September 25, 2023

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KU Football Challenges

How many wins does the KU football team need to rack up this fall to satisfy KU football fans? How many wins to attract a respectable number of students/spectators in the stadium? How many wins to satisfy a troubled and pressured chancellor and athletics director?

Does it make any difference if the possible wins come against non-conference “weak sisters” or wins against Big 12 conference opponents?

Do post-season “bowl games” carry added weight and importance?

What relationship or importance does a winning football team have on the overall reputation or morale of the university, its fan base or even state legislators?

If a winning football program is important, what’s the best way to get out of KU’s years-long rut of losing? Is it hiring a truly outstanding coach who might cost $4-5 million? Or, hiring a top-flight individual with excellent business, marketing, administration and communication skills as an athletics director? How important is a showcase stadium or does a fancy five-star dormitory carry more weight with the players and recruits? How about recruiting players with the athletic and academic skills, along with a record of good personal behavior that suggest they will remain in school for three or four years?

The reason for these questions is that the annual KU “spring football” season comes to an end this weekend.

This is the time of year when fans and recruits are told “things look better”; enthusiasm is as high as it will get until next year’s spring football game; marketing messages to sell tickets say “football is returning to the University of Kansas” and, there is the annual guessing game as to how many wins the Jayhawks may rack up in the coming season.

It’s obvious there is limited talent and/or numbers of players at KU. It’s so serious that for the first time KU football officials say they have had to change the format of the “game”. They said due to injuries and not enough players, it would be impossible to field two full teams for a scrimmage.

What does this say about KU’s recruiting efforts? It’s terrible and embarrassing.

For some strange reason KU football and athletics department officials have done a poor job informing the public about the miserable recruiting situation and how this almost insures few wins on the football field.

Former coach, Mark Mangino, who was unfairly fired by former athletics director, Lew Perkins, did a good job in recruiting and fielded winning teams as well as a “bowl” team. However, coaches Turner Gill and Charlie Weis failed in their efforts. Poor grades, problems with the law, drugs, personal behavior, too much emphasis on junior college players, unhappy transfer players, dropouts and dismissals and questionable coaching and leadership all combined to decimate the numbers of eligible, talented and properly motivated players.

For a number of reasons Weis chose to cut a large number of players he inherited from Gill. It was a bad situation. This severe drop in scholarship players put KU in a deep player hole that cannot be filled to the allowed NCAA capacity for several more years.

Consequently, shorthanded teams and losing records.

Some say a $300 million+ remodeling of KU’s Memorial Stadium will turn things around but this is wishful thinking. A fancy stadium with less than competitive players will not get the job done. Actually, good players and good coaches could fill the current so-called “outdated” Memorial Stadium.

The answer, the only thing that will correct the situation, is a good coach, a new athletics director and a chancellor who realizes the importance and role of a SOUND football program.

Coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State and former president Jon Wefald provide a perfect example of what can be accomplished: A winning program on the football field; significant increased student enrollment; major increases in private fiscal support; improved academic and research facilities; and, better faculty support and a giant boost in school morale.
It can be done.

What if KU wins more than one or two games this fall, maybe even a conference game?

Will this call for contract extensions and bigger salaries?

It’s difficult to understand or justify the manner in which the past two chancellors have extended contracts and salaries of losing coaches.

It’s ironic that at a time when the University’s basketball team remains one of the nation’s best, the football team is one of the worst among Division I teams.
And, whereas there have been only seven basketball coaches in the school’s history, there have been 38 football coaches. What does this say about school and alumni interest in a respectful football program?

Some say it’s a matter of money. Is there any reason to believe with the present thinking in Allen Fieldhouse and Strong Hall that new or added dollars would be spent wisely and effectively? Again, contract extensions and bigger checks haven’t gotten the job done. There’s no assurance a remodeled stadium will reverse the embarrassing trend.

The number of players may be low but it should be stressed no one in the stadium wants to win more than the players themselves. They don’t like to be embarrassed. Coaches want to win, usually because it means better salaries or offers of better jobs at other schools.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much justification to hope for a winning record in the coming season. That’s the reason for asking, what would be a satisfactory win/loss record to justify a continuation of the current coaching staff and athletics director?

Is there any reason to think another two or three more years of the current set up would result in a less embarrassing record?

KU deserves better.