Wednesday, April 7, 2021

New AD Travis Goff taking ‘open-minded’ approach to future of KU football program

Travis Goff, a 2002 graduate of the University of Kansas and native of Dodge City, left, fist-bumps KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, right, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at the Lied Center on KU's west campus.

Travis Goff, a 2002 graduate of the University of Kansas and native of Dodge City, left, fist-bumps KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, right, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at the Lied Center on KU's west campus.


While new University of Kansas Athletic Director Travis Goff has a strategy and some possible scenarios under consideration for the future of the KU football program, Goff described himself Wednesday as “open-minded” about the team’s head coaching vacancy.

Goff, on his second day running the athletic department, didn’t reveal during his introductory press conference at the Lied Center many details about a timeline for making a decision, nor did he say exactly how long interim head coach Emmett Jones will remain in charge.

According to Goff, a former Northwestern deputy AD, it was important for him to get to Lawrence with “a few different plans” in mind and an understanding of his options, but he also wanted to avoid rushing into a decision.

Goff said it would have been “insincere” of him and not in the best interest of KU to have shown up with his mind made up about the football team’s head coaching job.

So on Tuesday, Goff said he “really wanted to prioritize” getting out to practice so that he could observe Jones and the rest of the staff in person.

“The energy was incredible,” Goff said of his initial impression. “And it’s been well documented for me coming in, and I was able to witness it with my own eyes, just what a great job Coach Jones and that staff has done — keeping this group together, keeping them united and having the kind of energy you need to have in spring football.”

The new AD met with Jones and the rest of KU’s assistant football coaches Tuesday night, following the team’s third spring practice. Goff said what he told them then still remained true Wednesday.

“I come in wanting to listen, learn, absorb, understand where we’re at with this football program,” Goff related of his conversation.

There was only so much he could do, Goff said, before he got to Lawrence this week.

“I have to listen to the individuals who know a lot more than I do today about where Kansas football is at, the state of this roster, the mindset of the (players),” he added.

Though he didn’t choose to share specifics, Goff reiterated during a question and answer session with media members that he has a plan for the football vacancy.

“It’s about when will I have enough information, when will I have had enough engagement and what would be the right approach to launching that forward,” he said.

The Jayhawks just began their 15-practice spring schedule the week before Goff was hired. They still have a dozen practices left during this crucial portion of the offseason, which includes a May 1 spring game at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Although the future leadership of the program remains up in the air, KU super senior Ricky Thomas said Tuesday during the team’s video interview session that the Jayhawks are essentially trying to put on blinders amid the uncertainty.

“We’re just players, man. So we’re just focusing on the task in front of us,” Thomas said, “and that’s just getting better every single day. Put our best foot forward and let whoever takes care of that handle that.”

Now that naming KU’s next permanent head football coach is Goff’s responsibility, it will be up to him to find someone that can turn around the long struggling program, which has floundered and seen four different head coaches — Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, David Beaty and Les Miles — come and go since Mark Mangino was forced out following the 2009 season.

“I think we’ve, at the University of Kansas, learned a lot over the years,” Goff said, when asked what gave him confidence that the next head coach can have more success. “And building football programs is incredibly difficult — it’s certainly difficult in the Big 12 Conference, one of the best in the country. And it’s certainly difficult even more so without any type of continuity.”

In his previous job at Northwestern, Goff served as an administrator for the Wildcats’ football program. Goff worked in the Big Ten from 2012 up until this week. During that time, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald led the team to six winning seasons, and a 5-1 record in bowl games. Goff said that experience allowed him to “live through” how a college football program can be built and sustained.

Goff may not necessarily lean on Fitzgerald as he makes a final decision for KU’s future, but he said his former colleague “was awesome through this process and so incredibly supportive,” as Goff became the KU AD.

He thinks what he observed from Fitzgerald and Northwestern football through the years will prove helpful.

“So I’ll take some of that,” Goff said. “And then (Fitzgerald will) be a great sounding board through the process.”

At this early stage of his assessment of the KU football program from up close, Goff thinks he has a good idea about some characteristics he will be looking for in a head coach.

“What’s important and what I’m really trying to be focused on in these days ahead is what will be applicable here at the University of Kansas,” Goff said. “And that’s where I need to listen, absorb before charting that path forward.”


Steve Rapp 2 months ago

I wish someone would have asked him about his thoughts on the KU/MU "Border War"

Joe Black 2 months ago

Just as soon as MU comes crawling back to the Big 12. That is when we should discuss it.

Jeff Coffman 2 months ago

Hope he can bring a coach to KU quickly and get this going.

David Robinett 2 months ago

Like Thomas Edison having found 10,000 ways NOT to make a lightbulb, hopefully KU has figured out how not to build a football program - and is ready to build one the right way.

Gary McCullough 2 months ago

Can someone get a photo of our new AD that doesn't sport Wildcat Purple?

Joe Black 2 months ago

Yes. The the photo and video attached to this article. He has on blue and red striped tie.

Brian Wilson 2 months ago

it's April. When does the fall priactice start, what, a 100 days from now? I can't imagine hiring someone from outside over Jones unless it's someone else within the program. The offensive and defensive systems are set and in place and there really is no good way to put a brand new system in place during the summer and expect any kind of success, not to mention you could trigger a number or players and coaches to jump and make matters worse. If I were AD, Jones gets a contract with a 1-2 year tryout period. He deserves the opportunity if he wants it just for holding things together. Plus, if Goff is smart, he has nothing to lose. No one can blame Goff for hiring Jones as coach under the cricumstances. If Jones ends up successful....HUGE WIN for Goff, if Jones is unsuccessful, it's just the circumstances and in the meantime you can plan and adjust.

