Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Timing right for Mike Leach


If a big, fast, hard-hitting cornerback who was known as a handful off the field in high school had instead been an Eagle Scout, he would have played his college football at Texas or Oklahoma.

With other big, fast, hard-hitting cornerbacks as options, Texas and Oklahoma didn’t have to pursue Aqib Talib. Kansas University needed to take a chance on him, and, at least on the football field, it worked out extremely well for the Jayhawks.

Talib’s off-the-field issues continued at Kansas and into the NFL, but the Jayhawks don’t get to the Orange Bowl, never mind win it, without his All-American play.

Similarly, Mike Leach’s off-the-field issues — multiple lawsuits he has filed — don’t necessarily have to scare off Kansas just because they reportedly kept Maryland from pulling the trigger.

But it takes two to tango. Should Leach want the job at Kansas, which in the past five seasons has posted records of 12-1, 8-5, 5-7, 3-9 and 2-10, a gradual decline from national spotlight to local irrelevance? Yes.

The longer a football coach stays out of the game, the more difficult it will become to land a BCS job. This one comes with the bonus of facing Texas Tech every season. He’s only human, and as badly as he’d like to beat the Red Raiders in a court of law, that can’t compare to the satisfaction Leach could get from beating them on the football field.

His candidacy never will get hotter than it is now, so he might as well jump.

It pays to remember that those who do the hiring seem to forget former coaches quickly and put too way much emphasis on a coach’s age. Even Bill Snyder’s return to Kansas State was greeted with a near-universal roll of the eyes. Snyder, 72, has his team ranked 11th in the BCS standings.

Terry Donahue, a remarkably youthful 67, might be open to returning to college coaching if someone picked up the phone and asked the most underrated coach of the 20th century if his time in the broadcast booth has whetted his appetite for a return to the field. Phillip Fulmer, 61, coached Tennessee to a 13-0 season and national championship in 1998 and went 152-52. He wanted the KU job two years ago, didn’t get that offer and somehow remains on the market.

And what in the world is Glen Mason doing broadcasting when he should be coaching? That question so nagged me I decided to tap a connection to get him on the phone.

He wants to coach.

“I’m a coach,” Mason said by phone. “Everybody still calls me ‘coach.’ ‘Coach, when are you going back to coaching?’ People have called me about jobs, but not from a place I’d want to be at this point in my career. But there are a lot, lot, lot of places I’d like to go coach.”

Given his record of resurrecting sinking programs at Kent State, Kansas and Minnesota, why isn’t he mentioned as short-list candidate for a number of BCS jobs?

“Maybe I haven’t gone about it correctly,” Mason said. “I’m 61, but I’m a young 61.”

He has worked for the Big Ten Network the past five years, and that time has done nothing but make him even more convinced he could take another losing program and turn it into a winner.

“Sometimes a coach is too close to the trees and can’t see the forest,” Mason said. “I’ve been able to step back and see what guys have done. I’ve had a chance to evaluate what I did. There are a lot of bad coaches out there, I can tell you that. I’m not trying to act like a typical fan sitting in the stands, but there are times I’m thinking, ‘Geez, what are they doing?’”

And there are other times, Mason said, when he develops deep respect for coaches. He singled out Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.

“When he first got the job, I thought he wasn’t ready for it,” Mason said. “I’ve watched him grow as a coach. The limitations he has to work with at Northwestern are unbelievable. The facilities are terrible, and with the academic restrictions he’s under, he’s done a fabulous job.”

It figures Mason would have a particular fondness for a coach who wins at place most don’t. Mason made a habit of it.

I’ve often wondered how much simple research athletic directors do when compiling short lists. I crunched some numbers on Mason’s career and it took all of 15 minutes. Does the average AD invest that much time or does he spend all his energy trying to figure out what coach will win the introductory news conference?

Here’s what the research shows:

At Kent State, Mason’s predecessor, Dick Scesniak, had a .242 winning percentage. Mason’s successor, Dick Crum, did even worse (.212). Mason’s winning percentage was .545.

