Archive for Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Timing right for Mike Leach

November 29, 2011


If a big, fast, hard-hitting cornerback who was known as a handful off the field in high school had instead been an Eagle Scout, he would have played his college football at Texas or Oklahoma.

With other big, fast, hard-hitting cornerbacks as options, Texas and Oklahoma didn’t have to pursue Aqib Talib. Kansas University needed to take a chance on him, and, at least on the football field, it worked out extremely well for the Jayhawks.

Talib’s off-the-field issues continued at Kansas and into the NFL, but the Jayhawks don’t get to the Orange Bowl, never mind win it, without his All-American play.

Similarly, Mike Leach’s off-the-field issues — multiple lawsuits he has filed — don’t necessarily have to scare off Kansas just because they reportedly kept Maryland from pulling the trigger.

But it takes two to tango. Should Leach want the job at Kansas, which in the past five seasons has posted records of 12-1, 8-5, 5-7, 3-9 and 2-10, a gradual decline from national spotlight to local irrelevance? Yes.

The longer a football coach stays out of the game, the more difficult it will become to land a BCS job. This one comes with the bonus of facing Texas Tech every season. He’s only human, and as badly as he’d like to beat the Red Raiders in a court of law, that can’t compare to the satisfaction Leach could get from beating them on the football field.

His candidacy never will get hotter than it is now, so he might as well jump.

It pays to remember that those who do the hiring seem to forget former coaches quickly and put too way much emphasis on a coach’s age. Even Bill Snyder’s return to Kansas State was greeted with a near-universal roll of the eyes. Snyder, 72, has his team ranked 11th in the BCS standings.

Terry Donahue, a remarkably youthful 67, might be open to returning to college coaching if someone picked up the phone and asked the most underrated coach of the 20th century if his time in the broadcast booth has whetted his appetite for a return to the field. Phillip Fulmer, 61, coached Tennessee to a 13-0 season and national championship in 1998 and went 152-52. He wanted the KU job two years ago, didn’t get that offer and somehow remains on the market.

And what in the world is Glen Mason doing broadcasting when he should be coaching? That question so nagged me I decided to tap a connection to get him on the phone.

He wants to coach.

“I’m a coach,” Mason said by phone. “Everybody still calls me ‘coach.’ ‘Coach, when are you going back to coaching?’ People have called me about jobs, but not from a place I’d want to be at this point in my career. But there are a lot, lot, lot of places I’d like to go coach.”

Given his record of resurrecting sinking programs at Kent State, Kansas and Minnesota, why isn’t he mentioned as short-list candidate for a number of BCS jobs?

“Maybe I haven’t gone about it correctly,” Mason said. “I’m 61, but I’m a young 61.”

He has worked for the Big Ten Network the past five years, and that time has done nothing but make him even more convinced he could take another losing program and turn it into a winner.

“Sometimes a coach is too close to the trees and can’t see the forest,” Mason said. “I’ve been able to step back and see what guys have done. I’ve had a chance to evaluate what I did. There are a lot of bad coaches out there, I can tell you that. I’m not trying to act like a typical fan sitting in the stands, but there are times I’m thinking, ‘Geez, what are they doing?’”

And there are other times, Mason said, when he develops deep respect for coaches. He singled out Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.

“When he first got the job, I thought he wasn’t ready for it,” Mason said. “I’ve watched him grow as a coach. The limitations he has to work with at Northwestern are unbelievable. The facilities are terrible, and with the academic restrictions he’s under, he’s done a fabulous job.”

It figures Mason would have a particular fondness for a coach who wins at place most don’t. Mason made a habit of it.

I’ve often wondered how much simple research athletic directors do when compiling short lists. I crunched some numbers on Mason’s career and it took all of 15 minutes. Does the average AD invest that much time or does he spend all his energy trying to figure out what coach will win the introductory news conference?

Here’s what the research shows:

At Kent State, Mason’s predecessor, Dick Scesniak, had a .242 winning percentage. Mason’s successor, Dick Crum, did even worse (.212). Mason’s winning percentage was .545.

At Kansas, Mason’s predecessor, Bob Valesente had a .205 success rate. Mason’s successor, Terry Allen, had a .379 winning percentage. Mason’s was .466. (Mark Mangino had a .506 mark at Kansas; his predecessor, Allen, .379; his successor, Turner Gill, a .208 winning percentage.)

At Minnesota, Mason’s predecessor, Jim Wacker, had a .291 success rate. Mason’s successor, Tim Brewster, batted .333. Mason’s winning percentage was .529.

Numbers for the three schools combined: Predecessors .259, successors .321, Mason .504.

No wonder he won conference coach-of-the-year honors in three different leagues. Yet Mason, who has a clean compliance record and brings no baggage, hasn’t yet been able to parlay those impressive turnarounds into one more job. Penn State and Illinois ought to bring him in for an interview, and Memphis should do the same with Mangino. They’re too good to be forgotten.

Leach did a terrific job at Texas Tech, but each year he spends away from the game, the less his success will matter to those who do the hiring.


