Editorial: KU needs a new coach

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

New University of Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long faces a decision on football coach David Beaty’s future much earlier than he likely anticipated.

But a failure to act after Kansas’ 26-23 loss Saturday to Nicholls State puts at serious risk fan interest and thus all-important football ticket sales for the remainder of the 2018 season.

When Kansas put Nicholls State on its schedule a few years back, the Jayhawks surely anticipated an easy home win. Not only is Nicholls a lower level Football Championship Subdivision team with 21 fewer scholarships to offer than the Jayhawks, the Colonels were winless as recently as 2014.

Instead, the Colonels have gotten progressively better in the past three seasons and came into half-empty Memorial Stadium confident. This did not look like an upset — Nicholls led Kansas for much of the game and, if the Colonels hadn’t made a couple of mistakes late, likely would not have needed overtime to defeat Kansas.

And Kansas? In its 37th game with Beaty as coach, the Jayhawks looked very much like the same team that lost to FCS foe South Dakota State 41-38 in Beaty’s first.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the 2015 season opener and Saturday’s game was that attendance at the first game of Beaty’s tenure was over 30,000. Announced attendance Saturday was 24,305; however, as the Wall Street Journal found in a study of 100 college football programs, colleges tend to inflate attendance by 29 percent on average. That means attendance at Saturday’s game was likely less than 20,000.

Ultimately, the athletic department Long has overseen since July depends heavily on football for financial performance. Already, reporting by the Journal-World earlier this year showed that football ticket sales are barely a third of what they were 10 years ago.

With an average of 26,000 fans per home game last season, Kansas had the worst football attendance of any school in a Power 5 conference last year. It’s hard to see how Kansas is going to get close to that number this year after opening with a loss to an FCS opponent before just 24,305 fans. It’s even harder to see how, given current trends, the athletic department is going to convince donors to give $350 million for a new football stadium given the Jayhawks’ performance under Beaty.

Kansas is now 3-34 during Beaty’s tenure as head coach. The team has shown little to no progress with him at the helm going 0-12, 2-10 and 1-11 before the first game this year.

Long has been athletic director for only one game with Beaty as head coach, but it was painfully clear to even casual observers that this isn’t working.

Kansas football needs new leadership now.

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