At Kansas, Mason’s predecessor, Bob Valesente had a .205 success rate. Mason’s successor, Terry Allen, had a .379 winning percentage. Mason’s was .466. (Mark Mangino had a .506 mark at Kansas; his predecessor, Allen, .379; his successor, Turner Gill, a .208 winning percentage.)

At Minnesota, Mason’s predecessor, Jim Wacker, had a .291 success rate. Mason’s successor, Tim Brewster, batted .333. Mason’s winning percentage was .529.

Numbers for the three schools combined: Predecessors .259, successors .321, Mason .504.

No wonder he won conference coach-of-the-year honors in three different leagues. Yet Mason, who has a clean compliance record and brings no baggage, hasn’t yet been able to parlay those impressive turnarounds into one more job. Penn State and Illinois ought to bring him in for an interview, and Memphis should do the same with Mangino. They’re too good to be forgotten.

Leach did a terrific job at Texas Tech, but each year he spends away from the game, the less his success will matter to those who do the hiring.


hihawk 2 years, 4 months ago

Leach probably thought that KU was too big of a mess to clean up after a Nebraskan made a mess here at KU.


Dirk Medema 2 years, 4 months ago

Mason had baggage at KU. There's a huge duffle bag still sitting at the end of the '95 season.


kirkhinrichflow 2 years, 4 months ago

whats a pirates favorite letter?

you think its RRRR but its the C!!!!!!


kirkhinrichflow 2 years, 4 months ago

anybody less than the Leach is gonna be a dissapointment WE WANT THE LEACH, i love pirates too


Norm Jennings 2 years, 4 months ago

What a CROCK!

There are many things necessary to be a successful coach at Kansas, more than when Mason was a coach with a 12-team, South and North division conference.

A critical, and overlooked criterion for all candidates - which coaching name will attract talented 3-5 star recruits that can qualify at KU while remaining competitive in a ten-team, dual round-robin conference with the likes of UT, OU, OSU, WV, TT, etc.

Few of the names listed meet this criteria - Mike Leach does. Mark Stoops may, Kirby Smart may, Larry Fedora may, but Glen Mason, Donohue, Fulmer, etc. do not. All of these guys may be very good coaches, many might have been successful at Kansas if hired when Mark Mangino was hired, but times have changed.

And please forget about Dave Doeren - Turner Gill beat his team this year! Why would in heaven's name would a sane AD fire a coach only to hire a new coach that was beaten in the same season by the fired coach?


shrekkc 2 years, 4 months ago

I liked Leach as an offense man. I think he's brilliant. But MAJOR red flag that he's going to sue his former employer for his release....we're out how many millions of dollars now to ask coaches to leave? Think about the potential liability for lawsuits if things don't work out.....unless there's a provision in his contract (which he won't sign)


Geekinout 2 years, 4 months ago

I'd be stoked with either Mason or Leach. Glen Mason would have to bring in top assistants to make his name a little more attractive. His coaching style is what I thought Gill was suppose to resurrect at KU. Solid defenses with power running game.

Tony Sands, June Henley, LT Levine, Stubblefield, Isaac Byrd, Marion Barber, Lawrence Maroney weren't bad recruits either.


justinryman 2 years, 4 months ago

Matt any word on anything at 2:23 today?

I will take anything of news or updates or names and info. I'm jonesin man.


Ed Noyes 2 years, 4 months ago

Why does no one ever speak of Nolan Cromwell?


Bill Anthony 2 years, 4 months ago

I have to agree with RockChalk 1990,

"So many of the up-and-comers will simply use KU as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I think a tie to Kansas is a huge plus in a new coach. Or at least a desire to settle down and ride this job out for 10-15 years. We have got to stop being a revolving door of coaches."

We must think realistically, excercise a little more patience, and plan for the decades ahead. We have to realize, also, that 61 or so is no longer "old". If we could get someone with the abilities, respect, and recognition of Fulmer (my favorite) or Mason (should he be interested) and have them on campus for 8-10 years, or maybe more, they could build the program to match themselves--full of abilities, respect and recognition. There would probably be no national championship in that time frame, but maybe a 10+ win season or two in the midst of several 8-9 win seasons. And maybe a conference title and a BCS bowl or two to put icing on the cake . Then, when the new "old" coach is ready to retire, there will be a whole new world of replacement possibilities. With KU being successful for 5 or so years in a row there might be an heir-apparent waiting in the wings, or at the least KU would finally be an attractive destination for top-tier coaches seeking a new home.


