Is all publicity good publicity?
If so, Kansas University's football team is beaming over its latest mention by ESPN.com writer Mark Schlabach.
Schlabach in a recent column declared the Jayhawks' 2007 schedule the least difficult in college football, saying the nonconference slate "includes more cream puffs than your favorite bakery."
Associate athletic director Larry Keating defended the schedule, saying playing in the Big 12 Conference eliminates KU's schedule from such a notorious tag.
"I'll tell you this," Keating said, "it's not the easiest schedule in the country."
The title stems from KU's nonconference schedule, which includes home games with Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International. None is from the six BCS conferences, and Southeastern Louisiana is a Division I-AA team. Three of the four posted losing records last season.
The construction of the schedule, though, wasn't with the narrow focus of starting 4-0 and playing a bunch of home games. It was instead a number of complicated circumstances that happened to fall into place in the same season.
Not that Kansas is wishing there was a better chance at losing in September. Not after going 6-6 and missing a bowl invitation last year, in part because of a nonconference loss.
Of the four nonconference games this fall, only Southeastern Louisiana was meant to be a one-year contract for 2007, consistent with KU's desire to play a I-AA team every year. Toledo is the finale of a three-game contract drawn up back in 2004. KU played the Rockets at home in 2004 and in Ohio in 2006.
The Central Michigan game was set up years ago, with former athletic director Bob Frederick signing the original contract before he left the post in 2001. That game was originally scheduled for 2002, rescheduled to 2004 and then postponed, with attempts made by both buy out the contract and cancel it altogether. Before Keating even arrived at KU, the game was moved to 2007.
"I got a file on that game as big as all my other files combined," Keating quipped.
As for Florida International, the two schools agreed to play a game in 2006 originally, but FIU was forced to back out when a better offer called.
"The Florida International game was originally supposed to be a single game last year, and very late in the spring, their A.D. called me because their president got the Miami president to successfully agree to a two-game series," Keating said. "He told the A.D., 'Get out of the game somehow because we're playing Miami.'"
Of course, the FIU-Miami game last year became one of the ugliest moments of the 2006 season after a huge brawl between the two teams stained the reputations of both schools.
FIU offered to buy out the contract with Kansas, but Keating insisted he needed the game for one of the future schedules. To compensate for the inconvenience, Florida International offered to play in Lawrence in both 2007 and '08 instead of just one game in 2006.
So there is an explanation for the 2007 slate lacking some punch up front. Kansas isn't completely innocent, though. Clearly, the Jayhawks aren't interested in filling their nonconference schedule with college football powers anytime soon.
A 2008 game at South Florida provides perhaps the biggest challenge of any nonconference game currently scheduled for the next seven years. Games against Sam Houston State, Louisiana Tech, Rice and Duke are scheduled, in part because all of those contracts contain at least one game in Lawrence. Keating has several openings he's still working to fill.
Keating defends the scheduling, as do others around the KU football program, by pointing to matchups with teams like Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Oklahoma State this season.
"Anyone who plays in the BIg 12," Keating said, "is not playing an easy schedule."
¢Media days on TV: Those wanting to see what the coaches and players of the Big 12 think of their chances this season can get a first-hand look.
ESPNU (Sunflower Broadband channel 141) will televise all three days of Big 12 football media days live, starting at 1 p.m. on July 23.
Live broadcasts will also be shown at 9 a.m. on July 24 and 9 a.m. on July 25.
KU coach Mark Mangino and three selected players are scheduled to chat with various media outlets on the first day. Media days are being held this year at The Wyndham-St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio.
¢Dates to remember: After the quick visit to San Antonio, KU's players will wrap up summer conditioning and summer school at the end of the month and get ready for the fall.
Players are scheduled to report for fall camp on Aug. 4, with the first practice scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 5.