It takes a lot to please 15th-year Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, but even he sounded impressed at the ease with which the Jayhawks handled Texas Southern, 114-71, Tuesday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
“They’ve got four legitimate guys, 1, 3, 4 and 5, those guys can all play,” Self said of the Tigers. “We just played so efficiently offensively. They had a chance to beat Ohio State. They had Syracuse down int he second half. They had Washington State down 23 in the second half. Really, Gonzaga’s the only one that’s handled them with ease, so certainly I was pleased with the outcome. I thought we played pretty well.”
Even so, Self remains on constant guard against bad habits developing in games against less talented teams than Kansas will face in the Big 12.
“I think our defensive rebounding’s a bad habit," Self said. "We haven’t rebounded very well in my opinion since the first half of Kentucky, (in) which we were great, but second half we didn’t rebound defensively and certainly we didn’t against South Dakota State like we should have and didn’t (vs. Texas Southern).”
He also pointed to defensive flaws.
"I think bad habits would be big guys going for blocked shots on guards outside their area," Self said. "Then all you have to do is throw the ball at the rim and catch it and dunk it. It’s not that complicated. We want people to do that to us. That’s something that Dok (Udoka Azubuike) and Mitch (Lightfoot) have to get better at. I also think that we play to the score too much defensively. I don’t think there was the same energy level midway through the second half as there was to start the game in most cases. Competition hopefully will keep that from happening as much.”
Far too often, athletic directors seeking head football coaches put “hot name” on the list of qualifications.
They do so because they place winning the press conference above building a winning football program on their list of priorities.
So if the hot name of the moment is the coordinator from a national powerhouse program, they like that. If Art Briles before his fall from grace happens to be the coach drawing the most praise at the moment and he used to be a high school football coach in Texas, then having high school football coach in Texas on your resume heats up your name.
Typically, “hot name” takes precedence over the three-word combination that should trump all else: good football coach.
Every time I write about good football coaches who wanted the Kansas job when the last three vacancies surfaced, I remember another, or someone reminds me of another.
Consider the blind resume of, we’ll call him John Doe before revealing his name later in the blog.
In his first assignment as a head coach, at the FCS level, his team’s went 4-7, 5-6, 11-1, 11-2. He stayed for one year at his next job, an FBS school, and then earned a promotion to an SEC program.
Coach Doe inherited an SEC program that made it to two bowl games in the previous eight seasons. He took that same school to bowl games in each of his first six seasons. His team played in three New Years’ Day bowls in a five-year period.
He coached two different schools to victories over LSU in Baton Rouge, once when LSU was ranked No. 1, the next time when the Tigers were No. 8. He moved to another SEC program, had two good seasons, two bad ones and was fired.
Houston Nutt, who played quarterback for Lou Holtz at Arkansas and was head coach for Murray State, Boise State, Arkansas and Ole Miss, wanted the Kansas job when it went to Charlie Weis and again when it went to David Beaty.
He’s working as a broadcaster now and turned 60 last month and last coached in 2011.
Nutt most recently made national news when he gained a settlement in his favor in court. He wasn’t suing Ole Miss for money. He was suing for an apology to restore his good reputation. Nutt alleged a smear campaign designed to pin the Rebels’ NCAA violations on him instead of successor Hugh Freeze.
Nutt won, receiving the following apology last month: “Certain statements made by university employees in January, 2016, appear to have contributed to misleading reports about Coach Nutt. To the extent any such statements harmed Coach Nutt’s reputation, the university apologizes, as this was not the intent.”
Good football coach.
Why do I continue to write about coaches who wanted the KU job in the past? Because I don’t believe the contention of many that the Kansas job is not an appealing one. Don’t buy that for a second. It's a very difficult one, but many good football coaches, Nutt included, would embrace the challenge.
Baker Mayfield will not start and for a game not serve as team captain in Oklahoma’s regular-season finale vs. West Virginia on Saturday, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley announced at his Monday press conference.
The punishment stems from him twice grabbing his crotch and sending F-bombs across the field at the Kansas sideline.