Dyrk Dugan 2 years, 4 months ago

let's nip this in the bud right now: Glen Mason, will NOT be KU's next football coach. he did his time here, he won a couple of bowl games, recruited some very good players.....he won 35 ball games in a five year stretch.

but he's 61...he's been out of coaching for several years....and he messed up the program with what he was going through personally at the time in '95......messy divorce, took the Georgia gig, and then came back....blew two years of recruiting there.

so no to Glen Mason...bless your heart, your place in KU FB history is good and secure.

Leach is everybody's front runner here locally in the KC media. but we haven't really heard anything about whether he would be interested. that's probably good, because these things get talked about in the press and it seems other folks get scared off, or things get all messed up.

again, i think Leach would be a great hire...but only if the lawsuits are taken care of. You, as an institution, cannot have a lawsuit hanging over another school in your league by your coach....and also vs. the biggest sports broadcasting entity in the whole world. You just can't. How in the world could that possibly play out favorably for you? it wouldn't.....because it's all personal. and that's where the coach has swallow his pride...drop all the suits...and then dive headfirst into this gig.

if he did that, i would have no problem with Leach. But if it's not agreed up that that is what he would do, we look elsewhere.


Jim Stauffer 2 years, 4 months ago

I have all the respect in the world for Coach Gill as a man, but some coaches just have the ability to control their players. By that, I mean they get their message across to them and get results. I don't believe Turner was successful in this on or off the field from some things we hear.

Mason and Leach are the type of guys who get their point across to their players and get results on the field and at least a modicum of control off the field. Every coach and team will have some bad apples.


bjejayhawk69 2 years, 4 months ago

The one thing about KU football history is nice guys don't win here ( or much of any where else - if they are nice they have someone doing the dirty work for them). Mason and Mangino were not everyones cup of tea but they did what it takes to succeed in football and especially at KU. So no more nice guys.

I like Leach and think he would be about as good of hire as KU could get. I am a little intrigued by Mark Stoops at FSU only if he brings his brother in as DC. Heck maybe Mangino would come back at OC ( I know it won't happen). For some reason though I think Leavitt is still in play as well because of his prior relationship with Zenger. I would be OK with that but not neccesarily my first choice.

I am still excited Gill is no longer coach. Been to every home game for the last 15 years except one and it was getting real hard to get excited or to find any one who wanted to go to a KU home game. Another year with Gill would have been awful.


jhawkrulz 2 years, 4 months ago

One thing to think about, if Conference realignment were going to happen today, would Tech or KU get into the power conference? Yes, I hear you that Tech would be pushed in by their big brother, but remember there were rumors KU and UT in a couple of spots as well. If KU had any reasonable football program, conferences would have KU near the top of their list. Look again at OSU, same theory, and no one can tell me that OSU is actually a big time school. They don't have the following that even KU has, but were mentioned quite often because they have a good football program right now.

KU needs to have a decent football program, and a coach that can keep it going for about 6 years.


Randy Bombardier 2 years, 4 months ago

Buzz is necessary. Get Leach. If not available, get someone who wants to stay for awhile and is a proven quality like Fulmer. Mason did a good job at KU and Minnesota. He had the Gophers on the edge of of getting to the next level, just like he did at KU. But, if we can just get back to that level and sustain it for a decade, that would be good. We need someone who wants to put in a decade here, not three and move on. We need to win 7-8 games a year and be satisfied with that. Easily doable.

Another thing about Mason. Would love to see what he could do with our current stable of running backs. He retains Mr. Miller and watch out. The toss sweep was a great play for us. If he could put together a good power run game, it is the antidote to the Spread. So, to me it appears we either join em or beat em. I can go either way. But, Leach first. Then I'd say someone like Mason or Fulmer. No Sumlin, No Fedora. If we want an up and comer, how about Rhoads?


