Dayne Crist obviously fell short of his billing as the short-term savior of the downtrodden Kansas University football program, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help KU in the long term. In fact, he already does every time he opens his mouth.
Nobody sells Charlie Weis with more passion than Crist, the Notre Dame graduate who lost his KU starting quarterback job to red-shirt freshman Michael Cummings midway through the season.
Before stating why he thinks the coach who recruited him to ND and KU will reverse the fortunes of the only school of the six so-called BCS Conferences without a conference victory the past two seasons combined, Crist offered a qualifier.
“I’m obviously very biased in my feelings for Coach Weis,” Crist said.
He meant biased in favor of him. Crist left his two-school coach no choice but to demote him.
“He does nothing for show,” Crist said of Weis, in danger of becoming the first KU coach in history to lose 11 games in a season. “Everything he does is from the heart. As players, we just felt great that he cared enough about us to make this week about the seniors when he didn’t have to do things like buy the extra seats. That just speaks volumes about the type of guy he is and the type of commitment he has to his players.”
So far, the football program’s most tangible sign of progress under Weis has come in the classroom, where the team GPA bounced from 2.46 to 3.0 in the first semester under the new coach. Players receive punishments — such as being left off the travel squad — for tardiness to class and/or tutoring sessions.
“He’s no hypocrite about academics,” Crist said. “Never has been. Never will be. Sure, the demands are higher than maybe people expected, but that’s too bad. That’s what’s there. At the end of the day, it’s for the best, and football is what we do, it’s not who we are. I think the academic part of it and the emphasis he places upon that, as an older guy stepping back, you realize how important that is.”
As a captain, Crist doesn’t keep that perspective to himself.
“The young guys kind of whine a little bit about how things are tough,” Crist said. “Some of the older guys have been there to help steer them along and help them realize the value of their education.”
Crist said he “couldn’t think of a better head coach to get this thing turned around.”
He also said he believes Weis will upgrade recruiting. Those gains will take time. Already, Crist said he has seen a new culture taking root.
“The mentality he has been able to instill I think sometimes goes unnoticed in terms of toughness,” Crist said. “That’s where I can see a huge evolution, even in the short time I’ve been here.”
In Crist, Kansas has an unofficial recruiter for as long as Weis is coach.