Kyler Murray, who in a 41-3 victory over Kansas averaged 11 yards on three rushes and completed 3 of 5 passes for 55 yards, will start in place of Mayfield.
“This program has very high standards and when they’re met, there are going to be consequences,” Riley said.
When talking about the qualities he finds special in Mayfield and how proud he is to coach him, Riley grew teary-eyed and needed to take a 30-second break from talking to compose himself.
Kansas coach David Beaty holds his weekly presser on Tuesdays. It will be interesting to see how he answers questions about whether his three captains will be disciplined in any way for not shaking Mayfield’s extended right hand during the pre-game coin toss.
Beaty did not appear overly concerned about the snub after the game, but during Monday’s Big 12 conference call the third-year coach (3-32 overall, 1-31 vs FBS schools) apologized on behalf of his team and shared that he believes Dorance Armstrong, Joe Dineen and Daniel Wise “care deeply” about representing KU and the football program in a “classy” manner and that they’re “great men” who made a mistake.
Now that Kansas routinely is referred to as the worst of the 65 power-five football conference schools (a designation that includes independent Notre Dame), it's time to see if the numbers support the label.
It boiled down to a two-school race with Kansas edging Oregon State, thanks to the Beavers having strong back-to-back weeks in the first two games under interim coach Cory Hall, who lost 36-33 to Colorado in his first game and 15-14 to Stanford in his second. Hall took over after one of the more stunning moves by a coach in recent memory. Gary Andersen quit with a 1-5 record and in doing so walked away from a guaranteed $12.6 million.
After checking the margin between points scored and points allowed for the 65 schools, I ranked the 10 worst in that category and also tracked how many times each school has been on the wrong end of a blowout, which we'll call any loss by 38 or more points.
Illinois checks in at No. 3 and Baylor, which defeated Kansas 38-9 two weeks ago in Lawrence, is No. 4.
Just those four schools had negative margins of more than 100 points. A look at the 10 worst programs, ranked in order of margin between points scored and allowed, with conference record breaking ties:
|1 - Kansas
||David Beaty (3-32)
|2 - Oregon State
||238||447||-209||0||Cory Hall (0-5) interim
|3 - Illinois
||178||336||-158||1||Lovie Smith (5-18)
|4 - Baylor
||Matt Rhule (1-10)
|5 - Vanderbilt
||253||352||-99||1||Derek Mason (17-31)
|6 - Tennessee
||2||Brady Hoke (0-1) interim
|7 - Maryland
||D.J. Durkin (10-14)
|8 - Rutgers
||209||300||-91||2||Chris Ash (6-17)
|9 - Arkansas
||300||386||-86||0||Bret Bielema (29-33)
|10 - Nebraska
||295||381||-86||1||Mike Riley (19-18)
Most who care about the fortunes of the Kansas football program are familiar with the name Dana Anderson. His generosity enabled construction of the $32 million Anderson Family Football Complex, which houses the football coaches’ offices, player locker rooms and strength and conditioning center.
Anderson also was a big donor for the Wagnon Student Center, which is used not only for athletic training but to house the academic-support wing of the athletic department. It’s where the tutoring takes place. The student-athlete support services staff headed by Paul Buskirk has its offices there.
Anderson also wrote a $1.4 million check to support the new School of Business building. Also, along with the Mike Beatty family of Salina and David Booth was cited as a big donor for the $350 million “Raise the Chant” KU Athletics facilities-upgrade campaign.
That’s all well documented. What I never knew anything about was the key role Anderson played in recruiting the man who would a decade-and-a-half later make the biggest gift in the history of KU Athletics.
Booth, who resides in Austin, grew up in Lawrence and received an MBA from the University of Chicago School of Business, pledged $50 million toward the $350 million campaign that includes a $300 million Memorial Stadium renovation project.
