Fans of Kansas University football may be growing tired of the silence surrounding KU’s quest to find a new head coach, but there are those out there who are impressed by the crafty way with which KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger has conducted the search.
“I admire him for what he’s doing and the way he’s doing it,” said former KU AD Monte Johnson, who held the post from 1982-87. “He indicated right from the start that’s the way he was gonna conduct the search. He didn’t try to mislead anybody. And I have nothing but great respect for what he’s trying to do.”
During his brief time leading Kansas athletics, Johnson had a hand in hiring three football coaches. The first, prior to the 1983 season, was Mike Gottfried, who previously injected life into the football cultures at Murray State and Cincinnati. The second came after Gottfried left following the 1985 season, when Johnson turned to KU assistant Bob Valesente. Valesente lasted just two seasons, and although both Johnson and Valesente left KU after the 1987 season, it was a tip from Johnson about a young coach named Glen Mason that helped lead KU to find Valesente’s successor.
Johnson remembers about each search. In many ways, he was proud of each. One thing he made sure to emphasize was that the coaches he went after were in good standing with the schools they were at or had been at previously.
“I don’t think there was one coach on my list that had recently been fired,” said Johnson, recalling the search of 1982.
That was by design. Johnson said pursuing coaches who have been fired within the past several weeks can send the wrong message. Although none of the names on Zenger’s official list are known absolutely, some that have been floated in the past week include Houston Nutt (Ole Miss), Pat Hill (Fresno State) and Mike Sherman (Texas A&M). Each was fired within the past two weeks. None are believed to be serious candidates for the job.
“I’m not sure that I would refer to them as dangers, but any time you’re looking at someone who was recently relieved of their duties, it almost automatically conjures up questions in people’s minds,” Johnson said. “I have to think, if Sheahon has his choice, he’s going to find a sitting coach that has done well and has the strengths that he’s looking for.”
Beyond the negative connotations that come with targeting a coach who has just been fired, one of the biggest reasons Johnson says it’s best to stay away is the time-crunch factor.
“If you’re looking at someone who was fired at the end of this season, how much due diligence could you do to know exactly everything that went into that firing?” Johnson asked. “You can’t track down every reference and talk to every administrator, and they can’t tell you everything because most of them are more concerned about being sued. I’m not sure there’s enough time in the day to verify everything about a coach that’s just been fired, while at the same time carrying on a legitimate search for the best coach that you can find.”
Fedora to UNC?
A report in the Winston-Salem Journal late Tuesday evening indicated that Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora had agreed to become the next coach at North Carolina. Sources said KU was interested in Fedora and might have been in his final three.
If Fedora is UNC-bound, the Jayhawks will have to take their search in a new direction. Some of the names that are rumored to remain in the running include: Dirk Koetter (Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Dave Christensen (Wyoming), Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech), Gus Malzahn (Auburn OC) and Chris Petersen (Boise State). There also has been some chatter about a couple of candidates who have not been mentioned much, if at all.
Nothing has leaked from KU during the past nine days, and, according to Tim Caboni, KU’s vice chancellor for public affairs, that’s been the goal.
“There are less than a handful of people,” said Caboni, asked who was privy to the details of the search. “The posts on message boards and Twitter, as interesting as they may be, I can guarantee they are not coming from the very few people who would know. They are not posting on message boards and tweeting.”
Camaraderie no issue
As KU prepares to welcome in its third football coach in four seasons, there are plenty of factors that must be considered. According to Barry Hinson, the director of operations for KU’s men’s basketball team, getting along with KU’s hoops coach isn’t one of them.
“You never have to worry about Bill Self getting along with anybody,” Hinson said. “They could hire Darth Vader to be the football coach, and Bill Self would pull for him and do everything he could to help him be successful.”
Gill on ESPN
Former KU coach Turner Gill joined a panel of college football analysts Tuesday afternoon on an ESPN show known as “The Experts.”
Gill, who was fired by KU on Nov. 27 after finishing 5-19 in two seasons, recently was named a finalist for the head coaching job at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. UAB elected to hire Arkansas assistant Garrick McGee instead of Gill, whose overall record in six seasons as a Div. I head coach is 25-49.