After the season Russell Wilson had as a one-year, play-right-away transfer for Wisconsin, after leaving North Carolina State, it had to be extremely difficult for Dayne Crist to say no to the Badgers.
Think about it: At Wisconsin, Crist would have been the favorite to win the starting job for a team that can’t be counted out of national-title contention, joining a program that has fresh proof it knows how to incorporate a new leader of an offense seamlessly.
Crist chose to join a program that finished two games out of ninth place in a 10-team Big 12, instead of making the same choice Wilson made, which led to him finishing ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Why did Crist bypass the obvious choice? Two words: Charlie Weis.
The faith Crist showed in Weis in committing to Kansas has a shot at helping KU football for longer than the one year of eligibility Crist has remaining. The fact he made the decision at the age of 22, not 18, and having practiced two years under Weis at Notre Dame makes it a more informed decision than most players make in choosing a college.
Crist obviously believes in Weis’ ability to make him better, believes in Weis’ offense and trusts the coach’s expertise.
After signing with Notre Dame out of Notre Dame High in Southern California, Crist practiced as a redshirt in 2008, played sparingly as a backup in 2009, attempting 20 passes, and suffered his first torn ACL. In 2010, he started the first nine games of coach Brian Kelly’s first season. One day shy of the one-year anniversary of his first ACL injury, Crist suffered another. Kelly benched him in the first game of this season and stubbornly didn’t go back to Crist when things didn’t work out so well at the quarterback position.
Weis recruited Crist because he believed he would fit his pro-style offense ideally. That’s the same reason he recruited him to Kansas. A 6-foot-4, 235-pound pocket passer, Crist had mixed results at Notre Dame (59-percent completion rate, 6.9 yards per attempt, 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions in 338 passes) but no question represents an upgrade at the position for Kansas.
The buzz created with the selection of Weis grew louder with the commitment of Crist, louder still when Brigham Young transfer Jake Heaps, a similarly touted high school sensation, announced his decision to come to Kansas shortly after Crist did. Heaps, a 6-1, 205, pocket passer, must sit out the 2012 season, which gives him time to get acquainted with the offense.
But has the excitement translated to ticket sales? Yes.
“Without sending the (renewal) form out yet, we’ve sold 2,500 season tickets and half of them are people who didn’t have them before,” KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said. “And we’ve had at least one person just walk into the Williams Fund and hand us a $5,000 check and say, ‘This is for hiring Charlie Weis.’ And the fact that he was able to recruit the players he’s recruited already, I think that’s definitely added to the excitement.”
If Weis’ teams can bring the same football mentality to the gridiron as Bill Self’s teams bring to the hardwood, things could get pretty interesting around here.