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Coaching Search 2011: 5:08 p.m. - Zenger meets with KU players; talks about correcting problems


Kansas coach Turner Gill talks to his players after Missouri's failed field goal attempt in the second half Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas coach Turner Gill talks to his players after Missouri's failed field goal attempt in the second half Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium. by Kevin Anderson

5:08 p.m. Update:

While some members of the coaching staff loaded boxes into vehicles outside of the Anderson Family Football Complex, Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger met inside with the KU football team and a few remaining members of the coaching staff just after 4 p.m. Monday afternoon.

The meeting lasted about 20 minutes and, according to sophomore running back James Sims, was about nothing more than getting the program back on track.

“He just basically talked about getting stuff corrected,” Sims said. “That’s pretty much what he was giving to us.”

Sims said Zenger did not talk about what might come next in the coaching search to replace former KU coach Turner Gill, who was fired Sunday after two seasons.

“No, sir,” Sims said. “Not yet. It was just about all the stuff that was going on and how we need to get our stuff corrected and turned around.”

According to Sims, the Jayhawks soaked up all of the information shared by Zenger, who himself is a former college football coach.

“It was received real well,” Sims said. “We all respect the AD and the decision that he made and we’re just looking forward to whoever’s coming in next.”

More to come. Stay tuned...

3:28 p.m. Update:

Just got off the phone with KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger. I'll have more from our conversation later. For now, here's a quote that Zenger gave to JayhawkSlant.com earlier today.

"I am looking for someone with a strong pedigree. It could be a former head coach, current head coach or a coordinator. I think it is important that a coordinator comes from a highly successful program and he's been in that role for some time... I want someone that has strong football values and knows X's and O's. He must have a level of discipline above most."

None of what's in that quote is much of a surprise and it falls in line perfectly with our list of coaching candidates.

My initial read? These names should rise to the top: Leach, Mark Stoops, Mike Stoops, Venables, Fedora, probably in that order...

Gonna head up to the football complex again to see what's happening. Be back soon.

Stay tuned...

3:09 p.m. Update:

Starting to hear about a 4 p.m. meeting between KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger and the KU football team.

Clearly this is no surprise and, based on what I'm hearing, I'd expect this to be a doozy of a meeting. These players likely will hear exactly what Zenger expects out of them and the program in the future and that message will be very different than anything they've heard during the past couple of years.

We'll head up there for reaction. Stay tuned...

2:51 p.m. Update:

Couple of quick nuggets while I'm waiting for some phone calls back...

  1. There's been a lot of talk/speculation/wondering about former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel having a shot at the KU job. Cross him off the list. Not only is Tressel not likely to be interested in the gig, I'm also hearing that he won't even be contacted by KU. No surprise there, really, but, at this point, all options have to be considered.

  2. Regarding Leach and the opening at UCLA, don't panic just yet. I know it's been reported that Leach would be a slam dunk at UCLA, which just fired Rick Neuheisel, but I'm hearing that UCLA might not see Leach as the right fit at this time. Look for the Bruins to throw the bank at Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who was on their short list four years ago and could emerge as UCLA's top candidate very soon.

More to come. Stay tuned...

1:47 p.m. Update:

Not surprisingly, KU men's basketball coach Bill Self had some great things to say about the situation surrounding the KU football program currently.

Here's a quick recap of his comments.

First and foremost, Self expressed sympathy and appreciation for Gill and his family:

“I think yesterday was a sad day," he said. "Everybody likes and respects Turner and his staff, without question. A lot of times in business you make decisions that are hard. But I know that we’ll be in good hands moving forward. I have total confidence in the administration to bring in a good guy, the right guy, and I certainly wish the best for Turner and his family.”

When asked about the attractiveness of the football job that's now open at Kansas, Self talked about it being a great opportunity.

“I would rank it definitely as a good job. I don’t think that the football job at KU is the equivalent of the basketball job at KU because there’s not as much history and tradition. But I do think this; we’re still selling the same product. We’re selling the school, the education, the conference. I think it’s really a good job. And I think it will definitely attract a lot of people. It’s been proven that you can win big here.”

Beyond his love for Kansas, Self talked about KU football having an important role in the way of life for the entire university.

“It benefits everybody on our campus. It benefits our athletic department. It benefits our budget. It benefits baseball or volleyball or tennis. Everybody needs to have a good football program. There’s no question about that.”

“There’s no revenue stream that this university can create that’s greater than putting people in the seats over there (Memorial Stadium).”

“Regardless of how people may see it, it is a business and you’ve gotta generate income. I don’t know exactly where we’re at, but I think basketball is close to maxed out as far as what we can generate. So I think it’s very important for our football program to be successful. We need football to be good also because football brings you an element of enthusiasm and energy to your campus.”

Back to the search. Much more to come.

