Turner Gill is gone. I am sure that statement makes some individuals happier than others, but either way, the deed is done. Now is the time to move on.
However, we have a problem here. Who will be the next coach? The way I see it, you can see if you can land an established name, go after a hot coordinator, or try and get an up and comer from a smaller conference.
I laid out the problems with those briefly in my last post, but want to go over them again in a little more detail here. For an established coach, KU isn’t that attractive of an option. Programwise, KU is no better than seventh in its own conference as far as resources and attractiveness, behind Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, TCU, and Texas Tech. K-State has been more successful, but doesn’t have nearly the resources as those other schools. Baylor doesn’t have the resources or the sustained success, although being in Texas is a HUGE plus for them. Iowa State is at the bottom of this list any way you slice it.
So why would an established coach take on the KU job unless they have some serious baggage (Mike Leach) or were unceremoniously excused from their previous job because of W’s and L’s (Phil Fulmer, Houston Nutt). Out of that group, Nutt is probably the best coach, but there’s no proof that he would want to come to KU. Leach has so much baggage that he probably shouldn’t even be considered (and yet somehow he’s the favorite). And Fulmer isn’t even being mentioned for open SEC jobs yet, so there have to be questions about his interest in coaching at all, let alone at KU. Sure, there are other guys out there that have coaching experience in BCS conferences (Jim Leavitt – too much baggage, Mike Stoops – not enough success), but they don’t exactly improve the overall field. For that reason, I think hiring a coach with BCS experience is unlikely. If Nutt is willing to take the job, sure, come on down. The rest are shaky moves at best, and unless you want another coaching search kicking off in December 2014, they aren’t the best ideas.
Looking at the up and coming coaches, you have to wonder if any of them would even consider KU a possibility. They are currently kings of campus where they are at. If they come to KU, they know that they may only have a 2-3 year window to get things turned around. Depending on how they feel about the talent Gill has brought in, they may think that’s enough, but it’s a dicey call. And regardless, you would have to think that Chris Petersen, Troy Calhoun, Kevin Sumlin and Dave Doeren all have a much easier task at their current school, with less pressure, than they would have at KU, where it is clear that the right donors (with the right money) can orchestrate your ouster rather quickly. I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen at other schools, because it does. However, when you are in a position of trying to build a program, that doesn’t help the attractiveness of your school to have donors that can bully a coach out the door after only a couple of seasons.
On a side note, as much as I like Kevin Sumlin (I wanted him to get the job when Gill was hired) I really don’t want him to take this job now. He has a good situation at Houston and this KU situation is tenuous at best. I’m not sure that he could rally support from the key donors and boosters right now, and he would probably have the shortest amount of leeway among any coaching candidate. So I hope he stays at Houston or gets a shot at another BCS school.
For the coordinators, its really simple. Right now, they are on staffs of perennial top 10 teams. Coming to KU is building from the ground up. The last four years the program has been in decline – yes, I said the last four. Mangino’s last two years showed that the foundation was cracked and giving way. Gill has put in a solid foundation with young talent, but there’s nothing other than the foundation here. So would Venables want to leave his stable of talent at OU for a shaky situation at KU (and have to go down to Norman next season, too)? Would Smart want to leave Bama, where they will almost certainly be in the hunt for a BCS bowl again next season for Lawrence and try to figure out how to calm the masses by beating K-State?
And remember, every single one of these candidates also will be considering the fact that they could get pushed out if the right people aren’t happy with the progress after 2-3 years. For the current coaches and coordinators, that’s a pretty high risk situation. Add to that the tenuous nature of the Big X(II), and KU may not be the most attractive landing spot for a coaching candidate right now, particularly those in non-BCS conferences who could take the KU job, then wind up in the Mountain West a couple years from now if the Big X(II) really implodes.
This situation isn't any easier today than it was with Gill as head coach, and the wrong decision could cripple KU football for the next decade.