Ideally, Kansas University needs to hire a football coach who has won a national championship, has Bill Self’s personality and Bill Snyder’s attention to every detail of a football program.
Impossible, right? Nobody who fits that description would be interested in one of the tougher coaching challenges in the BCS, right? Wrong and wrong.
Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer is ready, willing and able to whip this fractured football program into shape, according to a Lawrence man who shared a four-bedroom Wichita duplex with Fulmer and two other young men in 1974.
“He told me a little over a week ago, ‘Let ’em know I’m interested,’” said local crop insurance man Rich Jantz. “The guy had a 152-52 record playing in the best conference in America! He wanted the job two years ago, and they hired a guy who was 20-30 in a bad league?”
Jantz’s friendship with Fulmer started when the men worked in the Wichita State athletic department. Jantz was a tennis coach/assistant athletic director, Fulmer an assistant football coach.
“He’s like Bill Self, the way they get along with people, that personality, that charisma,” Jantz said. “Bill’s got that knack, he doesn’t forget names, doesn’t forget people. Phillip’s that way. It’s unbelievable the way people just want to be around those two guys.”
Robbing a line from Ronald Reagan in his debate against Fritz Mondale, nobody should make an issue of Fulmer’s age, 61. His youth and inexperience relative to that of Snyder, 72, should not be held against him.
“Bill and Phillip would own the state of Kansas,” Jantz said.
Shortly after Lew Perkins had hired Gill after interviewing Fulmer and several others, Kansas played a basketball game in Knoxville. Jantz invited Self and Fulmer to lunch so they could meet. Who spots them 10 minutes into it and joins them? Perkins.
“Phillip was very nice to him, first-class all the way,” Jantz said. “I can’t be that way, but Phillip handled it fine.”
Jantz said Fulmer, “is on top of everything, right down to a kid spelling a word wrong at Fantasy Camp. That’s the way football coaches have to be. He’s in control of everything. He’ll be busy doing something across the room, and I’ll be talking to someone else. He hears every word of it.”
But could Fulmer recruit Tennessee athletes to Kansas?
“At Tennessee, he recruited nationwide,” Jantz said. “You have to at Tennessee. It’s not the greatest job in the world as far as talent in your state. Phillip did a hell of a job getting kids from all over the country. And he put together a great staff.”
North Carolina wants Larry Fedora, and Texas A&M is interested. Not looking good for Kansas.
Hiring Fulmer two years ago would have resulted in Kansas being “off and rolling by now,” Jantz said.
Better late than never.