“I started getting involved with KU in about 2003,” Booth told me in the moments leading up to kickoff of the West Virginia game Sept. 23 at Memorial Stadium. “I worked for years in Santa Monica. My office was in Santa Monica, just a couple of blocks from Dana’s. For whatever reason, I had kind of lost touch with KU and Dana came over with somebody from development and got me interested. Then we decided to do the (Booth Family) Hall of Athletics, Lew Perkins’ idea.”
At first glance, Booth was underwhelmed by the unveiling.
“It opens up the first day, I look at it and I go, ‘This is way too small.’ It was about a quarter the size it is now,” Booth said. “So I said, ‘OK, I’ll re-up.’ So the athletic department’s been fantastic in that regard. So that’s why I’m predisposed to do something like this (pledge $50 million). Plus the market's up so that makes it easier to do.”
Six years behind John Hadl at Lawrence High and KU, Booth watched Hadl as a running back and quarterback and watched Todd Reesing scramble and sling his way to a slew of KU passing records. Booth then hired Reesing, a fast riser at Dimensional Fund Advisors, in Austin.
Booth has visited several times with Hadl during the legendary quarterback’s time at the Williams Fund, the fundraising arm of KU Athletics.
So I figured Booth would be as good a source as anyone to ask for a Hadl-Reesing comparison.
Booth spoke to a trait shared by the two strong-armed quarterbacks who were so much harder to get ahold of than their straight-ahead speed suggested they should have been.
“One of the keys to sports and business is you have to be incredibly competitive,” Booth said. “At the same time, while you’re competing, you have to be kind of relaxed. You can’t let everybody know how hard you’re competing. Tom Brady is an incredible competitor and looks very relaxed out there, seems to me.”
In order to amass the fortunes they have through the decades, Booth and Anderson obviously have serious competitive sides, but they also both come across as very relaxed and down to earth.
Anderson’s competitive streak and relaxed exterior no doubt came in handy when he paid a visit to Booth a decade-and-a-half ago. Had Anderson not taken that step, no telling whether the current ambitious campaign ever would have taken flight.
Assistant football coaches spend so much time watching video of opponents that they tend to refer to players by numbers instead of names.
Oklahoma’s No. 36 is fullback Dimitri Flowers, a 6-foot-2, 247-pound senior from San Antonio.
A standout blocker and a strong short-yardage back (four rushing touchdowns), Flowers does his sneakiest work as a receiver. He has 20 receptions for four touchdowns and has averaged 17 yards a reception.
“They’re not a sit there, drop-back, throw-the-ball, offense,” Bowen said. “It’s a run offense. They’re really about a 50/50 run-pass. Each personnel grouping is maybe 60-40. (No.) 36 is the hidden weapon in the whole deal.”
“He’s the guy who’s in there blocking and mixing it up and then catching the pop pass,” Bowen said. “He’s the guy. It’s a lot more of a deception offense than people give them credit for in terms of the play-action pass and stuff they do off the run game. It’s not Baker Mayfield sitting in the pocket throwing a drop-back pass.It’s a lot more of a deceptive offense.”
Deception tore the Kansas defense apart early in the season when young players routinely bit on play-action fakes.
“Early in the year we struggled obviously with everything,” Bowen said. “Eye violations is what we call them. They can’t keep their eye on their target or they keep their eye on their target and they take it off. We’ve been able to steadily improve on that all year. We’re doing things now that we obviously didn’t do earlier in the year.”
Bowen used the Kansas State game as an example of the improvement in eye discipline.
“They’re the king of the fullback pop and they tried it four times against us and didn’t complete one,” Bowen said. “We covered it every time, which had that been the first three games of the year, we would have been 0 for 4 on it. In the Ohio game we were (0 for 4). I’m proud of our guys. They’ve stuck in there and they’ve continued to listen and they’ve continued to work and they have improved.”
Bowen illustrated his point about eye violations by discussing a play the Sooners use to free Flowers.
“You’ll have a defensive end in front of 36 and a safety over the top of him in whatever coverage, quarters, whatever it is, but (a safety is) responsible for 36 if 36 goes vertical. Well, 36 is going to block that defensive end for a count, it’s going to be hard play-action right at him and then 36 is going to slip down the middle of the field.
