Thursday, December 8, 2011


Sheahon Zenger still has a few options


It doesn’t matter how many people from how many different levels of football Sheahon Zenger talked to in his search for a new football coach for Kansas University. And it doesn’t matter when it is announced. (Friday is as good a guess as any, but just a guess.)

It only matters that the guy Zenger ends up hiring rebuilds a program that at the moment has no apparent first-string quarterback, no go-to receiver and a pass rush more aptly named a pass retreat.

Zenger didn’t hire his long-time friend Mike Leach. He’ll explain why when he returns to town with a new head coach. He’ll answer whether the fact that Leach is suing a KU business partner, ESPN, and a Big 12 conference member, Texas Tech, had anything to do with not hiring Leach. If Zenger says yes, then everybody needs to move on from that, painful though it is. Same goes for if Leach preferred the Pac-12 to coaching again in the Big 12. (I was talking to the mirror the last two sentences.)

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora recruited most of his roster from Mississippi, Florida and elsewhere in the deep South. Those contacts translate better to North Carolina than Kansas, and it’s easier to win a title in the ACC than in the Big 12.

Houston’s Kevin Sumlin didn’t have an interest in the job two years ago or now. He remains the leading contender for the Texas A&M; job and has other suitors if that doesn’t work out.

Zenger, according to an industry insider, interviewed Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and then looked at some “NFL guys” with head-coaching experience. Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, former head coach at Boise State and Arizona State, was believed to be one of them. Charlie Weis, who failed at Notre Dame after working in the NFL and now is offensive coordinator at Florida, is another.

“Better look into him,” the insider said. “It’s more than just a rumor that they talked.”

On the phone? In person? Don’t know.

It’s not known whether former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress, former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs coach Herman Edwards and ex-Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora Jr. were contacted by Zenger, but their names have been floated by third parties as having an interest in testing the college waters.

If Zenger found no match in the pro/college head-coaching ranks, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn could be his fall-back position. Malzahn won three state titles in 14 years as a high school coach in Springdale, Ark., and then spent a year at Arkansas on Houston Nutt’s staff. He moved on to Tulsa, where he had two wildly successful offenses at Tulsa, working under Todd Graham, now Pittsburgh’s head coach.

The Graham/Malzahn Tulsa teams ran and threw well out of hurry-up, no-huddle offenses. As for Auburn’s offense with Malzahn coordinating in 2010, well, Cam Newton was the quarterback, so all bets are off. Similarly, we’ll never know how much credit the Chicago Bulls’ triangle offense deservedbecause Michael Jordan was part of it.

Malzahn’s in his third year at Auburn and once was named the “National Offensive Recruiter of the Year” by Rivals. He interviewed at North Carolina, but didn’t draw an offer from athletic director Bubba Cunningham, AD at Tulsa at the time Malzahn worked there.

Malzahn has several interviews on YouTube, but none of them caused a stir the way his wife Kristi’s did. I watched the portion of the 30-minute Christian conference interview that was on YouTube and since has vanished. Attempts to click it now trigger a message that reads, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Cross Church, Inc.”

During the interview, Kristi mocked legendary football coach and current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz’s lisp, a cringe moment at the level of “The Office” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” She also shared how she mocked her husband for the Auburn offense’s sluggish performance in the BCS title game.

Kristi also reportedly shared that Auburn head coach Gene Chizik didn’t want to recruit Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner.

Maybe the video had something to do with Malzahn not getting head-coaching offers elsewhere and leaving Zenger the opportunity to hire him, if he’s more intrigued with Malzahn’s offensive-guru status than with that of Weis. This is not the first time Malzahn and Weis have been linked. Quarterback Mitch Mustain played for Malzahn in high school and had his heart set on playing at Notre Dame. Weis instead recruited Jimmy Clausen and Mustain followed his high school coach to Arkansas. He then transferred to USC.

If Kristi’s video amounts to “Honey, I Shrunk the Job Pool,” and it enabled Malzahn to fall to Zenger, the AD pulls the trigger on hiring him and he develops Kansas into an entertaining winner the way it was when Mark Mangino, Ed Warinner and Todd Reesing had it humming, then Kristi will become the popular First Lady of football in Lawrence.

If Zenger hires Malzahn and he fails miserably, Sheahon will spend the rest of his life answering the same two questions, instead of just one:

  1. How do you pronounce your first name again?
  2. Why didn’t you hire Phillip Fulmer?


kcjayhwks 9 years, 10 months ago

Kirby freaking SMART!!!! Alabama's Defensive coordinator. Has owned Malzahn.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 10 months ago

So you would rather hear nothing? I'm content with the speculation simply because if not for speculation there would be nothing but silence.

jayhawk4alifetime 9 years, 10 months ago

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.................

tis4tim 9 years, 10 months ago

If Joe Schmo is on the corner of Mass. Street, wouldn't that make him an outsider?

Katie Bieber 9 years, 10 months ago

Joe Schmo's burger place was on Mass St and 7th, actually...

tis4tim 9 years, 10 months ago

Well, then my joke sucked! I thought kusports was referring to the hypothetical person known as Joe Schmo.