BringBackMark 6 years ago

Do we really want the inevitable train wreck that will happen with Leach? It'll be no time at all until he'll be sideways with the AD, the media, the fans, and probably the players. At least Mangino kept quiet and let you surmise he was an A-Hole, Leach will prove it early on.

Clint Church 6 years ago

Why the hell would you bring back someone that screwed you in the first place?

Charles McPheeters 6 years ago

Just win!! That's all that matters, any way with anybody. He better hate MU and it will help if he or she can hate KSU too. This is sports.....not about education.

chieffan 6 years ago

Well said. This is about sports and not about education. KUAC can go through the lip movement and talk about student athletes, but the bottom line is about how football "ain't" bringing in the money. We all know KUBB brings in its fair share, but without football revenue, all the other men and women sports are going to get the short shrift .

Hopefully KUAC will recruit a top flight head football coach that can put a good product on the field and have the occasional major upset of a conference rival. Of course a decent person would be nice to have as a head coach, but don't count on that possibility. I know nothing about these guys Keegan is talking about. However, it would be comforting to know that the new Head Coach does not keep a corner of his eye anticipating the second coming.

parbuddy38 6 years ago

Good point, maybe KU should hire a woman. How about Goldie Hawn? Look what she did with the Wildcats!!

Richard Payton 6 years ago

Why did Leach compare Title IX officials to the Nazi secret police? Tom K. must be okay with hiring a coach that will embarrass Kansas University.

squawkhawk 6 years ago

Mike Leach = desperate times at KU.

Jayhawk1963 6 years ago

These ARE desperate times!!! Most people would consider going 5-19 (with 1 league win) a desperate situation. You don't fix disasters like this by hiring Mr. Rogers types!! I'm beginning to think some of you people actually WANT KU to fail at all sports (except, of course, men's basketball). If you don't like Leach because of behavioral issues (or maybe it's solely because Keegan seems to like him), that is your privilege and your problem! He would, however, in many people's eyes, be the PERFECT CURE for KU's current football meltdown.

stevieboy 6 years ago

Leach will never come here, we will end up with some no name again...

puddleglum 6 years ago

leach is the man! we will get the pirate, then he will sail on to bigger seas ina few years. relax ya landlubberz!

scraptown 6 years ago

Multiple bcs schools are looking at Leach, including ucla and asu (who is reported to want leach bad). Both those schools offer leach an opportunity to succeed and a clear path to a national championship, ku offers neither. If its down to wsu and ku, ku might have a chance, but you're dreaming if you think he'd pick ku over any other school. I could be wrong, but I think he'll end up at Arizona state.

lh69 6 years ago

Brother Bill says I disagree!!!! Mike Leach will come to Kansas. He has been branded by a spoiled-brat kid of a below average former Football player who received a fine for interferring with the investgation at TT. He can win anywhere including KU. My concern, is KU aggressive enough to step up to the challenge of getting the guy.

6 years ago

Actually Leach would be excellent for 1/2 the team. KU would need to hire a D coordinator to go with him. Leach's teams gave up about as many if not more points that KU did this year if I read correctly.

Only thing to say - at least it would be a high scoring affair.

mae 6 years ago

This article determines whether our AD is an actual thinker for himself or a process of the press in town. If he hires based on someone like this' opinion he is not worth a dime.

6 years ago

Out of all the coaches listed only Leach would be viable and if that is who KU picks and is able to land then enjoy the ride. However, I think there was more not told about the incident @ Tech - especially when the kid supposedly laughed about it. I think it got blown out of proportion by daddy James ... called NFL pride and his kid just wasn't good enough. Anyhow just guessing.

As far as Fulmer, Donahue, Mason ... what antique book did you pickup to get these names from? If they were any good you would hear their names talked about with UCLA, AZ State, Illinois, Old Miss ... you don't hear their names.

OvertheHill48 6 years ago

KU needs to hire Mike Leach. Tom Keegan has affirmed that it is the only correct solution to the problems with college football and the players “fat little girlfriends.” That is correct a "stern disciplinarian" like Leach not afraid to refer to problems with players “fat little girl friends” will resolve all of KU’s problems. Had it not been for the “fat little girl friends” former coach Leach might have actually won more games and claimed aBig 12 Championship. As we all know by now that college football is about winning at any price. That is proven by Tom Keegan who was against the pervious coach from the day before he was hired. We need coach Leach so that our “fat little Sports Editor “ can get more mileage out of the words of coach Leach’s use of “fat little girl friends” and anything else that might be uttered from his lips if he fails to reach championship level within 2 years.

With Mike Leach as our new coach we can win it all. It is time to get the “fat little girlfriends” out of the locker room so that KU can achieve a Big 12 Football Championship. Or maybe just maybe

We need to get rid of a “fat little sports editor” so the local newspaper can assist in recruiting players to KU. Just remember it doesn't matter who the coach is they still have to be able to recruit to KU. What has been our long term record in football and how many coaches has that been.

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