September 25, 2023

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Here We Go Again!

Here we go again, KU has fired another football coach.

Athletics Director Jeff Long announced Monday a “mutual parting of the ways” with Coach Les Miles, pointing out such action wasn’t due to a lousy coaching record but rather, his alleged misconduct when he was coach at Louisiana Tech University.

Long also announced a national search will be started immediately to find and hire a replacement. He added, “I have no doubt we will identify the right individual to lead this program.”

If he does, this will be the first time in years KU officials, members of search committees, firms paid thousands of dollars to identify attractive prospects, members of the Board of Regents, chancellors, alumni, fiscal boosters and others have come up with a true winner. Long certainly didn’t do it with his choice of Miles.

Over the past 102 years there have only been four KU football coaches with winning records, the last being Mark Mangino (2002-2009) with four post-season bowl teams. He was fired over trumped up charges made by then Athletics Director Lew Perkins.

The firing of Miles was not unexpected and there are many who thought, and continue to believe, AD Long should be replaced. Also, there is a current debate among senior KU faculty as to whether a vote of “no confidence” should be made against Chancellor Girod and Provost Bichelmeyer.

It’s likely the firing of Miles may serve as a temporary lifeline for Girod as faculty, Regents, some alumni and others may think it is a bit drastic to fire a coach, AD, chancellor and provost all at the same time. Not too good to leave the cupboard bare. But, what’s best for the University?

Why is it KU finds it so difficult to locate and hire an individual who would be a good, successful football coach?

Is it due to lazy, careless search committees; lazy, ineffective ADs; good coaches do not want to tarnish their records by coming to KU; a lack of money to offer fiscally attractive and competitive salaries; poor physical facilities; the losing football history at KU; a lack of support from the chancellor’s office; not enough private fiscal support; KU won’t lower academic requirements in order to attract outstanding athletes; a poor tutoring program; no deluxe housing facilities like KU basketball players enjoy; or, are there other reasons?

It’s probably a combination of all these situations plus others.

However, this writer thinks the number one reason is KU does a very poor and awful job in the search, recruitment and background checks of those being considered for a coaching position.

Did AD Long pick and hire Miles because of an exhaustive, deep search process, a long friendship or because he believed Miles was the best possible coach available at the price KU was willing to pay?

There are vast differences between the athletic and academic/research sides of the University but the situation in KU’s football world and the embarrassing record of failures in coach and AD hires, should make many wonder if the same carelessness in hiring is mirrored in the academic community.

Winning is the name of the game in athletics. A coach with a consistent losing record is not likely to be rehired. This applies to head coaches, assistants, ADs, ticket sales people and others. For not winning and breaking the laws there are severe penalties.

A coach’s record is open for public inspection and judgment.

Flipping the coin, how does the public have any idea of how those in the academic community measure up in their teaching and research compared to those at other schools?

How do parents learn if their children are fortunate to have teachers who are committed to stimulating students to learn and explore opportunities rather than teachers who are more intent on using their classroom to emphasize their views of social and political correctness?

Parents and taxpayers, are paying the bills. Shouldn’t they have the right to expect winning teachers just as sports fans, ticket holders and parents of players have a right to expect winning performances from the coaches?

There should be accountability relative to coaching as well as teaching. How does the public know if good teachers are being recruited and hired?

Is the KU recruitment process in the academic world the same, better or even worse than the hiring/retention records in the KU football program?

The goal should be to have a winning hiring record both in the athletic and academic fields but academics come first.

Competition among major universities is becoming increasingly intense and stronger. Something needs to be done to unite the KU faculty, instill enthusiasm, excitement and visionary leadership….both in the classrooms and on the playing arenas. Right now, KU doesn’t enjoy this environment. If something isn’t done to correct and improve the situation, KU will fall further behind in its regional and national rankings and attractiveness to top flight students, faculty and administrators.

The football situation is a mess, an embarrassment. It should be up to the chancellor, not the athletics director, to demand positive, corrective measures. Regents are supposed to oversee the state’s regent institutions, but they, too, have a poor record of indifference and a lack of knowledge of what is going on on Mt. Oread.

KU has a large number of truly outstanding teachers and researchers who have job offers at higher salaries at nationally-recognized universities and research companies, but who love KU, like Lawrence and have decided to stay here. They are a true asset in every way.

However, they are frustrated, tired and impatient. They want to see evidence of positive, visionary and challenging leadership that will energize and unite the entire campus.

KU is a good school with a proud and successful record. Just as in any business, it is tough and demanding to stay on top. KU has slipped in recent years. It has the opportunity to be a truly outstanding state-aided “flagship institution” but right now, it has serious damaging weaknesses. Many of those are glaring examples in the football program and maybe in the AD’s office, but are more difficult for the public to see and call for corrective action in the academic arena.

Where and who will provide the leadership necessary for KU to regain and prioritize excellence at all levels…academic and athletic?