Monday, November 5, 2001
It's a shame history ignores intangibles and recognizes only the bottom line.
Terry Allen will always be known as the only Kansas University football coach to post five consecutive losing seasons. He'll also be remembered as the only KU football coach in modern times who was fired during a season and replaced by an interim.
History will neither note nor long remember, however, how Allen showed up at the media session announcing his firing and talked like he was the luckiest man in the world. Or that when he walked out with his wife Lynn was applauded by the people who are not allowed to cheer in the press box.
Rare is the coach who shows up at the press conference to announce his firing. Rarer still is the fired coach who departs without bitterness. And even rarer yet is the coach who admits he had fibbed the night before.
"I didn't tell you the whole truth last night," Allen said, referring to the aftermath of Saturday's 51-7 loss to Nebraska at Memorial Stadium, "and that kind of bothered me."
Then Allen went on to explain the scenario behind his firing, how KU athletics director Al Bohl had sent associate AD Richard Konzem over to Allen's house following the 40-6 loss to Kansas State the week before.
Bohl instructed Konzem to tell Allen the Jayhawks had to win their remaining four games a virtual impossibility or he would lose his job. If they didn't win all four, Allen would be given the option of resigning or being fired.
The first option, Allen said, was not an option.
"I informed Dr. Bohl I would not resign," Allen said. "We preach to our players never to quit so I didn't think that was appropriate."
Not surprisingly, Allen wanted to finish the season as a lame duck, but Bohl decided to put assistant head coach Tom Hayes in charge for the next three weeks, saying a 21-day head start in the search for a new head coach "makes a heckuva difference."
I'm not sure I agree with Bohl on that count. I doubt a three-week jump will make any difference at all. And what difference would it have made if Allen remained the coach? His presence at the top would have hardly hindered the search process.
No one said it for the record, but it's quite likely Bohl and his advisors convinced Allen it would save him a lot of call-in, internet and media grief if he, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur did, just faded away.
Where Allen will fade is anybody's guess. It's doubtful he will remain in Lawrence because he insists he wants to remain in coaching.
"Professionally, the door is wide open," Allen said. "I see myself as a football coach. I'm 44 and I'm interested to see if there are other opportunities. I still want to be called coach."
Highly successful at the NCAA Div. I-AA level while at Northern Iowa, Allen could conceivably take a step back. Or he could go to a Div. I-A mid-major or become an aide at perhaps another Big 12 school. Maybe even the NFL. It's clear, though, he'd be a tough sell for a Div. I-A head coaching job in a major conference based on his history at Kansas.
Then again, his history at KU may not be detrimental in light of the Jayhawks' reputation as a basketball school and the cold, hard fact the school didn't pony up enough money to fund a quality cadre for him until it was too late.
Bud Moore was the last Kansas football coach fired before the end of the season. Moore was axed before the season finale in 1978, but allowed to coach in that last game. It was at Kansas State. The Jayhawks lost and, instead of meeting with the media afterward, Moore walked out the back door of the visitor's locker room at Wagner Field and was never heard from again.
Not Allen. Instead of burning bridges Sunday, Allen repainted them.
"Our two boys were born here and they're Jayhawkers," Allen said, "and Lynn and Angie (their daughter) and I will always be Jayhawkers. We want nothing but the best for the future of the program."
When Terry Allen came here in December of 1996 to replace Glen Mason, everybody thought he was ready for prime-time. Allen wasn't, but that doesn't mean Lawrence and Kansas University weren't enriched by his presence.
And so now for the first time in his adult life Terry Allen will be taking a November vacation.
"I've got three little kids and we've been talking about going to the St. Louis Zoo," Allen said, "and I have a dear friend who has a beach house in South Carolina."
Not even a dear friend like KU men's basketball coach Roy Williams could save Allen from the bottom line, though.