BOULDER | The University of Colorado has reached into the NFL ranks again to find their head football coach, luring Karl Dorrell back to Boulder from the Miami Dolphins.
Athletic director Rich George hired Dorrell on Sunday, two weeks after Mel Tucker bolted for Michigan State and 72 hours after Dorrell was promoted to assistant head coach of the Dolphins after one season as receivers coach.
Dorrell, 56, who went 35-27 as UCLA’s head coach from 2003-07, was formally introduced Monday.
Tucker, who had a decade of experience in the NFL ranks, went 5-7 in his one season in Boulder after arriving from the University of Georgia in December 2018.
Dorrell brings 16 years of coaching experience in the college ranks, including 2003-07 as head coach at his alma mater, UCLA, and 14 years in the NFL, including three seasons in Denver as Mike Shanahan’s wide receivers coach in the early 2000s.
George has asked the Board of Regents to approve a five-year contract for Dorrell worth $18 million plus incentives that includes a starting base salary of $3.2 million with annual increases of $200,000.
George also is proposing a salary pool of $3.8 million for assistant coaches, up from $3.155 million for Tucker’s staff.
Dorrell has two previous two stints in Boulder, where he served under head coaches Bill McCartney and Rick Neuheisel in the 1990s.
“I’m excited to be back, it’s like coming home,” Dorrell said in a statement. “The thing that excited me about this job is that my experience in the past here for the most part has been very successful. We had a lot of good teams, went to a lot of good bowl games. It’s a top caliber program that has a lot of potential, and I’m excited to return it to that level.”
Many members of the top-35 recruiting class that signed with Colorado just a week before Tucker’s departure have said they plan to stick with the Buffaloes.
Tucker’s stunning departure in the middle of the night after a day of promoting the program sent George searching for his third coach in three seasons, one that wouldn’t be looking to leave anytime soon.
“It was important that our next coach have CU ties, and Karl has those ties having worked at CU twice previously,” George said. “Karl shares my passion for Colorado and our vision for winning championships. He will be a tremendous mentor and role model for our student-athletes, and he will provide great leadership for our program going forward.”
Dorrell’s pro experience includes stops as the Jets’ receivers coach (2015-18), the Texans quarterbacks coach (2012-13), and two stints with the Dolphins, first as their receivers coach from 2008-10 and then as their QBs coach in 2011 and again as their receivers coach in 2019.
Flores said the Buffs “hit a home run hiring Karl as their head coach.”
“I’m excited for him to have this opportunity,” Flores said. “He is a great teacher and excellent leader. He is a coach I would want my kids to play for.”
Neuheisel concurred with Flores’ “home run” analogy, saying, “Karl’s very knowledgeable, very passionate, and I know he loved his time in Boulder. His strong point is organization and leadership. He’s always been an offensive guy, and by spending a lot of time in the NFL, he’s learned even more. This is making me a bit nostalgic about the fun we had coaching together with the Buffs and when we played together at UCLA — he was my go-to guy.”
Kordell Stewart, who was Colorado’s quarterback from 1991-94, said Dorrell made the receivers “understand the game through the eyes of the quarterback, which isn’t always easy to do. … I’m excited about this opportunity for him. With his combination of head coaching experience at UCLA and his time as a position coach in the NFL, he brings a tremendous amount of credibility to the table. I would hope that the players on the team now and the incoming recruits will appreciate that — he’s got the background that should earn him an enormous amount of respect.
“He understands how CU operates, understands the community, knows the lay of the land.
It was important for Rick to hire someone who understands the Colorado way and our tradition. Karl fits that mold of what CU is trying to do and will pick up the pieces that were broken with the last coach and put them back together. In time, he will make this thing really work.”
Michael Westbrook, who was an All-America receiver during Dorrell’s first stint in Boulder, compared Dorrell to McCartney, saying, “they were cut from the same cloth.”
“I know him, trust him, the program is in good hands and I’ll enjoy coming back to watch the Buffaloes play under Karl.”