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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Man with a plan: Weis making impression beyond field

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis calls a play during the first half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis calls a play during the first half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field.

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We all know about the Notre Dame transfers, the big-time quarterbacks and the changes he made to the Kansas University football roster.

But six months after he was hired, the impact of new KU football coach Charlie Weis goes far beyond a simple reshaping of the rules and roster.

According to KU officials, season-ticket sales are up 4,000 packages from where they were at the end of last season. The announced attendance of 15,000 for the spring game in April was larger than what KU had seen in recent years. And traffic and activity on websites and message boards specific to KU football have soared since December.

Although the increase in season-ticket sales might not knock anyone’s socks off, one KU official pointed out that it was an impressive starting point.

“We haven’t even kicked off our summer sales push yet,” said Jim Marchiony, KU’s associate athletic director for communications.

It remains to be seen how much the push will add to that number, but this much is known: After 21⁄2 years of embarrassment, KU football has something to sell again. Weis and the Jayhawks are taking advantage of that.

With his first recruiting class scheduled to report to campus in a week, Weis used the month of May as an opportunity to get out among the people. Last week, he wrapped up a nine-stop tour of Kansas that took him from Dodge City and Hays to Kansas City and Topeka and places in between. Everywhere he went, he was greeted with open arms and crowds of 100 to 350 KU fans and alumni, who showed up at golf courses, country clubs and athletic venues to hear Weis share his vision for Kansas. It’s a message most had heard more than once already, and it is rooted in terms such as discipline, accountability and honesty.

“He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy, it sounds like, and he said that discipline is going to be a primary focus there, and he’s not putting up with any garbage,” said Jim Trower, president of Salina’s chapter for the KU Alumni Association. “His quote was, ‘(Fans) don’t want dirt bags on the team, and he doesn’t want dirt bags on the team, either,’ and that kind of resonated with me. I had several people mention to me that they really liked that.”

It was not just what Weis said that made Jayhawks across Kansas feel like the program was headed in the right direction once again.

“I think coach (Mark) Mangino came out once,” Trower said. “I can remember Glen Mason coming out once. So to have coach Weis come out to Salina in the first six months of his tenure there at KU is pretty exciting, and the people in Salina were pretty fired up to hear that he was going out of his way to come out to all of the communities in Kansas. I just liked the whole attitude. They started way out west and went east, and that’s not normal. They normally hit the big cities first and go to the little cities second.”

Although the idea for the tour seemed a lot like something a savvy marketing director might cook up in his office, it wasn’t.

“What was most meaningful to me was that Charlie came to me in February with this idea that he wanted to get out around the state and meet people wherever we wanted him to go,” said KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who joined Weis at all of the stops. “He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s three stops a day, whatever works, I’m yours.’”

Up to that point, Weis’ focus had been entirely on football. From this point on, it again will be about football. But for the month of May, it was about the people and the relationships both he and Zenger believe are crucial to making Kansas football competitive again.

“Coach Weis has done an awesome job early of getting out to the most important areas of our state,” said Heath Peterson, assistant VP for alumni and student programs at the KU Alumni Association. “He’s really blanketed the state and has shown that he understands the importance of connecting with fans and alumni throughout Kansas. I think a lot of people were waiting to form an opinion on this hire until they met coach Weis. And, now that more have, far and away what I heard was that people were blown away by him, and they’re excited for his brand of football.”

Weis has that affect on people. Although he says he’s not super-comfortable talking in front of crowds, you’d never know it from watching and listening. He’s engaging, humorous and honest. That led those who met him in May to feel even more of a genuine connection to him.

“I know I appreciated the way and candor with which he answered questions,” said one alum who attended the Garden City function. “We don’t see those guys out here very often, and it was very cool to see that he didn’t just regurgitate the same-old coach-speak answers when he was here.”

Another alumnus who attended the event in Dodge City said it was clear that Weis and Zenger were “two peas in a pod” and added that having those two men in charge of KU football gave him hope for the future.

That’s what the tour was about, and, really, what Weis’ first six months in Lawrence were about. Weis believes he can create a winner here, but more importantly, he believes there’s a right way to do it. The groundwork is laid, and the structure is in place. It’s football season in Lawrence again.

“I want to make sure everybody understands that this was an old-fashioned, go-out-and-meet-the-people effort,” Zenger said. “This was not about campaigning or anything like that. This was just an old-fashioned meet-and-greet. Charlie and I both understand what our job is today and going forward. This is rebuilding the Kansas football program, and it’s going to be one brick at a time.”

Comments

Keith Hummel 1 year, 10 months ago

Anyone who is having visions of a 6 win season and a bowl game in 2012 should consider the following:

http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/blog/bruce-feldman/19184201/top-10-list-toughest-schedules-of-2012

According to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, Kansas has the 5th toughest schedule in the nation this year.

Of course, if Weis does somehow manage to cobble together a 6 win season given the circumstances, he may be a candidate for coach of the year. He's certainly got his work cut out for him.

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jksport 1 year, 10 months ago

BAN this Ftard! ahpersecoachingexperience

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Jayhawk1958 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm sure the A.D. made it crystal clear on what he wanted Weis to do or an else thing.