“A young safety will see the block and run down there like a madman thinking he’s got to fit the run and then he misses him. Whereas a veteran safety will creep down there, knowing he has time to make his fit, and he’ll see him slip and go.”
And the veteran safety will go with him.
“(No.) 36, has caught a lot of balls just on those type of deals alone,” Bowen said.
Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham is more worried about No. 31, edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, whom he called the Big 12's best defensive player.
The silliest notion that started to gather steam before Kansas chancellor Dr. Doug Girod made it clear David Beaty will be back for a fourth season was the one expressed by many who claimed no good coach would want the job.
False. Every time the job opens, good coaches pursue it. Consider a few not mentioned in Tuesday's Lunch Break.
Gus Malzahn, then offensive coordinator at Auburn, aggressively went after the opening that ultimately went to Charlie Weis.
His wife Kristi Malzahn’s embarrassing interview in which she, among other things, said that Auburn head coach Gene Chizek did not want to recruit Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, and if not for her husband he never would have come to Auburn, stopped Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger from pursuing Malzahn.
Asked about Newton, Kristi said, “He’s cute. Mmmm.”
Later in the interview, she whispered into the microphone and said of Newton: “I love him, but don’t tell Gus.”
Zenger scratched Malzahn off his list. That didn’t stop Arkansas State and then Auburn from hiring him as head coach. He only stayed at Arkansas State one year and maybe he would have bolted KU as quickly, it still would have been better than hopping on the Weis train.
Glen Mason could have been had and would have had the tools to turn around the program, doing it with a run-first philosophy that would have stood out as unusual in the Big 12 and his Big 10 region recruiting ties could have come in handy.
Might Mike Leach have chosen to work for his friend Zenger instead of Washington State? We’ll never know. Zenger had to wait for an opening in Bernadette Gray-Little’s schedule to arrange a meeting with Leach. Washington State AD Bill Moos had the authority to interview Leach without including the chancellor and made it clear Leach would be working for the AD, not the AD's boss.
The great Terry Donahue, former UCLA coach who has always had a strong feelings for KU since his days as a young assistant coach, could have been talked out of retirement had Lew Perkins thought of him.
Oh well, at least once Girod decided Beaty would return he had the good sense to announce it this week instead of waiting until after the season, which would have been bad for recruiting.
So how did it come to this? How did a Kansas football program that won the Orange Bowl with a 12-1 record just 10 seasons ago, tumble so far?
One wrong-headed coaching firing and one poor hire by former athletic director Lew Perkins and two poor hires by current AD Sheahon Zenger caused the avalanche.
Well, no kidding, Captain Obvious.
Perkins met with Jim Harbaugh, who has said that the AD would not let him coach Stanford in its bowl game. Perkins has denied that to friends. So Perkins, who could have had former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, hired Turner Gill and Zenger fired him with a 5-19 record.
A number of qualified coaches expressed interest at that point. Dave Doeren, who recruited Aqib Talib, James McClinton and many other standouts working for Mark Mangino, desperately wanted his dream job. He not only had Wisconsin defensive coordinator on his resume, but he was winning big at Northern Illinois. Zenger made the mistake of not hiring him and Doeren’s now 7-3 at North Carolina State, heading for his fourth consecutive bowl game, after inheriting a poor roster that went 3-9 his first season. I always felt as if Doeren’s aggressiveness in pursuing the job was held against him when it should have counted in his favor.
Instead of Doeren, Zenger hired Charlie Weis and fired him with a 6-22 record. Doeren took great satisfaction in beating Weis' Jayhawks in 2012.
Zenger had worked with Justin Fuente at Illinois State and might have hired him to replace Weis. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the then-chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little took that option away from him because she decided Kansas would not be paying any buyouts for football coaches. Fuente’s buyout was $500,000. He’s now doing very well at Virginia Tech, where his buyout is $15 million.