Robert Brock 2 years, 4 months ago

I am not convinced that Leach could recruit as well at KU as he did at Tech.


142466 2 years, 4 months ago

Good article.

I didn't know that Mason wanted to return to coaching. I'll now put Mason second to Leach.

It would be interesting to see the the record of Div 1 college FB coaches who have returned to a job they formerly held. Probably haven't been very many.


FSUJHAWK 2 years, 4 months ago

I'm not one of those clamoring for Leach. However, if he is the next HFC at KU I will line up and support him. I'm not sure everyone can say they did the same for TG. Regardless, I find it interesting that none of the articles from the geniuses in the media point out that Leach actually did marginally better than his predecessor at TT, with all that talent in Texas. In fact, Leach did worse than his predecessor in his first two years at TT relative to the last two years of said predecessor. Another fact, Leach also did worse in conference than his predecessor. So, is Leach a program builder? Did he build at TT? With the talent that WILL come to KU, can he build at KU? Consider the facts and evaluate what he's done at TT relative to his predecessor. Baggage aside, tell me Mr. Media whether Leach is the guy for Ole KU?



dallashawk05 2 years, 4 months ago

If the hire Leach, I will support him and root for his success.... but I would rather go with someone else... No more spreading the field and trying to win 60-40.... Kansas tried to dothat with Reesing, Briscoe,and Meier and had some success, but I would love to see a competent defense for once........ and not try for this guy Leach to come in and try to score 100 points while totally ignoring his defense.


squawkhawk 2 years, 4 months ago

You know the KU football program has sunk into oblivion when everyone is clammering to hire Mike Leach. While Leach proved to be a decent FB coach at Texas Tech, he exudes all of the character flaws that has helped to put KU in the predicament that it is currently in. Be careful what you wish for because when you sell your soul to the devil, well, you know what you get.


justinryman 2 years, 4 months ago

Lets not recycle Mike Leach, Glenn Mason or any other coach that has failed or been fired under a cloud of issues.

Doing a cannon ball in the pool will get you noticed for a brief moment, not all of it good.

With the list given so far by I am for Fedora, but I'd like to see the rest of Zengers list and just see what his thoughts are being such a great football mind and all.


kusully 2 years, 4 months ago

If Brock B. is ever going to suit up at KU, Mike Leach would be the perfect coach to prep him for success. Otherwise, Leach will recruit 6'5 QBs and receivers. Any QB who is told they will have a chance to throw the ball 50 times per game, would jump at the opportunity. Tx Tech was one of the most prolific offenses in the country under Leach. If he can recruit kids to Lubbock, he can recruit them to Lawrence.


speckleddog 2 years, 4 months ago

We don't want Mason back. Here is why: Jayhawks are down by one to Nebraska, who they have not beaten in thirty years. They are going for a two point conversion to win the game. June Henley, who has run for over two hundred yards, is not on the field for the play. Jayhawks lose again.

Or, two and a half minutes left in the game. KU has the lead over KState in Manhattan. KU has the ball. KU runs three pass plays and runs 16 seconds off the clock. KState gets the ball back, scores a touchdown. KU loses.

These are examples of bad field coaching that cost KU big wins.


pepper_bar 2 years, 4 months ago

Surprise surprise, another hire-Leach column from Keegan, who has a vested interest in KU making a Big Drama hire.

This reminds me of the series of columns a couple months ago when Keegan pushed for KU to move to the Big East. Fortunately, KU ignored his ill-informed advice back then. Let's hope that holds true again.


kugrampy 2 years, 4 months ago

Put the names back on the jerseys, and please quit passing out candy bars at team meetings for a kudos!


jhwkfan162515 2 years, 4 months ago

Let's see if Bobby Collins is willing to come out of retirement and coach KU.


FSUJHAWK 2 years, 4 months ago

I thought the media was supposed to be unbiased. At any rate, I think we all know who the media prefers and why. Despite all the accolades given to Mason in this article never was Mason mentioned as a possible option for KU. The media wants what's best for them. Having a controversial figure like Leach is exactly what the media hounds are barking for. Mason is too nice a guy and too boring for the local media. The media clearly wants what sells!

