Archive for Friday, December 9, 2011

Sheahon Zenger’s pick: Take it or Leavitt

December 9, 2011


Some might ask why Charlie Weis, a coach with a national profile, accepted an offer to coach football at Kansas University. That’s an easy one to answer. He failed at Notre Dame and has too much pride to let that be his lasting legacy as a head coach.

The tougher questions will be sent Sheahon Zenger’s way today at a 5 p.m. news conference in the football complex, starting with “Why Charlie Weis?”

Zenger has to do better than the first quote he gave.

“This puts Kansas on the national map,” Zenger told’s Joe Schad, choosing to speak first to the national media.

Excuse me, but didn’t Mark Mangino and his staff already do that by coaching up a group of largely two-star recruits so well that the Jayhawks were ranked No. 2 in the nation with an 11-0 record before losing to Missouri and then going on to win the Orange Bowl? That team finished 12-1, ranked No. 7 and very much on the national map.

The other troubling thing about that quote — and the first quote generally is the most honest one because it hasn’t been rehearsed — is that it smacks of an athletic director more concerned with winning the news conference than building a winner on the field.

Weis certainly was the biggest name Kansas could have landed. Zenger made a splash heard ’round the football world by hiring a man who has had success developing quarterbacks as talented as Tom Brady, at New England, and Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame, and as unspectacular as Matt Cassel of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The responsibilities of a college head coach differ so greatly from those of an NFL offensive coordinator. A college head coach must assemble a staff of assistants who blend the right qualities necessary to evaluate talent, develop recruiting contacts and instruct the recruits who commit.

At Notre Dame, Weis got off to such a great start on the field and in the recruiting rankings that the school felt compelled to sign him to a 10-year contract extension in the middle of his second year. Weis went 19-6 in his first two seasons, and the Fighting Irish faithful were convinced even better times were on the horizon because Weis landed Clausen, the nation’s top-ranked recruit who had gone 42-0 and thrown a California-record 146 touchdown passes.

In the next three seasons, Weis went 16-23 with Clausen as his quarterback in most of the games. Clausen improved significantly each season, throwing seven interceptions and six touchdowns as a freshman, 25 touchdowns and 17 picks as a sophomore and 28 touchdowns and four interceptions as a junior in 2009. That didn’t save Weis’ job, and he was fired after a 6-6 season.

Notre Dame, which doesn’t tolerate coaches who don’t smile for the cameras unless they are big-time winners, so badly wanted to end the Weis era that it paid the coach more to go away than the $6 million Kansas is paying Turner Gill. The Chicago Tribune reported that Weis’ initial termination payment was for $6,638,403 “under a separation agreement that includes much smaller payments through December, 2015,” according to information in a Form 990 Notre Dame filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

It didn’t take Weis long to land a job in the NFL. He tutored Cassel to a 27-touchdown, seven-interception season with the Chiefs in 2010. In Cassel’s other two seasons with Kansas City, Cassel has combined for 26 touchdowns and 25 picks, irrefutable evidence that Weis knows how to bring out the best in quarterbacks.

That stat should help Dayne Crist, a quarterback recruited to Notre Dame by Weis, realize that transferring to Kansas means he’ll play for a guy who will make him better. Crist started as a sophomore at ND, but was beat out as a junior and announced he will transfer. He will graduate this month and because of that won’t have to sit out a year at his new school. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, however, reported he is considering transferring to Wisconsin.

Weis comes to Kansas from Florida, where he was former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s offensive coordinator.

In Weis’ one season as offensive coordinator, the Gators ranked 72nd among 120 FBS schools with 25.6 points per game and 102nd with 334.2 yards per game.

If Zenger didn’t make this hire to attract national media attention, maybe he has another major move coming. Could it be Zenger will entice his former boss, ex-South Florida coach Jim Leavitt, to leave the San Francisco 49ers after their season ends to come to KU as defensive coordinator? Such a move would allow Leavitt to rehab an image that was tainted when he allegedly struck a player and then was involved in an apparent cover-up. Leavitt shows he’s not that guy by behaving at Kansas and then takes over when Weis retires?


pocorio 6 years, 5 months ago

Thank goodness it is finally basketball season. I think Weis will be an improvement over Gill, but not much of one. on the other hand I imagime this is the best KU could expect.

pocorio 6 years, 5 months ago

On the other hand, KU should have dismissed Grey-Little and brought the Fat Man back.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Your comments certainly aren't insightful enough to duplicate on two strings. Give us a break, please.

kujayhawk7476 6 years, 5 months ago

Tom, Tom, Tom....Why the sour grapes? I fully understand that your bully pulpit is this column, but why pull out the sour grapes because AD Zenger didn't speak with you first? Is it possible KU athletics is bigger than you and the Journal World? Heavn forbid!! Time to grow up, Tom.