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Jayhawk1958 1 year, 10 months ago

Based on a tough schedule, I'm thinking 4 wins. Pull an upset and maybe 5.

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bville_hawk 1 year, 10 months ago

I was okay but not thrilled with the Weis hire initially, but he has really grown on me. He hasn't said or done anything that I would disagree with or criticize. It continues to amaze me how much he "gets it" Kansas style being a New Jersey NFL guy and all. Short of Lou Saban or Vince Lombardi I don't see how we could have made a better hire.

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jhawkrulz 1 year, 10 months ago

One thing I like about Weis, is that he said he learned a lot from his first stint as a head coach.

One thing that the people at ND always talked about was how he didn't connect with the fanbase, that he was arrogant, that he didn't like doing the fundraisers, and all the other stuff. He just wants to coach.

Clearly, either he has humbled himself and/or he truly understands that college is more than football, it is working with the boosters, working with the athletes and laying a foundation.

Additional, is he always thought he could out score the other guy. I think that he relies heavily on the defensive coordinator to handle those things, and probably didn't get the right foundation for that at ND. If I were to guess, Charlie Weis' success will be as much a product as Dave Campo's work as his own.

Here is to an oustanding season (4+ wins---let's set our sights high). And if we get more wins then the Men's basketball team did in the NCAA tournament this year, it would be considered Stellar!!

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KU_Phogified 1 year, 10 months ago

Agree with your sentiment jhox, except I thought Weis was a tremendous hire from day one. I was stunned we got him - props to Zenger.

Don't think for one second that Weis doesn't want to "undo" his "rep" from the Notre Dame "fiasco". What he's done here so far is amazing. The way he's embraced the University of Kansas, the Kansas people and the KU football program indicates he is deadly serious about turning this program around.

KU football in great hands .... absolutely! And with all the realignment crapola ruining college athletics, it's important that we get this football program lined out.

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jhox 1 year, 10 months ago

I have to admit, I thought it was a bad hire because I thought he would just collect his money and go through the motions, but I couldn't have been more wrong. This is a coach with a chip on his shoulder who clearly intends to prove his critics wrong, and Notre Dame wrong as well. His creativity in a short recruiting period was especially impressive.

KANSAS UNIVERSITY football is in great hands.

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machinegun 1 year, 10 months ago

The plan: Pass-Pass-Pass! In his last 3 seasons, Reesing passed 445, 495, and 496 times. Of course he had the O-Line and Receivers. What did the Preacher do? Barely finished ahead of K-State for dead last in passing in the Big 12. Coach Weis knows exactly what he needs to do to make this a winning program again.

With MU gone, we are going to direct more attention toward our in-state rival. We are going to compete for the best talent in the State of Kansas. Give him time. Coach Weis is going to drive Snyder and his run first offense right back into retirement. Sure, K-State had a good season finishing second in the Big 12 but Snyder is 32-28 in his last 5 years at K-State.

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yates33333 1 year, 10 months ago

Weiss is a first class act. Now if he can take us to the Orange Bowl or some similar game like Mangino I can forget what bum treatment the fat man got.

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Robert Moore 1 year, 10 months ago

Weiss is a class act. The real class act though is Zenger. This is an AD we really needed.

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jayhawkintexas 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe Coach Self will barnstorm the state before basketball season begins. That would be a nice gesture.

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Keith Hummel 1 year, 10 months ago

Think about how easy it would have been for Coach Weis to stay in Lawrence and let his assistants do this. Just a few months removed from hip surgery, who would have blamed him for not wanting to travel the prairie in a car for days on end, dodging tumble weeds from Salina to Dodge City. Certainly Weis is used to glitzier accommodations than what can be found in these wind-blown places. Yet the fact that he and Zenger so eagerly did this shows that they truly "get it" - that there are Jayhawk fans everywhere in the state, and you don't have to concede everything west of Topeka to KSU. It also proves that Weis is truly committed to whats best for the University of Kansas long term. I couldn't be more impressed with the job he is doing, or more excited about the future of Jayhawk football.

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Gary McCullough 1 year, 10 months ago

Wish he would come south and talk to the alumni chapters in Lubbock, Dallas, and Austin. Heck, I'd chauffer him around the state. I know all the pit BBQs between those cities that make ground transportation tolerable in Texas.

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IrishCharlie 1 year, 10 months ago

Coach wants to know What The Hell is Kansas University?

Time to get REAL !

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JHWKDW 1 year, 10 months ago

Good Luck Coach Weis turn this team around!

We are all pulling for you to succeed!

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ahpersecoachingexperience 1 year, 10 months ago

Now the writers are just trying to be cute by putting "Kansas University" in the first paragraph of every story. Starting to think the LJW staff might be the biggest trolls on this sight. Wanting us to get all fired up over this issue instead of the actual article. So instead of a few worth while comments from fans who attended an event or people talking about why/how excited they are to purchase season tickets. The comment section will again nose dive into the ditch where readers cannot help but to stop and look as if it were the scene of a horrible accident.

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Doug Cramer 1 year, 10 months ago

Wished I could of made the Pittsburg stop.

If Weis and Campo can recruit some big time talent on defense...particularly the defensive line...we might be able to compete in our conference. It won't happen this year...but hopefully this the 2013 recruiting class has some big nasties on the D-line.

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