Stay tuned...

11:23 a.m. Update:

About to head over to KU basketball coach Bill Self's weekly press conference. Self's always great about talking about what's best for KU and I'm sure he'll have some wisdom about the football situation. More to come on that later.

For now, here are the highlights from this morning's chat with interim head coach Reggie Mitchell:

• Mitchell said he, Buddy Wyatt and David Beaty would be the only staff members who would continue to go on the road to recruit...

• Mitchell said all recruits who planned to come in for visits this weekend are still coming... Also said the fortunate thing was that he was the lead recruiter for all of this weekend's visitors and that the stability that he's still here has helped calm these kids' nerves...

• Mitchell on recruits: He talked to all who are on board on Sunday & none had decommitted. Key now is to make sure they let new coach sell them. Trio who will go on the road expect to be in these guys' homes in the next 24 hours...

• Mitchell said he'd like to remain at Kansas with the new staff.... Also understands it's a business...

• Mitchell said Turner Gill was disappointed but remained upbeat and classy to the end... No surprise...

• Mitchell on hiring a new coach at Kansas: "It sells itself." Also said coach should be hired in 10-15 days... The guess here is that it'll be sooner.

More to come this afternoon, from all angles of the search.

Stay tuned...

10:06 a.m. Update:

By now, it seems obvious that most people with an interest in the coaching search to hire Kansas University’s newest football coach have identified former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach as the top candidate.

The reasons for this are plenty and include everything from Leach’s proven track record as a winner to his name and personality being sexy enough to boost both the interest and the image around KU football.

There are a million things we already know about Leach: solid record at Tech (84-43 overall, 47-33 in Big 12 in 10 seasons) quirky personality, uncermimonious firing, affinity for all things pirate-related....

But when you’re talking about hiring the next Kansas football coach — and when you’re talking about hoping this will be the guy that (a) finally gets it going and sustains it and (b) will be here a long time — I don’t think you ever can know too much.

With that in mind, below are a few links for you to look at, all designed to give you a better, deeper look at Leach the man, the coach and the potential KU candidate.

Rumors ran wild during the past 12 hours that Leach was in Lawrence or on his way to Lawrence to interview for the job. That’s possible. But we haven’t been able to confirm anything yet.

A late-night trip to the Lawrence Municipal Airport to track a plane from Key West, Fla., that was rumored to have Leach on board turned up nothing more than a family returning from vacation. Inquiries at The Oread hotel about a man named Mike Leach checked into a room there also turned up nothing. Then again, they would, wouldn’t they? No way Leach checked into a Lawrence hotel (or any other hotel for that matter) under his actual name.

Leach has emerged as the top candidate at KU for a couple of reasons.

First, he and KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger have history and have worked together in the past. When Zenger was the publisher of a football magazine he helped start in the 1990s, Leach often was involved in some of the articles. In addition, the two nearly worked together on a couple of different football staffs back when Zenger was still coaching.

This doesn’t make it a slam dunk, as Leach will have a ton of other suitors, but it should give KU a leg up.

Another thing that gives KU a leg up is its standing in the Big 12 Conference. Leach believes he was wrongfully terminated at Texas Tech and most speculate that Leach would love the opportunity to come back into the conference and play Tech every year.

We’ll have more on Leach as things progress. From all aspects, he very much looks like the favorite for the job, so long as he’s interested in taking it. That said, I’ve been told that Zenger is open to exploring anyone who shows interest in the job and will take all candidates very seriously.

One little nugget about coaching lists: Zenger has one. He had one when he was hired by KU. But it’s important to remember that things change and lists don’t always wind up being the end-all, be-all.

When Zenger hired longtime Purdue assistant Brock Spack to be the head football coach at Illinois State a few years back, Spack’s name was nowhere to be found on Zenger’s intial list.

Go figure.

Here are a few more links to familiarize you with Leach. We’ll try to bring you these types of looks on all the candidates throughout the week.

60 Minutes interview:

Recent interview with folks at Arizona: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/ua/articles/2011/10/26/20111026mike-leach-arizona-football-bickley.html

Recent article in the New Orleans paper: http://www.nola.com/tulane/index.ssf/2011/11/former_coach_leach_says_hes_no.html

9:39 a.m. Update:

Good morning... Lots of good stuff coming your way today — and every day until this thing is done — but, to kick things off, we'll start with a statement from former KU football coach Turner Gill, who was fired on Sunday after two seasons.

"I would like to thank the University of Kansas for the opportunity to be its head football coach. On behalf of our staff, I want to thank the players for putting their heart and soul into this football program the past two years. I hope nothing but the best for all their future endeavors, both on and off the field."

KU recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell has been named as the interim head coach and he spoke with reporters this morning for about 10 minutes. I'll have more from Mitchell soon.

Stay tuned...


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