Kansas and Wyoming were hoping to use each other as bounce-backs the past weekend but now must wait until Nov. 24 to end either on a happy note or close out dismal autumns. No early-season salvation this year due to the New York and Washington atrocities.
Robbed of an apparently winnable game, Kansas drew potent Colorado for this weekend. Wyoming drew a more vulnerable Utah State, but after a 1-10 mark in 2000, nothing's a lock for the Cowboys.
KU was manhandled by UCLA in its second game. Wyoming gave ranked Texas A&M all it wanted in a 28-20 loss. WU had visions of coming here and startling an unsuspecting Jayhawk crew the way the Laramie Cowboys did in 1961. By the time KU and WU meet in November, both might be glad for closure, considering their demanding schedules and dearth of talent and depth. Kansas has a coaching decision to make, one way or another. More on that later.
I wrote not long back about the great fire and desire of Kansas football fans in 1961 when Jack Mitchell had quarterback John Hadl as a senior and a stellar supporting cast. Folks were throwing conniption fits about Jayhawk chances. We may never again see that much enthusiasm about a KU gridiron venture. People were as excited about football as they get now over basketball.
But the "dream season" began as a nightmare even though it ended with a flourish, despite a disappointing loss to hated Missouri.
KU opened the 1961 season at TCU and fell 17-16 on a field goal in the final 4:28. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist said the Jayhawks would have done much better had they not been so involved at the Loud Singing and Heavy Drinking Club the night before. Mitchell passed it off as "a silly piece of trash" and turned his attention to the second game, Wyoming here. Chance to get the touted Jayhawk Express back on track, right? Wrong!
Coach Bob Devaney, who applied for the KU job when Mitchell was hired from Arkansas late in 1957, brought his Cowboys to town and left with a 6-6 tie en route to a 6-1-2 season and conference title. The next year, Devaney was at Nebraska to start a hall of fame career that produced a 101-20-2 record which included eight league titles and two national championships.
Next week, things got even worse for Kansas, which had another Wyoming-Colorado doubleton on the slate. The Jayhawks entered the final quarter against the Boulder Buffs with a 19-0 lead only to see quarterback Gale Weidner engineer a 20-19 win.
Suddenly, a KU team which earlier had an "all-time greatness" sign hanging around its neck was 0-1-2. (Gotta remember the grave danger of new heartache when Wyoming comes here in November.)
Kansas won the next six in a row, including Nebraska, Kansas State and Oklahoma, before tumbling to Missouri 10-7 in the 1961 revenge game. That was supposed to atone for MU's role in two costly KU forfeits in 1960. What a letdown! The good news is that Mitchell orchestrated a Jayhawk trip to the Houston Bluebonnet Bowl; Kansas soothed its aching soul by whipping Rice 33-7.
No matter what happens between now and Nov. 24, you never want to consider Wyoming a patsy. KU is only 2-1-1 against the Cowboys and 1-1-1 in Lawrence. If KU needs a second victory now, imagine what the scenario might be two days after Thanksgiving.
Rumors are a dime a dozen about the KU coaching situation. Can Terry Allen rally the punchless Jayhawks to win enough that athletics director Al Bohl will give him another year? The vicious schedule generates doubts.
Some contend that Allen might be released at midseason and that one of the top-level assistants, Tom Hayes or Rip Scherer, could be named to complete the 2001 grind and set the stage for the next few years.
As is always the case, we're talking money, folks, money KU doesn't have in wondrous supply right now. Evidence is that a changeover of that nature, or a full housecleaning by Dec. 1, will hit the treasury for a million bucks or more. That's a blow that would be terrible to absorb, finances being as shaky as they are.
Flash back to when North Carolina basketball coach Bill Guthridge surprisingly resigned, UNC came after KU's Roy Williams, and others, and eventually hired Matt Doherty from Notre Dame. Doherty didn't retain people from Guthridge's staff and brought his own guys from Notre Dame. By the time the buyouts, compensations and perks were settled, the Carolina sports budget went into debt something like $675,000 that year. The Tar Heels were a lot better-heeled financially than Kansas at the time.
As for midseason coaching changes, Kansas last did it 1932 when Bill Hargiss was replaced after two games by Ad Lindsey, who wound up with a 23-30-8 record in seven campaigns.
In 1957, KU was sitting at 1-4-1 when coach Chuck Mather got wind he was to be fired. Chuck resigned, then watched his players take charge, run the table 4-0, finish 5-4-1 and take second in the Big Seven Conference. Mather was voted league coach of the year as he moved out. When he came here in 1954, Chuck quipped that the secret to success was to end up in front leading the band when they usher you out of town.
He managed exactly that, thanks to some notable players with a lot of gumption. Then Mitchell followed. Jack was ousted in 1966, still the last KU coach to leave with a winning record.