justajoe 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't fault Keegan for pointing out that Zenger spoke with a national reporter first. Whether it's here or somewhere else, it's the local reporters, not the ESPN-type talking heads, who bust their humps every day to provide you every last detail of every story you claim you want and appreciate. Face it, the only interest the national media have in KU football these days begins and ends with who got fired and who got hired. In Keegan's business being first is half the battle (and any competent AD knows it), so it's understandable he may be a bit miffed by the slight by Zenger. And Mr. Zenger would do well to remember that, like it or not, it's the local media who help create the interest that sells the tickets that pays for the success that gets you the kind of national exposure you want. Any AD who doesn't understand that simple formula probably won't be around long enough to have another shot at his fifteen minutes with ESPN.

stevieboy 6 years, 5 months ago

Weis is a capable Off Cord, not a head coach..This was nothing more than a desperate move by Zenger. I heard he was turned down by 5 coaches....

jhawkinsf 6 years, 5 months ago

If it's true that Zenger was turned down by 5 other coaches, you've got to ask why. The answer that comes to my mind first is that K.U. is not a destination for football, plain and simple.
Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, they're all basketball schools, they've always been basketball schools and there is nothing on the horizon that suggests that will change. Notre Dame, Alabama, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, those are football schools. Sometimes a school like Florida will win at basketball, sometimes a school like K.U. will win an Orange Bowl. But it's almost impossible to sustain high levels at both. Texas tries but usually just misses the mark. Others will try as well. I'm happy as hell if our basketball team does as well as it's done going into the future. Self and his staff are probably the best in the country. And if Weis can get us to the Gator Bowl one year, and the Poinsettia Bowl the next, we all should be thrilled.

Mike Barnhart 6 years, 5 months ago


I'd be thrilled if our fb program reached the level of NC, UCLA & now Kentucky.

Randy Bombardier 6 years, 5 months ago

If true that also says something about the AD. Sometimes it is not what you say, but how you say it.

rgh 6 years, 5 months ago

I heard from someone that had heard from someone else that Zenger was turned down by 10 coaches after being offered a 10 year contract that paid 5 million a year. I don't believe it but just saying what I heard.

7texdude 6 years, 5 months ago

Weiss can definitely coach QBs and you have to have that to win in the Big 12. KU QB play has been awful since Reesing. I also like Leavitt as the D coordinator cuz the ND defenses were not good under Weiss. This could be a great hire.......or not. I am certainly more optimistic with Weiss than I was with Gill.

Go Hawks!

jtop 6 years, 5 months ago

Weis has been the head coach for less than 24 hours and Keegan is already speculating on who will take over when he retires?! And he wonders why the first call went to someone other than an LJW reporter.

justajoe 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand why Tom Keegan gets all this grief every time he writes something. Given the vagabond history and the health issues of our new football coach, it's not unreasonable to speculate about how long he might last and who might be brought in as an assistant and potential successor. If our AD hasn't been thinking about these issues he hasn't been doing his job. We can't afford any more expensive mistakes.

I'd suggest some of the usual suspects who are little more than serial Keegan bashers stop blaming the messenger and redirect your rants where most of them belong -- at the feet of the former athletic director. It's hardly Tom Keegan's fault that Perks Perkins turned your football program in particular, and the athletic department in general, into a national joke, and then walked away with some $85,000 a week for his "efforts" during 2009 alone. It's one thing to disagree with a columnist, but I wonder how many of you who love to lob your personal and childish insults at Tom Keegan were among that insightful bunch who, not all that long ago, were posting ad nauseam about how Lew Perkins deserved every penny of his paychecks and bonuses for all the great things he was doing for good old KU.

Dale Stringer 6 years, 5 months ago

Just read Bob Lutz's article on A better article by far.

Jayhawk1963 6 years, 5 months ago

I would have to say that this is a disappointing choice. I understand losing out on Leach because of the law suits, etc. But Keegan was right; Fulmer would have been a much better pick and he was interested in the KU job ! Fulmer, over 16 years in the SEC, won nearly 75 % of his games including a national championship !!! What was Zenger thinking ??? Looks like another case of KU shooting itself in the foot....

the_realest_mccoy 6 years, 5 months ago

The realest msstake was KU hiring Zenger. We could've had Bubba Cunningham who was at Tulsa then and who just signed up to head North Carolina's athletics department. Total buffoonery.

parrothead8 6 years, 5 months ago

Bubba Cunningham turned KU down, so, no, KU couldn't have had Bubba Cunningham.

parrothead8 6 years, 5 months ago

Keegan seems very concerned with Weis's lack of success after a period of initial success at Notre Dame.

Keegan seems very favorable towards the year Mangino lucked into a 12-1 record.

I wonder why Keegan doesn't mention how quickly Mangino's KU squads declined in the two years after that 12-1 season, or how the cupboards were almost bare of talent when he left?

2GenLtown 6 years, 5 months ago

Keegan was wrong from the get go on the coaching search. Keegan believed Leach was on a plane to Lawrence. Never once did he mantion Weis as a candidate. Now he is bitter that KU didn't contact the local paper first. Maybe KU wanted to actually reach an audience with the announcement more than they were concerned with what Tom Keegan thinks.

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