Wide-receivers coach Wyatt crucial to KU

More than eight months out from the first game of the 2011 college football season, Kansas University coach Turner Gill is staring down the first huge decision of his second season at KU.

With rumors of wide-receivers coach Darrell Wyatt heading to Texas picking up steam, it’s time for Gill to make sure Wyatt stays in Lawrence. Whether that means Wyatt gets more money or an increased role within the offense, hand it over. As a coach and recruiter, Wyatt is crucial to what Gill wants to get done.

There are plenty of reasons for Wyatt to stay, and most are the same ones that brought him back to Lawrence a year ago. He and his family appreciate Lawrence’s college-town charm. Beyond that, Wyatt believes in Gill, and KU’s first-class football facilities have made recruiting to Lawrence a lot easier than it was when he was on Terry Allen’s staff in the late 1990s.

If Wyatt stays, it likely means he’s in for the long haul. You don’t turn down Texas one year to take a lesser job the next.

If he goes, no one can blame him. Leaving Kansas to coach at Texas under Mack Brown is akin to an assistant men’s basketball coach at Nebraska bolting the Cornhusker State for a spot on Bill Self’s staff at KU. When opportunities like that come along, most people don’t think, they just go.

All signs point to Wyatt being the top target for UT’s vacant receivers-coach job, but sources on both sides of the fence have told the Journal-World this is far from a done deal. If Gill acts fast and with a purpose, KU could hang on to one of its top recruiters.

Wyatt having his eyes upon Texas is about more than money. This year, Wyatt, 44, was paid $249,999.96 to help install a new culture at Kansas. The wins were tough to come by, but Wyatt has landed some solid recruits. He talked Mesquite, Texas, receiver JaCorey Shepherd into picking KU over Iowa and enticed cornerback Kenneth Lynn to dump Iowa State. Surely, there’s more where that came from. But, if Wyatt leaves, will those guys go with him?

Wyatt is no different than most assistant coaches in the college game. He wants to be a head coach. He came to Kansas from Southern Miss, where he was the offensive coordinator and second-in-command on a team that set 36 school records. The reason? It’s easier to get a head-coaching job as an assistant at a BCS school than it is to make the leap from Southern Miss. Doesn’t the same idea ring true with the gap between Kansas and Texas?

Getting Wyatt to stay would go a long way in solidifying this staff and KU football. And it could help tremendously in the near future should Gill find himself in another battle for one of his assistants with a different BCS blueblood.

If things at Michigan go the way it looks like they might, and the Wolverines send Rich Rodriguez packing, the new coach at Michigan, whoever he is, could come after KU assistant Reggie Mitchell, a master recruiter who hails from Flint, Mich. That, too, would be a big blow to Gill’s vision.

Since arriving in Lawrence, Gill has talked a lot about creating a program never before seen at KU. If he’s serious, he has to find a way to keep Wyatt. He must take the decision out of Wyatt’s hands by increasing his responsibility and pay.

The clock’s ticking.