As you can tell I haven't lived in Kansas for a long, long time.

Danny Hernandez 9 years, 10 months ago

Some comments I picked up from Rivals don't do Fedora any justice. I for one am glad he isn't going to be the next head coach at Kansas though some will beg to differ with me.

Fedora is the worst we have had in 50 years at Southern Miss. How can a guy that has enough talent to whip Houston get beat by Marshall and UAB. the guy has been looking to leave for past three years. It's all about ME with Fedora. He has never LOST a game himself, it's always the players weren't ready to play of the Officials cost him the game. O'Well, I don't like NC so maybe they can lose together.

Moving from a successful USM program to a basketball school that cheats in football is a downward move. He is better off staying where he is. Add in the fact that the ACC is one of the worst football conferences in America and this looks like career suicide. Reply

NebraskaJayhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

The longer this drags on, the more it makes me think Zenger is not interested in Fulmer. The thing about Fulmer is that he actually wants to coach here. He has stated so. He hasn't stated that he wants to coach at other vacancies....he's stated that he wants to coach here. Give this man a chance to turn this program into a winner again. I think he has the track record and the know how to get the job done. All of these other guys are just a flash in the pan for all we know.

LSHawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Actually I heard that Fulmer had too many demands and he and Zenger could not work out a deal. That all was laid out yetserday on the border patrol radio show yesterday on WHB 810.

Kenneth Hillman 9 years, 10 months ago

If one of his demands was the track has to be removed if he is to coach at KU I like him.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 10 months ago

Tait covered that in one of his updates yesterday. He said Fulmer wasn't interested and was out of the competition.

Mark Lindrud 9 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Bangkok_Jayhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

"I am a fat man who is an idiot." Really classy baldjedi. Keegan is a columnist... Opinions are part of his job.

Bville Hawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Plus his column suggesting Fulmer was based on information he received from a long time friend of Fulmer's who had apparently spoken to Fulmer and felt he had a serious interest.

Mark Lindrud 9 years, 10 months ago

I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate. Lone Star: What does that make us? Dark Helmet: Absolutely nothing,

That is all I could think of lol

Mark Lindrud 9 years, 10 months ago

One article about Fulmer coming here possibly is enough, but when he keeps writing about the same topic it gets old. As a columnist he can at least come up with something new. Opinions are one thing, but come on. Fulmer probably isn't coming so let's hear about all the options that are possible, sort of like what Matt is doing.

LSHawk 9 years, 10 months ago

At least we know Zenger is out there trying to get the best QUALIFIED guy who wants the job and not just looking for somebody who will take the job..

Dyrk Dugan 9 years, 10 months ago

Fulmer won't be the coach. I don't care how he much he wants the job....we need a guy dedicated to Kansas....not some coach from the past that spent 30 years at one school and wants to go out in some late life, blaze of glory.

besides, another story in this newspaper said Fulmer is out of the running. so let's get past Phil Fulmer.

Chryst or Malzahn seem fine to me. Both have not been head coaches before...and i like that, because that means they're hungry. and with SZ as their boss, someone who has actually been a football coach himself, he can guide them in the organization aspect of it, we have some very capable assistants on staff right now, that when retained, can hit the ground running.

if we don't have a coach named in the next 24-36 hours, then I will be quite concerned. it's not imperative that we have him here for the OSU game on Saturday....but man would that be cool. and i would be concerned not because of anything SZ is doing or not doing, but the perception that must be out there about KU tough it is to win here, to sustain winning, overall university support and the whole thing. And Dr. Zenger has to sell the new coach, that this won't be an issue.

i've blogged before that SZ has to change the culture of Kansas easy task. and it starts with this hire.

Bangkok_Jayhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Gus Malzahn is not a bad option. Great offensive mind, National Championship ring, and has ties to good recruiting areas. Not to mention, having coached high school football can be a plus in the minds of a recruit. Malzahn and Mora would be my top 2. Fulmer would be a good hire. Herm Edwards... Could be interesting.

justanotherfan 9 years, 10 months ago

As I stated in my blog a couple of weeks ago, although Gill did not do well here at KU, giving him only two years signals to other potential coaches that the honeymoon will be short and the leash after that will be even shorter. I think that's why up and coming coaches have all passed. I think it's also why some of the guys that want to get back into the game aren't interested in KU. Why would Fulmer want to come out of retirement and potentially only have two years to get KU rolling? Unless he is absolutely sure that the talent at KU is equivalent to half the Big XII and the only thing holding the team back was experience and coaching, he can't know that he can get the team turned around in a two year window.

Firing a coach after only two years sets a bad precedent. I wonder if we can get someone to take the risk now or if we will end up with a leftover?

Bville Hawk 9 years, 10 months ago

A candidate that has seen us play the last two years and feels TG got a bum deal is not a coach I want. It means they don't know bad football when they see it.

