If Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis has his way during the next few years, the second leg of a home-and-home series between KU and Hawaii in 2016 and 2017 will be a homecoming for several players on his roster.
Weis and his staff have been working on setting up the series for some time, and KU officials announced its completion on Wednesday. KU will play host to the Warriors on Sept. 24, 2016, and will play at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium on Sept. 2, 2017.
The reason for Weis’ desire to set up the series goes beyond the appeal of playing in paradise.
“We are very excited to announce this series with Hawaii,” Weis said in a press release. “We recognize Hawaii and the Islands as a fertile recruiting territory.”
As it stands now, the Jayhawks have just one player on the roster who hails from Hawaii. His name is Colton Goeas, he’s a member of the 2013 recruiting class, and he reported to campus last weekend.
Weis’ history recruiting his new linebacker’s home state, however, goes back to his pursuit of former Notre Dame All-American Manti Te’o, whom Weis successfully signed in 2009 and first began recruiting a couple of years earlier. It was through his connection to Te’o that Weis first began to develop a good reputation in that part of the country, and, according to his comments back in February on national signing day, that reputation is still going strong.
“When you’ve done people right, when you follow through exactly with what you say you’re going to do, people notice that,” Weis said. “When you tell people, ‘This is the way it is,’ and that’s exactly the way it turns out, then you go over there and they trust you.”
That trust factor played a key role in landing Goeas, the son of former NFL offensive lineman Leo Goeas, who played eight seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and Baltimore Ravens. Although Leo Goeas had never met Weis until his recent in-home visit, he had heard plenty about him from others on the island.
“I don’t think he’s exaggerating,” said Leo Goeas of Weis’ claim to have a sterling reputation in Hawaii. “I think he does, and I think it all stems from him being able to grab Manti. That kind of started it.”
According to Goeas, there are elements of Weis’ approach that make him “a perfect fit” to recruit the Hawaiian and Samoan communities.
“The culture is built on respect, and what he’s done in his coaching career commands that kind of respect,” said Leo Goeas, noting that it’s customary in Samoan culture for young people to refer to their elders as uncle or auntie even if there is no blood relation. “The way he communicates is very convincing. Even though he’s not telling you your son has to come here, he kind of leaves you with the feeling of, ‘Man, I want my son to be a part of that.’”
Leo Goeas still remembers his first encounter with Weis and talks about it with pride.
“He’s great across the table, man,” Leo Goeas said. “Make no bones about it. He’s not a hard salesman, he’s just very straight-forward, and I think that goes a long way, especially with the parents. Charlie puts the parents at such ease, and he kind of assumes that authoritative role, so it’s an easy baton to pass. He’s an older guy. He’s much more of a father-figure type than some young coach. And I think that really plays well in the culture. I think the way he communicates that really works in his favor.”
Weis said creating the positive vibe had been crucial to his past success in Hawaii, and he plans to continue to grow it at Kansas.
“If they don’t trust you, you really don’t have much of a chance,” he said. “Those kids will go anywhere where they trust you because it’s a very family-oriented mentality and they have to feel that they are part of a family. When we go over there, the door is already open. We don’t have to work our way into the doors, we are already in the door. And it’s just the question of whether we can get them to come or not.”
Leo Goeas also credited KU assistant Jeff Blasko, who has Hawaii as one of his primary recruiting regions, for his role in building a bond with the athletes.
“With the combination of them bringing in Charlie to close the deal and Jeff being the weekly guy who builds the relationships, I expect them to do very well in Hawaii,” Leo Goeas said.
In addition to putting down recruiting roots in the area, KU’s 2017 trip to Honolulu will afford the Jayhawks another luxury — an extra game.
The NCAA recently granted teams willing to play at Hawaii during the regular season the opportunity to play a 13-game schedule to help recover some of the travel costs. It’s known as the Hawaiian Exemption, and several teams have taken advantage of the scheduling quirk during the past few seasons, including USC, Nevada, UNLV and others.