A lot of the talk about this year’s Kansas University football team hasn’t been particularly positive, but as the Jayhawks head into their final game of the season this Saturday, it’s a good time to applaud some notable accomplishments by the coach and players.
One of the most notable of those came in the classroom. For the second year in a row, KU placed 19 members on the Big 12 academic football team. This year, that tied KU with Oklahoma for the top spot in the league. Fourteen KU players were on the academic first team, which requires a grade-point average of at least 3.2. Five KU players made the second team with GPA of 3.0 to 3.19.
This was no small feat for a team that had an overall grade-point average of 2.48 in the fall semester before Coach Charlie Weis arrived on campus. The new coach said he would place a big emphasis on having a team that met certain standards of personal behavior and academic performance. To help make his point, he dismissed 10 players from the team shortly after he arrived for a variety of reasons, but behavior and grades were in the mix.
In Weis’ first semester at KU, the team’s grade-point average jumped to 3.0, the highest in the program’s history. In the two semesters that followed, the team recorded averages of 2.83 and 2.86, confirming the commitment of the coach and his staff to make academics a key part of the KU experience.
Another priority for Weis is the health of his players, as exhibited by his decision to bench running back Tony Pierson because of lingering effects of a concussion he suffered on Oct. 5. Although Pierson was cleared by doctors and had limited playing time since the injury, Weis said the player hasn’t seemed like himself. He didn’t play last weekend and didn’t appear on this week’s depth chart so it appears his season is over. It can’t be an easy decision to keep a top offensive weapon on the bench, but Weis was giving Pierson’s health top priority.
In his opening press conference at KU, while announcing the dismissal of the 10 players, Weis set the tone for his tenure. “There’s a right and a wrong way of doing things, and we’re gonna do it the right way. That’s all there is to it.”
Fans are frustrated and somewhat mystified by the continuing tribulations of the KU football program. The win against West Virginia broke the Big 12 losing streak. A win against Kansas State on Saturday would certainly end the season on a high note. It’s easy to look at what’s wrong with the KU program, but it’s also important to consider the areas in which the team and coach are getting it right.