XEPCT 9 years, 10 months ago

haha, no we don't have a winner. I see fail and fail. Do you think ANY of the candidates have watched ku football over the past two years? Why would they? We've stunk. And how could they? We haven't been on tv. They just do what any normal person would do ... google that the fat man's tenure ended with a 7 game (I think) losing streak and the next coach got fired for not turning it around in two years. justanotherfan is right ..... you might be happy Gill is done ... but KU has sent a message ... "dear new coach, you've got two years, then we'll reassess"

justanotherfan 9 years, 10 months ago

It's not whether they think TG got a bum deal. It's more that they have seen that the boosters can force a coach out here pretty quickly. Every coaching candidate is going to be wary of that, especially if you aren't at a traditional power, or located in a recruiting hotbed.

Let's face it. You can't make KU a consistent contender just by saying that you will recruit locally because there isn't enough talent in Kansas (or in the extended KC metro area) to consistently be a conference contender. This isn't south Florida, or southern California, or Texas, or Georgia, where there are tons of D-1 caliber recruits all over the region. Coaching candidates know this. Heck, they have seen that Bill Snyder, despite a pretty decent run at K-State, still can't get top flight talent into his program, still can't compete with OU.

KU isn't a football destination job right now, and with it unclear how much time any candidate would get to turn it around, interest is going to be lacking. Heck, Leach picked Washington State (you want to talk about somewhere that will have a hard time drawing top tier talent, there you go) over KU because the expectations at Washington State may be more in line with what he can do right off the bat.

tis4tim 9 years, 10 months ago

If Perkins were still the AD, I would agree with your assessment. The fact is, Zenger is now sheriff and trying to clean up the mess from the last administration, which, in my opinion, makes the situation less volatile and the quick trigger on Gill less relevant.

Besides, any potential hire has to know that we're still paying for Mangino and that we're on the hook for Gill, meaning we simply don't have the resources, the will or the patience to go through this for a third straight time. By default, the next coach will be afforded more job security because of previous mistakes.

pepper_bar 9 years, 10 months ago

The only thing football-related the LJW has been right about in months was that Gill would be fired... and the LJW lobbied hard for that... and that decision is looking more awful by the day.

yourworstnightmare 9 years, 10 months ago

I am starting to suspect that KU is going to end up with a young unknown "with potential". We have heard that before.

KU needs to hire Brent Venables, a great coach, and to keep him from being Bill Snyder's replacement at KSU.

squawkhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

My understanding is that KSU folks don't think that highly of BV and don't really want him. He didn't even get an interview last go around.

Stan Crown 9 years, 10 months ago

It wasn't only TG's failure to "turn the program around" The problem is he never did articulate a plausible plan for turning things around. Just kept saying "We're getting there." As I've said elsewhere, it appeared TG was flying by the seat of his pants. His management of the Missouri game this year is a prime example. He provided no reason for KU fans to expect anything different next year. The next coach should be able to articulate his plan, stick to it, and show how it is working, even if there aren't that many wins. If he can't do that in two years, it will be time for a new coach. In fact, I wonder if part of KU's difficulty in hiring someone, in light of the Gill situation, is Zenger's reluctance, or inability, to offer anything but a relatively short-term contract.

KGphoto 9 years, 10 months ago

I think part of the reason Gill wasn't accepted very well by a lot of the fans to begin with, was because he is very poor at articulating his thoughts, on ANY level. It certainly was my biggest problem with him. I wanted him to be a great motivational speaker or even just a good communicator, and he just isn't one.

He did recruit very well, and with a decent D.C., O.C. and a couple more years, I still think he would have succeeded.

But it appears that Zenger has a little football coaching chip on his shoulder and it was more important to make a football move to establish his credibility as a football AD, so he fired Gill without a slam dunk in waiting, which seems a little reckless now from our new vantage point, and as we plink down the coaching rungs into whoville.

I think the next guy is going to get a fair chance just because it's Zenger's hire, and it's his head on the block.

AzNHawk 9 years, 10 months ago

"He did recruit very well, and with a decent D.C., O.C. and a couple more years, I still think he would have succeeded."

^^ This.

blindrabbit 9 years, 10 months ago

He must be checking the Kansas High School coaching ranks for candidates.

hawkfan30 9 years, 10 months ago

Mora is apparently UCLA's top target according to fbrumormill...cross him off the list.

I said this shortly after Gill was fired and will say it again the reason we hired Gill was no one else (that we wanted) wanted to come to KU so we settled for Gill. I said then and still believe now that this hire will be no different than two years ago. We have seen this with coaches choosing other schools. I think our timing in firing Gill was horrible with openings at Ohio State and Penn State already and the assumption Texas A&M and UNC would open up.

flyingfinn 9 years, 10 months ago

Interesting...... Fedora drew most of his recruits from the deep south which makes North Carolina a better fit, where in the hell do you think Malzahn drew most of his recruits Keegan and he was not hired by North Carolina, what a brilliant analogy.

hawkfan30 9 years, 10 months ago

I think Keegan is stating that the UNC job was more appealing to Fedora because of where his connections were. It makes it easier for him to recruit from the same deep south pipeline.

It probably also played into UNC pursuing Fedora as their next HC.

Gregor Southard 9 years, 10 months ago

We're not going to hire Fulmer because we want the world to know we're OK with being irrelevant

Bville Hawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Not sure you hit the nail squarely on the head, hihawk, but I think you're pretty darn close.

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