Without a permanent athletic director or head football coach in place, the exact path for the future of the University of Kansas football program remained unsettled as the Jayhawks opened their spring practice schedule this week.
In fact, the way interim head coach Emmett Jones described his status, even he remains in the dark about what will come next — and when.
“I try not to ask,” Jones replied during a video press conference Tuesday night, when asked what he has been told about how long he will be in the interim role.
Be that as it may, KU’s third-year receivers coach said he’s placing his focus elsewhere, even as many outside the program wonder whether he will be given a shot to keep leading the team beyond the spring and into the 2021 season.
“I don’t want guys to come ask me questions about it. I don’t want to know anything about it,” Jones said. “All I want to know is: what do we have up the next hour? When are position meetings? What are the guys doing? Are the guys in study hall? Are they being respectful across campus? That’s all I really worry about, as far as just the operation of the program. I don’t even think about that question (regarding his future and his interim role).”
KU Chancellor Douglas Girod stated in early March that once an athletic director is in place, that person will determine the next steps to be taken in KU’s search for Les Miles’ permanent replacement.
Girod named Kurt Watson, a KU alumnus and prominent donor, KU’s interim athletic director after Jeff Long stepped down on March 10. Girod said at the time he aimed for KU to have a new AD in place “within the next few weeks.”
The current scenario leaves Jones in limbo, as he tries to lead the Jayhawks through a crucial portion of the offseason.
“I just take it one day at a time, and try to be great,” Jones said, when asked about the difficulty of dealing with the uncertainty. “One day at a time — that’s all I worry about.”
The KU football program is no stranger to criticism, with the Jayhawks winning three games or fewer in 11 consecutive seasons. But the fallout from Miles’ alleged sexual harassment scandal when he was the head coach at LSU years back brought further scrutiny, as well as the fifth coaching search since Mark Mangino was forced out following the 2009 season.
Despite all the outside noise regarding the program, Jones said the football players, as well as the coaches who remain on staff, have concentrated on the big picture.
“We’re just staying the course. If nothing happened, the mission was to show improvement regardless,” Jones responded, when asked how important it would be for the program to show improvement in 2021, in the wake of the departures of Miles and Long.
“So nothing has taken away from that at all,” Jones went on. “We’re just staying the course, as matter of fact, kind of amplifying some stuff a little bit more.”
Amid the current state of unpredictability, Jones said he often has brought up to the players and coaches he now leads just how important it is for them all to be on the same page. And he said the Jayhawks have displaying a unified front since the offseason took an unforeseen turn just a few weeks ago.
“These kids, they’re ready to go,” Jones said. “They feel like they’ve got a point to prove, same with this coaching staff. I can’t do anything by myself. I’ve got a good group of guys with me, all the way around.”