Jeff Coffman 2 months ago

I would actually look at it from the other perspective. A rebuild takes 3-4 years, and we keep restructuring every 2-3, so we never get rebuilt. If you bring a coach in now, you give the first year of the situation a pass, so he can build without any expectations. Any wins are likely bonus. You get the stabilization of the coach. And you actually get the full 3 years to rebuild.

However, I believe coaches come to win, and they won't want the free year, but they get it anyways. You keep Jones and you blow that year on an unproven coach, that doesn't have coordinator experience and has not improved the receiving core as a position coach in the two years he has been at KU.

Brett McCabe 2 months ago

There is no offensive system in place. We have a new coordinator who is just now starting to install an offense.

100 days, an entire summer, and all of fall practice is plenty of time to install systems. The shortsighted view right now is to stay with an interim coach out of convenience. The long view means knowing the difference between temporary discomfort vs long term gain. Get a good coach. Period. That is the only important thing right now. All other considerations aren’t even secondary. They are irrelevant.

Jones should be interviewed. The country should be scoured for quality, interested coaches and a path needs to be set forth for this program. That’s the AD’s job.

Brian Wilson 2 months ago

I disagree completely. Of course the offensive system is in place. What's not in place is an Offensive line. But this offseason, word had been the line will be improved this coming year. Don't under estimate. HCLM had two recruiting classes on top of what will be now the Junior and Sophomore classes that have been working on that system. Some of which were redshirts and have been around for 3 years now waiting their turn. The recruits and team are just starting to grow up. IMO, at this point in the year, you go with what you got and let them have a chance.

Also, you speak of "long term" planning and "Great" coaches. Huh?, Wha?, What good coach? And are you saying,....Gill, Weiss, Miles were not hired as long term approaches and not advertised to be "Great" coaches?...How has going after the so called "Great Coach" and long approach ended up this past 10 years? How many times do we have to trash the program and start all over for some "Yahoo" that everyone thinks is the answer?

Jeff Coffman 2 months ago

The one coach you didn't list is Beaty, who I assume you didn't think is a "great" coaching prospect. His resume consisted of top HS football in Texas. WR Coach and Offensive coordinator. He was the recruiting coordinator at TAM for 2 years both of which were Top 7 recruiting classes (best ever for TAM and they never have gotten to that point again). He coached receivers that improved including Mike Evans.

And somehow you want to take Jones and say he is better than Beaty. The same resume of experience, and Beaty was consistently better at each of those roles than Jones has been. The key difference is Beaty had offensive coordinator experience and Jones has not had any.

KU football needs a coach that can drag us out of this mess and there are three that have been mentioned recently that have a history of taking bottom feeders and turning them around...Leipold, Fritz, and Monken. I'm not a fan of Monken because of his offensive scheme, but having him come in, I know he would have a plan to succeed.

Charlie Gaughn 2 months ago

Great news that the new AD is going to take the time to assess the football program instead of just blowing it immediately as so many on here have called for. Maintaining scholarship numbers is crucial at this point. If we drop back to 60 or so scholarship players we'll be right back where we were with Weis. I really doubt there are numerous great hires that are just lining up to take the Kansas job, especially since spring ball will be over and putting a staff in place would be difficult at best.

Jeff Coffman 2 months ago

You wanted to hear that he was assessing and likely staying with Jones and you grabbed that. I heard that he will be assessing to make changed, my point is that the new AD didn't give a perspective of either way; however, I don't think an AD comes to his dream job and hits the cruise control button with what hasn't been working.

Brett McCabe 2 months ago

Was thinking about Dearmon again today. Had he stayed, he would have likely been the IHC. He would have then had the chance to make his case to Goff that he was being held back by Miles.

The offense was terrible last year but Dearmon did seem to be a good recruiter.

At the end of the day, there isn’t a coach on this staff who has actually earned a spot moving forward. We went 0-9 in a year when we should have sat out.

Jones is a solid recruiter. As was Dearmon. Had Dearmon shown some patience he might have had a shot.

Armen Kurdian 2 months ago

We have blown too much money. Stick w/the interim coach for one year...we have nothing to lose.

Jeff Coffman 2 months ago

Some would argue we haven't spent enough money on football.

Brian Skelly 2 months ago

Normally I'd say the "stick with Jones" idea is crazy, but considering a decade of incompetence in the most important sport in an athletic departments fold, maybe it's not.

Unless there's something or someone out there who absolutely blows the doors off, It's worth giving him a shot.

Jeff Coffman 2 months ago

We have two years of rebuilding by HS students under Miles...a solid recruiting class is being built and you want to roll the dice on an unproven coach (with less experience than David Beaty).

I would want to get a coach in to steady the ship and to build on what already is here.

David Kelley-Wood 2 months ago

The job is Jones' to lose, and the early indications are that he is not only not losing it, but instead has been raising the bar against replacement. Am looking forward to seeing what Coach Jones can do,

Jeff Coffman 2 months ago

What indications? A few tweets from players?

He was passed up for the offensive coordinator not more than 3 months ago.

David Kelley-Wood 2 months ago

AD Goff's comments (4:40-5:40) in his introduction, or at least my interpretation of his comments, are what I call a positive early indication.

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