Archive for Friday, February 14, 2003

Woodling: Critics take shots at Bohl

February 14, 2003


The earth under Kansas University athletic director Al Bohl continues to wobble. What else is new?

Every time a story of wrongdoing surfaces at Fresno State, Bohl's last stop, people around here can't wait to point a finger. They're like piranha waiting for another tasty morsel to be dumped into the river. They're drooling to loose another arrow as he twists in the wind.

If Bohl had been a more popular athletic director during his year and a half on Mount Oread, people would be spewing rationalizations like: "Bohl isn't the only one who couldn't contain Jerry Tarkanian." Or: "Fresno State is a mess. He's lucky we rescued him from that fiasco." Or: "In this country, you're innocent until proven guilty."

No one is standing up for Bohl, though.

Even Chancellor Robert Hemenway's support, so unequivocal during the Fresno State fund-transfer flap, has turned lukewarm. The wolves are howling, the decibels are climbing, and Hemenway doesn't wear ear plugs.

All in all, nobody would give a hoot about Bohl's Fresno State foibles if his act was SRO on Mount Oread. It's just that nobody wants to buy a ticket to a song-and-dance act anymore. Vaudeville is dead. Bohl would have wowed 'em on Broadway in the '20s.

Those who are not outspoken in their criticism of Bohl will talk, in some cases, without attribution. Most, however, believe silence is golden. Roy Williams, a man who spills words like a waterfall after a gullywasher, stands mute. Mark Mangino, the man Bohl hired to resuscitate the KU football program, is mum.

Inside Parrott Complex, where the wheels of the athletic department churn inexorably, employees wonder why the man in charge acts like the director of the spirit squad.

Poor Al Bohl. The guy means well. He would give you the shirt off his back. He would carry you across the stream on his back. And if you need a dog-and-pony show for your fund-raiser ...

Right now, Bohl is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you believe in the Peter Principle, you suspect he reached the level of his competence at Fresno State, or perhaps even earlier when he was AD at Toledo.

Bohl's trouble is, he can sell it, but he can't peddle the perception he is an upper-echelon university athletic director. To tell the truth, if he and Jay Hinrichs, head of the Williams Fund, switched jobs, people would buy it right away.

Not that I'm saying Bohl and Hinrichs actually should switch jobs. What I'm saying is, people want what they want according to the way the world was placed in their laps, and Bohl is a square peg that won't fit into the triangle of their minds.

Are Al Bohl's days at Kansas numbered? Of course. Everybody's days are numbered.

Hemenway is on the spot. The chancellor has to decide if Bohl's situation is untenable and he must bring out the hook, or if Bohl's act will play longer with a little tweaking and some rewriting.

Bohl's enthusiasm for Kansas University athletics is commendable. He's a breath of fresh air in that regard. But Bohl needs to learn when to turn it on, when to tone it down and when to leave it in the closet. It's OK for a CEO to prance like a carnival barker sometimes, but not all the time.

Maybe Bohl is a leopard who can't change his spots. Perhaps he's an old dog who can't learn new tricks. If he is, his days may be numbered in double digits. That would be too bad, because the guy really is committed to Kansas University athletics.

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