BTW, it would have been nice to see the numbers on how Mason and Leach performed in their first two years at their different stints. I am almost positive they were given more than two years to turn their respective programs around. Hypocrite.

Let's hope the KU administration make the best possible hire.



Andy Tweedy 2 years, 4 months ago

I have said this here before, Glen Mason is my favorite KU coach of the last 25 years, and I'd vote him as the best. His 1995 team not only won, they crushed CU in Boulder when CU was a national championship contender. That final year of the Big 8 had 4 teams in the final Top 10 if I'm not mistaken, KSU, CU, NU and KU. And he followed that up by doing a hat dance on a UCLA team with Cad McNown, Jonathon Ogden, Kareem AJ (the RB). But Mason, as minnhawk84 referenced, had happy feet and was never really here for the long haul. He returned a lot of the same players the next year, but his two-step with Georgia lost the team. To me, that's a major factor in this recruiting search. So many of the up-and-comers will simply use KU as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I think a tie to Kansas is a huge plus in a new coach. Or at least a desire to settle down and ride this job out for 10-15 years. We have got to stop being a revolving door of coaches.


IrishDaddy 2 years, 4 months ago

Better yet, why not Jerry Sandusky ?


Keith Hummel 2 years, 4 months ago

I really don't understand this hysteria about Leach. If the LJW is going to promote him as the best candidate then they should publish an article outlining his problems at Tech, not just the ones in litigation that we hear about, but the problems he had with the Texas Tech administration. The guy is strange, and from what I read that strangeness created allot of tension at Tech. Before we dress up Big Jay with an eye patch, peg leg, and Frock Coat, how about we do a little more reporting on who Mike Leach really is. Hopefully there is another option in the works, as I'm not convinced the swashbuckler is a good fit for KU.


Ron Franklin 2 years, 4 months ago

Keegan--if you are right and KU is going to hire somebody with a bad reputation, then why don't they go after Jim Tressell. That would be the bold move--not Mike Leach.

JIM TRESSELL--I can see him in his sweater vest now!


question4u 2 years, 4 months ago

"Similarly, Mike Leach’s off-the-field issues — multiple lawsuits he has filed — don’t necessarily have to scare off Kansas just because they reportedly kept Maryland from pulling the trigger."

KU should think long and hard about that. The university doesn't exist so that there can be a football program.


troutsee 2 years, 4 months ago

Leach is a proven winner and has the mental toughness and aura to be the guy. Glenn Mason has been succussful at two universities that did not put their hearts and souls into college FB. I think KU has now made that decision. I would favor either one of these hires. They both know what it takes to be a successful head coach. I have always been a Mason fan. His teams were physically and mentally tough. And look at the facilities that he had to work with. Bring in Glenn Mason and you will see an immediate improvement in our defense.


hawkster007 2 years, 4 months ago

Wise up guys, before KU would hire Leach a LOT would have to happen, such as Leach would have to drop his lawsuits. NO major program is going to hire a coach that has outstanding lawsuits against ESPN and another Big 12 school, it just won't happen because there is too much legal exposure for KU and KU would be on the hotseat for explaining its treatment of Mangino in light of Leach's actions.

Glen Mason, Bill Young (Young has not been able to resurrect his defensive prowess at Okla. State), and any other 60 + year old coach - - I say no. KU needs a fresh energetic start (Bill Snyder is an anomaly so don't be looking for the next 60 to 70 + year old coach to come to KU and reproduce what Snyder has done at KSU), someone that can grow with the program, not someone close to retirement that will see this as their last coaching job and may just be here to earn a few easy bucks before they pick up a nice settlement package like TG.

There are a number of good coaches potentially available, but KU really needs someone that can immediately attract and bring in recruits, and I think that tends to narrow down the list.

Plus, if that coach is an offensive coach, there must almost be a proven defensive coordinator that they can bring along. Or vice versa. I do believe that good defensive coaches are harder to find than good offensive coaches, but I don't know if many of the defensive coaches have the big time name and recruiting appeal as some of the offensive coaches that may be available.


nuleafjhawk 2 years, 4 months ago

I'm not getting too worked up about who we hire, because i can't do anything about it, but if they asked me to pick a coach right now it would be Sumlin.

