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Monday, November 5, 2001

End of the road

Bohl fires head coach; Hayes named interim

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After years of frustration and months of speculation, Terry Allen officially was fired as Kansas University's football coach on Sunday.

"The job of an athletics director every day is not an easy one, but today is one of the tougher ones," KU athletics director Al Bohl said during a press conference Sunday to announce Allen's dismissal. "Today the focus is on moving on with our football program and I'm going to proceed with trying to find a new football coach for the University of Kansas."

KU assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Tom Hayes has been named the interim head coach until a replacement for Allen can be found.

Hayes said he would like to be considered for the post when the time is right.

"I've already told Al I would love the opportunity to seek the job," Hayes said. "But, to put it bluntly, I'm not going to get involved with that at this time. My role is about a three-week season and the football players on this team. It's not about Tom Hayes."

KU travels to Texas this weekend before finishing at home against Iowa State and Wyoming.

As far as Allen's replacement, Bohl said he was forming a committee which would include students, alumni, faculty, etc. and that the task will be completed "as fast as possible."

Allen's firing hardly was a surprise. Allen, who was 20-33 during his four-plus seasons with the Jayhawks, had been under fire since losing the season opener at Southern Methodist last season.

But the heat was turned up this season after back-to-back losses to rivals Missouri and Kansas State.

Following the Jayhawks' loss to the Wildcats on Oct. 27, associate athletics director Richard Konzem visited Allen and his wife, Lynn, at their house and explained a plan that was in place. One of the possibilities was for Kansas to win the rest of its game, go to a bowl game and "everything's fine."

Short of that, a press conference would be called for the Sunday following the Jayhawks' sixth loss during which Allen would resign, be fired or be fired and be allowed to finish the season.

Allen met with Bohl on Tuesday to lay the groundwork as far as taking care of the players, the staff and Allen's departure. It was during that meeting the coach said he wouldn't resign.

"We preach to our players always that all I ask of them is to play hard and never quit," said Allen, who attended the press conference with his wife. "I didn't think it would be appropriate for me to quit in that particular situation."

Allen wanted to finish the season with his squad, but was told by Konzem that Bohl thought it would be best to name an interim head coach.

During Sunday's press conference, Allen thanked and apologized to his players and staff, former AD Bob Frederick and chancellor Robert Hemenway and everyone at KU, in Lawrence and throughout the state.

"They have been just absolutely wonderful to us, to Lynn and I and our family," Allen said. "Our two boys (Chase, 3; and Alex, 1) were both born here in Kansas. They're Jayhawkers and Lynn and (5-year-old daughter) Angie and myself and those two boys, we'll always be Jayhawkers."

Allen's short-term plans include taking his family to the St. Louis Zoo and spending time at KU basketball coach Roy Williams' beach home in South Carolina.

As for long range, Allen said once a coach, always a coach.

"The door's wide open," Allen said. "I still perceive myself as a football coach. At this particular time, I've been a head football coach for 13 years. I'm 44 years old and I'm probably a little bit tired from the coaching standpoint of things.

"I'm interested in seeing what other opportunities are out there, but the reality of the situation is I hope to still be called coach."

Bohl said Allen's contract would be handled "in a classy way, in the right way." The former coach has a year remaining at a price of $125,618.

Actually, the base salary of KU's 35th head coach likely will be much higher than Allen's, which was among the lowest in the Big 12 Conference.

"We are going to be competitive," Bohl said. "There's going to be no excuses. We've got the facilities here, we've got the backing here. We're going to get the financial thing done. We're going to figure out a way to make ourselves financially competitive."

Another topic that will need to be tackled is the future of Allen's assistant coaches, four of which are in the first year of two-year deals.

Bohl said a willingness to consider keeping any number of current assistants would be broached during interviews with potential candidates, but wouldn't be a requirement.

"It's that head coach's responsibility to hire those people, but part of the interview process is to see how they feel about it," Bohl said. "At this level, your staff across the line they'd better have some experience in playing in the Big 12 or equivalent because playing in the Big Ten would be the same.

"Having people that are experienced makes a heck of a difference."

Retaining some aides would assist in keeping some continuity with the program for the players and would help ease the transition.

For their part, though, the Jayhawks have confidence in their AD.

"Whatever Dr. Bohl thinks is best, is what's best for us," KU senior wide receiver Harrison Hill said. "He knows what he's looking for and he knows how to hire a good coach. When he does that, I'm sure we'll get the best guy available. Whether it be coach Hayes or whoever it may be, we're going to follow him."

Hill, who is applying to the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility next year because he broke his shoulder blade in KU's second game, actually was a student-athlete representative on the committee that recommended Bohl be hired.

Hill said he'd love to be on the coaching search committee, but hasn't been approached about it yet.

Bohl, who hired former Toledo coaches Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel now at Louisiana State and Missouri respectively and current Fresno State coach Pat Hill, knows a perfect fit for KU is out there.

"We need to go and find the right person," Bohl said, "the best person for Kansas and have that person come and be our head football coach. If you hire the right person, good things are going to happen."

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