If the recent Scottsdale pow-wow attended by billionaires (with a ‘b’) didn’t cost Sheahon Zenger his job, it obviously didn’t save it.
It represented Zenger’s last chance to scratch out a hit with two strikes by getting the heavy hitters to join the chant for a renovated football stadium.
The last straw? Maybe not. Maybe just another failure to reverse the misfires from an athletic director whose football hires went 5-61 vs. FBS competition, which does far more to screw up the books than hitting home runs in hiring golf and tennis coaches does to prop them up.
Maybe just more of the same.
The timing of the “Raise the Chant” fundraising campaign is far more bizarre than the timing of Zenger’s firing.
Why do it when the football program is in the midst of its worst stretch in history, the worst back-to-back-to back football hires in Power 5 history (Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, David Beaty) at the same school that made the best back-to-back-to-back hires (Larry Brown, Roy Williams, Bill Self) in the history of college basketball?
The billionaires (with a ‘b’) didn’t buy the desperate attempt to blame the football flu on poor facilities, which doesn’t mean they won’t perk up if Kansas hires an athletic director who before long will hire a football coach capable of building something from nothing.
If you build it, they will come in this case means that if you build a credible football program, they will come to the table with their generous donations in hand.
The coach comes first, then the buildings. David Booth launched the campaign with a whopping $50 million donation, $26 million of which will be used for the football practice facility, but he was the exception. Others understandably wanted evidence that KU had the leadership team in place to make the necessary moves to reverse the avalanche of bad football momentum.
Chancellor Doug Girod, not one to make hasty decisions, can be questioned for waiting this long, especially since it’s reasonable to think that a new football staff would have been recruiting the Class of 2019 more aggressively than the current one and would be more well received because an 0-0 record is easier to sell than 3-33.
Girod wasn’t ready to make the move at the end of the football season because he hadn’t given Zenger and his tree-shaking staff time to show that they could turn 3-33 into gigantic donations.
Credit the chancellor with getting around to doing what had to be done.
Now, of course, what needs to be done is to hire a strong leader who will increase the transparency of the athletic department, will not use a spokesman to talk for him, and most importantly, will hire the right football coach at the right time.
It was comforting to read that Jed Hughes of the Korn Ferry executive search firm will assist Drue Jennings because Hughes has a strong reputation for identifying leaders, particularly football leaders.
A coach in college and pro football for 20 years, Hughes worked for football coaching giants Chuck Knoll of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bud Grant of the Minnesota Vikings, Michigan’s Bo Schembechler and UCLA’s Terry Donahue, the most underrated coach in the history of college football.
Hughes is helping Kansas hire an athletic director, not a football coach, but he’ll know how to ask the right questions, weigh the answers and sort the baloney from the prime beef.
A good first question for every prospective candidate: Give me the five names on your short list for the Kansas football head coaching job once the inevitable takes place and why those five? Why not these five: Willie Fritz (Tulane), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Jeff Monken (Army), Ed Warinner (Michigan assistant) and Tim Beck (Texas assistant)?
Be specific. Make no attempt to hide that this hire is about finding the right guy to make the football hire, which will help whip the department into better financial shape.
Enough is enough, as the billionaires (with a ‘b’) let it be known at the pow-wow. It’s time to bring strong leadership capable of identifying a strong leader to bring the football program out of the dank basement, bring the athletic department out of denial about the state of the program heading into its ninth season of a slow rot.