None of us gets to sit down with the candidates interested in the Kansas University football job, yet that doesn’t keep us from having strong reactions to hires.
When it comes to sports, many of us think with our hearts. It’s KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger’s job to think with his head and his gut when pulling the trigger on the most important decision of his professional life.
Taking the pulse of those who want to see Zenger make a great hire leads to interesting revelations. The most consistent, most baffling tendency of many is to get far more excited about a defensive/offensive coordinator/guru from a big-name school than a former defensive/offensive coordinator/guru from a big-name school who has gone on to do impressive things at a lesser football school.
Consider two names: Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. The typical reaction is one of disappointment at the mention of Doeren because he’s at a small school. Yet, most are intrigued by Chryst’s name and want to hear more. Chryst is one of the hot coordinator/guru names on the national radar. Never mind that Doeren was a hot defensive coordinator/guru at the same school a year ago. Since then, Doeren has gone 10-3 as a head coach, which ought to improve his stock, but in the court of perception does not.
Larry Fedora, a more proven head coach than Doeren, also appears to suffer from a syndrome that henceforth shall be known as DSBK, which stands for Directional School Buzz Kill. Fedora coaches at Southern Mississippi.
If not for the highly contagious DSBK, Fedora has the sort of résumé that would make him a popular choice for Kansas. He once was an offensive guru at Oklahoma State. SEC giants LSU and Alabama tried to steal him, but he decided to stay put, earning nearly $400,000 and waiting for the right head-coaching job to come along. A former high school coach in Garland, Texas, Fedora was the OC at Florida before moving to Stillwater.
In his fourth year at Southern Miss, Fedora has a 10-2 record and will go to a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season. His offense is ranked 14th in the nation. A year ago, his defense knocked Kansas silly in a 31-16 beating witnessed by a ESPN audience and 30,211 spectators at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Teams run by pass-happy gurus aren’t supposed to hit hard, but the attacking Golden Eagles defense certainly did that night.
Ole Miss, thought to be in competition for landing Fedora, is closing in on hiring Arkansas State coach Hugh Freeze, who was depicted in the movie “The Blind Side,” which centered on a player he coached in high school, Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens.
Fedora is from College Station, but Texas A&M; appears more interested in hiring Houston’s Kevin Sumlin.
Interestingly, Southern Miss plays at 11 a.m. today at Houston on ABC.
Win or lose, Fedora remains an attractive option.
The Jayhawks never did land the coach with the fedora (Earl Bruce) but just might get the Fedora with the visor.