The most alarming statistic from the atrocious 2011 Kansas University football season wasn’t that the 59 points surrendered in a loss to Kansas State ranked as the fourth-most allowed, rather another number that starts with five.
The football team, late in the academic year, reportedly was headed for more than 50 “F’s” in the classroom. Bad numbers on the scoreboard and classroom tend to keep company. The words that make up the term student-athlete are linked inextricably by one word: discipline. You don’t have it in the classroom, you’re not going to have it on the football field.
Nobody needs to inform first-year Kansas football coach Charlie Weis of that. He’s using more than the university’s accomplished academic-support staff headed by perennial best-supporting actor Paul Buskirk to drive home that link.
“I can tell you with a smile on my face that coming into the Friday before spring break we had not missed five classes from the entire team,” Weis said the last time he addressed the media. “Every time somebody missed, it was horrible. And I’m known to use peer pressure as well. So to have all your teammates there and be totally embarrassed for blowing off class, it’s a very good teaching tool.”
Public humiliation hurts on the inside. Private, one-on-one sessions with new strength-and-conditioning coach Scott Holsopple hurt everywhere.
“You really don’t want to do that,” Weis said. “Holsopple, Saturday morning, 6 o’clock, that’s all I can say. You really don’t want that one. You really don’t. You don’t want to be there. I don’t want to be around Holsopple any time, but at 6 o’clock Saturday morning, when he doesn’t have to be here, it’s really not good.”
Weis makes avoiding those sessions sound uncomplicated.
“Everyone knows that when you go to college, there are two major things that have to happen,” he said. “ You have to go to class, and you have to use academic support. If you do those two things, you should be able to thrive in college. So if you don’t do those two things, OK, then there’s a chance that something bad can happen. ... I’m expecting that to show huge benefits come middle of May.”
Improved discipline in the classroom tends to carry onto the field. But Weis isn’t testing his new hip with back flips inspired by his players’ improved classroom attendance.
“I would be discouraged at myself if the first part didn’t happen,” Weis said. “... It’s far from perfect now. Let me just say we don’t have a bunch of tin soldiers that everything is perfect. I’ve already had to get on them about this class, starting to drowse off and things like that. I get all those reports, and they’re all addressed. ... But I’m looking at a direct correlation, if we can get (academic performance) fixed, then we can get (football performance) fixed.”