It doesn’t matter how many people from how many different levels of football Sheahon Zenger talked to in his search for a new football coach for Kansas University. And it doesn’t matter when it is announced. (Friday is as good a guess as any, but just a guess.)
It only matters that the guy Zenger ends up hiring rebuilds a program that at the moment has no apparent first-string quarterback, no go-to receiver and a pass rush more aptly named a pass retreat.
Zenger didn’t hire his long-time friend Mike Leach. He’ll explain why when he returns to town with a new head coach. He’ll answer whether the fact that Leach is suing a KU business partner, ESPN, and a Big 12 conference member, Texas Tech, had anything to do with not hiring Leach. If Zenger says yes, then everybody needs to move on from that, painful though it is. Same goes for if Leach preferred the Pac-12 to coaching again in the Big 12. (I was talking to the mirror the last two sentences.)
Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora recruited most of his roster from Mississippi, Florida and elsewhere in the deep South. Those contacts translate better to North Carolina than Kansas, and it’s easier to win a title in the ACC than in the Big 12.
Houston’s Kevin Sumlin didn’t have an interest in the job two years ago or now. He remains the leading contender for the Texas A&M job and has other suitors if that doesn’t work out.
Zenger, according to an industry insider, interviewed Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and then looked at some “NFL guys” with head-coaching experience. Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, former head coach at Boise State and Arizona State, was believed to be one of them. Charlie Weis, who failed at Notre Dame after working in the NFL and now is offensive coordinator at Florida, is another.
“Better look into him,” the insider said. “It’s more than just a rumor that they talked.”
On the phone? In person? Don’t know.
It’s not known whether former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress, former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs coach Herman Edwards and ex-Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora Jr. were contacted by Zenger, but their names have been floated by third parties as having an interest in testing the college waters.
If Zenger found no match in the pro/college head-coaching ranks, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn could be his fall-back position. Malzahn won three state titles in 14 years as a high school coach in Springdale, Ark., and then spent a year at Arkansas on Houston Nutt’s staff. He moved on to Tulsa, where he had two wildly successful offenses at Tulsa, working under Todd Graham, now Pittsburgh’s head coach.
The Graham/Malzahn Tulsa teams ran and threw well out of hurry-up, no-huddle offenses. As for Auburn’s offense with Malzahn coordinating in 2010, well, Cam Newton was the quarterback, so all bets are off. Similarly, we’ll never know how much credit the Chicago Bulls’ triangle offense deservedbecause Michael Jordan was part of it.
Malzahn’s in his third year at Auburn and once was named the “National Offensive Recruiter of the Year” by Rivals. He interviewed at North Carolina, but didn’t draw an offer from athletic director Bubba Cunningham, AD at Tulsa at the time Malzahn worked there.
Malzahn has several interviews on YouTube, but none of them caused a stir the way his wife Kristi’s did. I watched the portion of the 30-minute Christian conference interview that was on YouTube and since has vanished. Attempts to click it now trigger a message that reads, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Cross Church, Inc.”
During the interview, Kristi mocked legendary football coach and current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz’s lisp, a cringe moment at the level of “The Office” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” She also shared how she mocked her husband for the Auburn offense’s sluggish performance in the BCS title game.
Kristi also reportedly shared that Auburn head coach Gene Chizik didn’t want to recruit Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner.
Maybe the video had something to do with Malzahn not getting head-coaching offers elsewhere and leaving Zenger the opportunity to hire him, if he’s more intrigued with Malzahn’s offensive-guru status than with that of Weis. This is not the first time Malzahn and Weis have been linked. Quarterback Mitch Mustain played for Malzahn in high school and had his heart set on playing at Notre Dame. Weis instead recruited Jimmy Clausen and Mustain followed his high school coach to Arkansas. He then transferred to USC.
If Kristi’s video amounts to “Honey, I Shrunk the Job Pool,” and it enabled Malzahn to fall to Zenger, the AD pulls the trigger on hiring him and he develops Kansas into an entertaining winner the way it was when Mark Mangino, Ed Warinner and Todd Reesing had it humming, then Kristi will become the popular First Lady of football in Lawrence.
If Zenger hires Malzahn and he fails miserably, Sheahon will spend the rest of his life answering the same two questions, instead of just one:
- How do you pronounce your first name again?
- Why didn’t you hire Phillip Fulmer?