Tom Keegan: Coaching change would energize fanbase

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas head coach David Beaty watches as Iowa State gets deep into Kansas territory during the second quarter, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

The sun eventually popped out of the clouds Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, but the outlook for Kansas football remained the same: indefinitely gloomy.

The final scoreboard read Iowa State 27, Kansas 3. The color scheme in the stands and the loudest roars from the crowd painted an even more damning view of the state of the program.

On the east side of the stadium, renamed for a man whose largesse dropped $50 million spread out over five years into the football program’s coffers, unoccupied chair backs formed the only blocks of blue, swallowed in seas of red.

Big plays from the Cyclones triggered loud approval from visitors from the North who had driven 268 miles.

Big stops by the Kansas defense were greeted with polite applause. Outnumbered in the stands, outmanned on the field and outcoached on the sidelines, KU did what it always does after a rare Big 12 victory. It lost. Badly.

During the unsightly setback, my phone sparked with two different people telling me that a couple of wealthy KU graduates, one a very familiar face but not necessarily known for being a donor to athletics, were spreading the rumor that KU was zeroing in on Les Miles. I spent a good chunk of the game trying and failing to confirm it, happy to have a distraction from the mess unfolding on the field. I have viewed that KU football rerun more times than the Dragnet

“Blue Boy” episode and unlike Joe Friday’s lectures, it gets old. Sgt. Friday deals in just the facts, but rumors do make the rounds, including one that held that Monday and not Sunday will be the day that Beaty learns his fate.

Know this about coaching hirings and firings: They have not taken place until the school announces them. And as of Saturday night, Beaty still was the Kansas football coach, Miles still on the outside of college football, wanting back in.

Not long after the game, Soren Petro of 810 Radio tweeted that he had confirmed that Kansas would announce at about noon Sunday that Beaty is out. I was unable to confirm that. Petro had tweeted shortly after the game’s end that he had heard Miles would be the next coach, but couldn’t confirm it.

As a coaching free agent, Miles would not come with the $6 million buyout required to pry Dave Doeren from North Carolina State, which pays the former KU assistant and Kansas native $3 million per year.

The predictable crash on the field in the wake of last week’s thrilling 27-26 victory vs. TCU put many in the mood for change because with change comes hope.

Riding momentum into the next week never happens around here.

Mark Mangino was the coach, Todd Reesing the junior quarterback in 2008, the last time Kansas won consecutive Big 12 games.

That’s not surprising considering the Jayhawks have lost 63 of their past 67 conference games.

The day will come when this sort of failure to perform to conference standards and getting outdrawn by the opponent’s fan base on a day that just 15,543 were in attendance will get KU ejected from the Big 12, regardless of the consistent dominance of the basketball juggernaut.

The only way to prevent that catastrophe is to build a competitive football team that spins the turnstiles. That will take a big enough commitment to football from the university and donors —

KU ranks last in the Big 12 in football spending — to attract a quality coach confident in his ability to give the program a more impressive facelift than Jane Fonda’s, if that’s even possible.

All season, Beaty (3-6 this season, 6-39 overall) has been multitasking, at once coaching and walking the plank. In case you’re wondering, he did not wear a blindfold Saturday, but the fact you had to ask tells you that the game did not amount to his finest three hours.

In typical cursed KU football fashion, Beaty followed his best play-calling week with his worst, a day marred by too much attempted razzle-dazzle near the goal line that went frazzle-fizzle every time.

Somewhere in the depths of Beaty’s now nervous mind lies the reality that Miles remains without a team to coach and, oh by the way, first-year Kansas athletic director Jeff Long worked 10 years with Miles at Michigan.

An outgoing, friendly man, especially in comparison to so many in his profession, Beaty is as

loyal a soldier as can be found, so if Long wants to announce that Miles will be the new coach, but will be in evaluation/recruiting mode, and Beaty will coach the final three games of the season, Beaty would do so without complaint.

The benefit of that unusual timing would be to bring the sort of attention to KU football that would energize a dead recruiting class that has one commitment. It also would give Miles a chance to assemble a coaching staff and pop in on practices to review the practice performance of the returning players and assistants.

It seems as if appointing an interim coach would be a cleaner way to handle it though.

If the program that has miles to go before even reaching the sign that says how many more miles remain to reach respectability doesn’t turn to Miles, plenty of capable existing head coaches would find the Kansas job attractive. It will pay well and with modest success could lead to the coveted genius label.

And in Long, the next Kansas coach will have an AD smart enough to know that doing well in a facilities arms race isn’t as important as getting stronger, more accurate arms and quicker legs.

Beyond the $26 million indoor practice facility being constructed just west of the stadium, Long wisely has shifted from the ill-timed, unrealistic campaign to raise $300 million for stadium renovations to beefing up the resources, such as the number of grunt workers studying video and analytics, as well as increasing pay for assistant coaches.

The most pressing stadium need lies in putting more bodies in the stands, however uncomfortable the metal bleachers. Playing competent, competitive football is the only way to do that.


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