Former Mark Mangino assistant Ed Warinner wanted the Kansas job and Zenger appeared super high on him after having dinner with him in Columbus, Ohio, during a Kansas basketball trip. Warinner then was co-offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and now is offensive line coach at Minnesota.
Somewhere along the way, Beaty passed Warinner on Zenger's list of prospects. A strict disciplinarian with a head coach's personality who produced phenomenal rushing numbers as OC at Army and record-breaking passing numbers as OC at Kansas, doesn't interview well, but knows how to communicate with football players to make them produce efficiently and cleanly. He will win as a head coach if ever given the chance.
Zenger’s final decision came down to Troy Calhoun of Air Force and Beaty. In the end, Beaty’s potential to recruit the state of Texas was the deciding factor in Zenger selecting him.
The Champions Classic, which celebrates its seventh season Tuesday at United Center in Chicago, serves college basketball well by putting the sport on people’s minds in mid-November with an annual doubleheader blockbuster on a Tuesday night, when MAC games are the only football competition. (Then again, MAC teams compete quite well, don't they?)
The Champions Classic serves all four basketball programs well by giving them exposure and in some cases filling coaches with no shortage of material to show players they aren’t quite ready for prime time.
Since it’s a huge plus for all four schools there is no reason to believe it won’t last forever, growing in stature through the decades, centuries and millennia.
Kansas ranks last in the Champions Classic standings with a 2-4 record, but the games haven’t necessarily been accurate predictors of NCAA tournament performance for the four schools. KU is the only school that has not either lost in the first round (Duke twice, Michigan State once) or failed to make the NCAA tournament field (Kentucky in 2013). All four schools have made it to the Final Four since the start of the doubleheader.
KU is 2-0 vs. Duke and 0-2 vs. Kentucky and Michigan State. The round-robin stays in turn every year, so Kansas always plays, in order, Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke.
In Tuesday's doubleheader, No. 1 Duke faces No. 2 Michigan State in the 6 p.m. tipoff and No. 4 Kansas faces No. 5 Kentucky in the night cap, optimistically scheduled for 8:30 but likely to tip at closer to 8:50.
A look at Champions Classic standings:
||Hall of Fame coach
||W||L||PF||PA||NCAA tournament record since CC started; best & worst finishes
||4||2||432||369||19-4, Best: NC in 2012; Worst: NIT in 2013
||3||3||451||453||12-5, Best: NC in 2015; Worst: 1st-round L in 2012, 2014
||12-6, Best: FF in 2015; Worst: 1st-round L in 2016
||2||4||413||451||15-6, Best: NC runner-up in 2012; Worst: 2nd-round L in 2014, 2015
Raise your hand if you think Kansas will emerge victorious from its 5 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Austin against heavily favored Texas.
Anybody not wearing a Kansas uniform or coaching for the visitors?
OK, now raise your hand if after the first play from scrimmage in last season’s game vs. Texas in Lawrence you thought the Jayhawks would emerge victorious. A refresher: On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Jacorey Warrick scored on a 75-yard pass play, covering the final 71 yards after the catch on the short pass from Shane Buechele.
Kansas went on to win 24-21 in overtime for David Beaty’s first and to date only victory against an FBS school.
Can Kansas do it again? If it can cause six Texas turnovers again it can. It was the highest turnover total by a team in a Big 12 conference game since the Longhorns turned it over six times vs. TCU in 2014. No Big 12 school has that many miscues in a game this season. Texas has turned it over seven times in nine games.
In the stunning upset, KU had as many interceptions (three) as it has in nine games this season. Brandon Stewart returned his 55 yards for a touchdown and Fish Smithson and Mike Lee also picked off passes, Lee’s leading to the winning field goal.
D’Onta Foreman, now with the Houston Texans, rushed 250 yards and two touchdowns on 51 carries, but also lost two fumbles. Tyrone Swoopes also lost a fumble.
Dorance Armstrong was in on 11 tackles, three for a loss, two sacks, forced a fumble and recovered one, then famously stiff-arming the 235-pound Foreman to the ground. Armstrong called it, "the best game of my college career so far."