Football is finally almost here. While some teams are playing this weekend thanks to rules for games against Hawaii, most teams will play next week.
While the season hasn’t officially started, the hot seats are starting to heat up across the country and no seat may be hotter than David Beaty at Kansas.
Beaty is in the long line of unsuccessful coaches at Kansas as they continue to be one of the worst Power Five football teams. With new athletic director Jeff Long taking over, Beaty’s seat got even hotter.
The Jayhawks have talented players returning, but unless there is a massive improvement, he will be looking for a new job in 2019.
The question then becomes what will KU do?
The Jayhawks have been abysmal for a long time. I just turned 23 a couple months ago and the Jayhawks have only had four winning seasons in my lifetime. Only two of them were double-digit win totals, 1995 and 2007. Even going back further, only a few Kansas teams had success, including the 9-2 team in 1968. So can KU turn it around?
It would take a high amount of optimism, but there are reasons for fans to believe the team can turn it around, it just takes the right coach.
Kansas has only won 15 games since Mark Mangino was fired after 2009. That is an average of fewer than two wins a year. The new coach will have their work cut out for them as they take over, but Jayhawks fans just need to look at two other Big 12 schools to know that it is possible.
The best example of a coach turning around a college program from the basement to a respectable level is Bill Snyder at K-State. Snyder took over a program in 1989 on a 27-game streak without a win. The team had only won seven times since the 1982 Independence Bowl. Nine years later, the Wildcats went 11-0 in the regular season before losing the Big 12 Championship game to Texas A&M. From 1993-2003, the Wildcats won at least nine games all but one season, including six 11-win teams. Snyder retired in 2005 with more wins than his predecessors of the last 54 years combined. He returned to coaching in 2009 and while his success has not been as high as his first stint, his worst season since returning was 6-7 in 2015 and only missed a bowl game in his first season back.
Another Big 12 team that went from bottom to a success story was Baylor, but sexual assault scandals have tainted the legacy of Art Briles and his magical run with the Bears. Baylor was a little better than the two Kansas schools during the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, but once the Southwestern Conference and Big Eight merged to form the Big 12, Baylor quickly fell to the basement of the conference until Briles came to Waco in 2008. The 2011 team saw the school earn their first Heisman Trophy winner when Robert Griffin III took home the award. The 2013 Bears won the school’s first Big 12 title. A shared title in 2014 and a 10-win season in 2015 had helped Baylor establish itself as one of the Big 12’s premier teams, but a bevy of sexual assaults with football players led to Briles and others at Baylor being pushed out the door, forever tarnishing the success.
Although they were not as bad as Kansas, K-State or Baylor, another team that could give Jayhawks fans hope is Stanford.
A little over a decade ago, they were one of the worst of the then-six power conference teams. Head coach Tyrone Willingham left the Cardinal to coach Notre Dame after the 2001 season. The team only won 16 games over the next five seasons, including a 1-11 season in 2006. Then, the team hired the son of a former Stanford coordinator after a successful three-year run at San Diego University. Jim Harbaugh was hired and he and the Cardinal shocked the football world in 2007 when they upset top-ranked USC. The Trojans were 41-point favorites and had not lost at home since 2001. The team continued to improve and by 2010, Harbaugh and starting quarterback Andrew Luck led the Cardinal to a BCS bowl and 12-1 record. Harbaugh left for the NFL and assistant David Shaw took over and continued the success. Shaw has led the Cardinal to three Pac-12 titles and a consistent threat to win the division. All of this comes not too far off from the 1-11 season.
Other programs like Duke and Rutgers have seen smaller blimps of success including Duke’s 10-4 season in 2013, the school’s first 10-win season in history, and Rutger’s 11-2 season in 2006.
So it is possible for KU to turn it around. They don’t have to turn into the powerhouse that Stanford has become, but winning seven to 10 games consistently like K-State and Duke have done recently is entirely possible. The Jayhawks just need to find the right coach.
Another name or two will come up in the 2018 season, but here are a few names that should be on Long’s radar.
Lane Kiffin (Florida Atlantic), Mike Norvell (Memphis), Neal Brown (Troy) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy). These four have shown success at their mid-major schools recently. Niumatalolo is the odd ball here with Navy running the triple option, but all four have shown success at lesser schools. If KU can put enough support around them, these coaches can lead the Jayhawks to success. Success will vary from person to person, but for a team like Kansas, averaging five to eight wins a season would be a huge step in the right direction.
Unless Kansas wins around five games, I see them looking for a new coach for the 2019 season. The right hire can turn this program around. Even if that means 5-7 to 7-5 every year, that is better than 1-11 and 0-12 every year.
Luke Peterson is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org