Impressive football coaches have wanted Kansas job for past three openings

Richard Gwin/Journal World.Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren keeps a eye on the plays as KU tied up the game late in the 2nd quarter.

So how did it come to this? How did a Kansas football program that won the Orange Bowl with a 12-1 record just 10 seasons ago, tumble so far?

One wrong-headed coaching firing and one poor hire by former athletic director Lew Perkins and two poor hires by current AD Sheahon Zenger caused the avalanche.

Well, no kidding, Captain Obvious.

Perkins met with Jim Harbaugh, who has said that the AD would not let him coach Stanford in its bowl game. Perkins has denied that to friends. So Perkins, who could have had former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, hired Turner Gill and Zenger fired him with a 5-19 record.

A number of qualified coaches expressed interest at that point. Dave Doeren, who recruited Aqib Talib, James McClinton and many other standouts working for Mark Mangino, desperately wanted his dream job. He not only had Wisconsin defensive coordinator on his resume, but he was winning big at Northern Illinois. Zenger made the mistake of not hiring him and Doeren’s now 7-3 at North Carolina State, heading for his fourth consecutive bowl game, after inheriting a poor roster that went 3-9 his first season. I always felt as if Doeren’s aggressiveness in pursuing the job was held against him when it should have counted in his favor.

Instead of Doeren, Zenger hired Charlie Weis and fired him with a 6-22 record. Doeren took great satisfaction in beating Weis’ Jayhawks in 2012.

Zenger had worked with Justin Fuente at Illinois State and might have hired him to replace Weis. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the then-chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little took that option away from him because she decided Kansas would not be paying any buyouts for football coaches. Fuente’s buyout was $500,000. He’s now doing very well at Virginia Tech, where his buyout is $15 million.

Former Mark Mangino assistant Ed Warinner wanted the Kansas job and Zenger appeared super high on him after having dinner with him in Columbus, Ohio, during a Kansas basketball trip. Warinner then was co-offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and now is offensive line coach at Minnesota.

Somewhere along the way, Beaty passed Warinner on Zenger’s list of prospects. A strict disciplinarian with a head coach’s personality who produced phenomenal rushing numbers as OC at Army and record-breaking passing numbers as OC at Kansas, doesn’t interview well, but knows how to communicate with football players to make them produce efficiently and cleanly. He will win as a head coach if ever given the chance.

Zenger’s final decision came down to Troy Calhoun of Air Force and Beaty. In the end, Beaty’s potential to recruit the state of Texas was the deciding factor in Zenger selecting him.