaloes, but time is ticking out on Dorrell and CU.

Is life-or-death good for Dorrell? He says so.

“I want to be in high-stress environments,” he said. “I remember coming in my first year when I was after graduate assistant. I was having success and like, ‘I’m never getting fired.’ We always anticipate you can get fired. Because of my experience in the NFL, it’s really more drastic than others. I actually treat every year every coaching since my UCLA years with a mindset that they fire you regardless of contract. There’s no security thinking. Challenging yourself with the mindset that you better do it this year that’s kind of something I have done for the last 10 to 12 years. It’s helped me when I’ve been in bad programs because we weren’t winning a lot.”

Dorrell went on to say he enjoyed the grind, and the more complex the job, the success is only sweeter.

If the Buffs ever do turn it around, it would no doubt be sweet to see the Black and Gold back atop college football. If.


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Karl Dorrell knows he could be fired any time but he lives for life or death