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Monday, September 2, 2019

Hopefully it’s a new era’: Les Miles instills hope in KU fan base after decade of losing

Overall view during the game against Indiana State Saturday afternoon at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019.

Overall view during the game against Indiana State Saturday afternoon at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019.

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Waving flags that read “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” and “LFK.” A full student section. One fan even had a plunger on his head.

The first Kansas football game in the Les Miles era seemingly signaled a culture change from the opening kick.

“It’s definitely different,” said Zach Panther, a KU junior from Overland Park. “You know, I’m used to most people leaving after the first two quarters, but everybody seems to be sticking around.”

“It’s super fun,” said Jackson Rush, also a KU junior. “We’re all having a blast and we’re all screaming together, jumping up and down.”

According to KU, 32,611 people attended KU’s 24-17 victory over Indiana State on Saturday afternoon. And from the look of the stands at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, especially the student section, that number could’ve believably been higher.

“So far it’s probably the best crowd I’ve seen in two years at least,” said Kurt Bossert, a KU season ticket holder from Topeka.

Panther, Rush and Bossert all emphasized the palpable buildup and fervor over finally seeing the Jayhawks take the field. And that’s made coming to the games more of an event to look forward to for Jay Templin, a 1958 KU alumnus, and his wife, Connie.

“There’s a lot of hope,” Connie Templin said. “We’ll be more apt to come to more of the games. We have season tickets, but we didn’t always make it to all of the games.

“But we’ll be making more of an effort (to attend).”

The Templins are Kansas City, Mo., natives who have been following the program for years and are appreciative of the newfound positivity surrounding the program.

“We’re pleased that they have really nowhere to go but up and they’re going up,” Connie Templin said.

Another KU alumnus, Chris Sprecker, is ready for a possibly exciting next chapter akin to the Mark Mangino-led Jayhawks.

“Hopefully it’s a new era,” Sprecker said. “Maybe we can go back to some of our glory days like 2008.”

And a big part of getting back to those “glory days” is bringing back fan support to football team that has struggled over the last decade.

“Your teams feed off of that,” said Richard Priest, a friend of Bossert. “The bigger the crowd you have, the louder they are, I think the better (the team) is going to do.”

Not only does that come from alumni and fans outside KU, but especially from the students, according to Panther.

“I think the students are a lot more proactive being here, and it’s a lot more fun (to go to games),” Panther said. “It’s been a long wait. I’ve been really excited about Les Miles, so it’s good to see him finally.”

But for this first year, expectations are modest across the board. Sprecker wants to see a couple of wins in the Big 12, Panther and Rush say four or five wins and Bossert said it’s “necessary for KU football” to show some improvement.

“(Miles) just came in (this year) and 2020 will be his first real recruiting class,” Panther said. “It’s going to take a while to get there so I would say four wins now, maybe bowl eligible next year.”

Whether those predictions come to fruition, Bossert is still hopeful for what this first season under Miles means.

“As far as the hype, the hype’s been great,” Bossert said. “There’s been more communication (with fans) than there’s ever been, and I think it did bring a lot more fans (on Saturday). And it makes it more, I guess, fun, interesting to go. Hopefully the results will follow that.”

Comments

Joe Ross 1 year, 3 months ago

In a marriage, the honeymoon phase lasts for a while. Then the realities of life can cause a spouse to see their partner less favorably. Once upon a time, when they were first introduced, all each could do was think about the other.

So it is with Les Miles and Kansas.

The early games of the season may go "okay", but reality will settle in when Big 12 play comes. Kansas will lose most of those games, and depending on "how" they lose them the range of emotion could be from Les Miles not being the right guy to a more tempered, "we need experience and next years recruits to come in".

I'm prepared to ride this one out. Establish a culture change this year. In terms of being competitive and establishing an identity and work ethic. Next year we need to see progress in the win column (like 4-5 wins, with a win in the Big 12). By year three, bowl eligibility and 2-3 wins vs. the Big 12. By year four, we need to be playing at Big 12 level across the board. That's plenty of time for the name "Les Miles" to be stamped on the program and to have had an effect in recruiting.

The ink is already dried on the pre-nup.

Michael Sillman 1 year, 3 months ago

I’m a bit worried that based on the comments from fans that there is not a realization of the level of patience and support needed to turn the program around. Four wins this year and bowl eligibility next year would qualify Miles as the second coming.

Two to three wins while playing competitive football and holding on to the majority of the recruiting class currently on verbal commitment would be fantastic. Fans need to be able to stand behind that type of success this year.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 3 months ago

I was perfectly willing to ride out the rough waters when they hired Turner Gill, then Charlie Weis and then David Beatty. I'm cautiously optimistic that Les is the guy to turn this program around but in hindsight I wish we had given Turner Gill more than two years. I don't think we'd have our backs up against the wall if we had.

Larry Knzas 1 year, 3 months ago

Looking back - I hung onto the Mangino years. 2008 was so much fun!!

Never felt that Gill could/would get it done, maybe because I didn’t like the way Perkins ran off Mangino. The Weis hiring was a disaster, he didn’t work at the job and was terrible. Is Charlie still being paid by ND and KU? I bought into the Beatty hiring based on false pretenses, “that a previous high school coach from Texas could bring success to KU” - like they did for Auburn and Baylor, nope.

With that said, I am very hopeful that Miles has the fire burning inside after a few consecutive loses and they are coming . . . ESPN3 has caught my attention with Miles to Go, nice series so far. They have put it in the correct light, “tough job, not going to happen overnight”

Dane Pratt 1 year, 3 months ago

Each new hire has been given a longer leash than his predecessor. Gill got two years, Weis got two and a half and Beatty got four. I believe Coach Miles is capable of returning this program to respectability over time but he will be 69 at the conclusion of his fourth season assuming he is here that long.

Chris Condren 1 year, 3 months ago

I have no complaints about the job Les Miles is doing at KU. That said I am not filled with hope just because Kansas pulls out a victory with a late score after a fourth quarter collapse while playing a FCS team. This is year ten of the Decade of Despair which has been engineered by the monumental incompetence of the University and the Athletic Department. That any good will and support remains in the shattered fan base must be credited to the long suffering fans and has nothing to do with anything done by KU.

Titus Canby 1 year, 3 months ago

From what I saw Saturday, 4 wins is incredibly optimistic. I predict 2. Maybe 3 if we can pull off a Big 12 win. The O Line was terrible. And it's supposed to be the strength of the team. But the receivers were awesome.

As for the fans, there were still a LOT of people leaving in the 2nd half. I'd guess 1/3 of the crowd left before the game was over. That's better than in the past, but still pretty bad.

Brian Skelly 1 year, 2 months ago

We looked awfully mediocre against a FCS team on Saturday.    That said, this is a game one of Beaty's teams would have lost.    So seeing us come back down and make plays to win was fun to do.
We need to beat Coastal Carolina soundly.    But who knows.    This team needs to learn to grow with the coaching staff.    My guess is we'll be better by the end of the year, even if our record won't be particularly good.

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