I lived in Houston for almost 10 years and didn't even know they HAD a football team. It was just like KU. This was back in the Phi Slamma Jamma era. Awesome basketball. Invisible football.

Sumlin has practically done a football miracle there the past few years. If he can coach Houston, he can coach anyone.


NebraskaJayhawk 2 years, 4 months ago

It really is hard to imagine why Fulmer didn't get the job if he wanted it like this article clearly stated. It's not like Gill was even a hot commodity at the time. We took a huge chance on a young coach that really hadn't proven anything. No offense to Gill, but that was the worst hire I think I've ever seen at a BCS program when you consider there were guys like Fulmer out there that wanted the job.

Get the right guy in this time guys. This program has a lot of potential.


JhawkalumJB 2 years, 4 months ago

Pretty obvious who Keeg wants at KU. I happen to agree with him. Hire Leach. Reading his book made me a believer in him. To all doubters, read his book!!


minnhawk84 2 years, 4 months ago

Glen Mason was a good coach for KU. His last year here he went 10-1. Problem is, he had "happy feet" the last few years. Accepting and then turning down the Georgia job while the Hawks were getting ready for their bowl game was not very professional. Still, I liked him well enough that when he came to Minnesota, I bought season tickets for a few years because I liked his offense and the positives he brought to the program.


Eybea Opiner 2 years, 4 months ago

I wonder if Keegan is a paid advocate for Leach. If/when Leach isn't hired will Keegan act like a petulant child and spew column after column against the selected coach when he doesn't turn the program around immediately?

Too bad the LJW doesn't have the same high standards of performance than KU football has. Fire Keegan!


juke4jay 2 years, 4 months ago

Leach in a heartbeat!

And, a pretty decent article by Keegan (for a change). He raised some interesting backup possibilities. That said, Leach should still be the # 1 candidate. This program needs an electric shock to wake it up, and get back onto the right path - Leach can do that. There are some good core talent on the team - Leach would move us posiitvely forward in 2012.

Or, we could find another 'nice guy' who would not yell at players when they didn't work to their full potential. I hear there is a guy named Turner Gill looking for a gig? LOL


johnnyhrdwd 2 years, 4 months ago

Craig James played for the most corrupt program off all time, SMU. Leach deserves this opportunity to prove he's a good man, read the book.


actorman 2 years, 4 months ago

"I’ve often wondered how much simple research athletic directors do when compiling short lists."

Funny, we've often wondered the same thing about your columns.


DrGraydog 2 years, 4 months ago

Got to think that if Phil Fulmer still wants the job, you have to hear him out, see what his plans are....who he would bring with him, who he would keep.....

proven winner


matlockhawk 2 years, 4 months ago

Leach, even with his baggage seems like a better fit than Mason. Mason is considerably older, and while he does a good job of turning programs around, never stays anywhere for long. Do we want to be doing this again in three or four years? I say, "Go for Leach!". He will turn things around, and is more likely to stay awhile. After all, it wasn't his choice to leave Tech.


chezlog 2 years, 4 months ago

Three simple questions: 1) If Leach gets the job does anyone doubt that our program will turn around immediately? 2) If Leach gets the job does anyone doubt that all our opponents will say "Oh Crap!"? 3) If anyone else gets the job doesn't there remain doubt that our program will turn around immediately? Leach is the best choice.

Start the cheer "REACH FOR LEACH!" Everybody "REACH FOR LEACH!"


chrishawkins 2 years, 4 months ago

2/3 of the article is spent talking about Glen Mason but it's title is "Timing right for Mike Leach". Come on Keegan.


Dillon Davis 2 years, 4 months ago

Those stats prove that Mason has been a .500 coach all his life. Maybe being only 19 I'm just too young to know what kind of coaching jobs he did but those numbers just don't jump out to me. I wouldn't mind bringing him in as a possible coordinator or something. I think it would help our new coach out a lot to bring some Jayhawk alums back here like Mason or Cromwell.


Gregor Southard 2 years, 4 months ago

Forgot about Mason. He would be a great hire


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