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Coaching Search 2014: Could elite openings elsewhere be a factor?

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Kansas interim head football coach Clint Bowen looks out over the stadium as the rain comes down prior to kickoff against Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas interim head football coach Clint Bowen looks out over the stadium as the rain comes down prior to kickoff against Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

When covering a coaching search, it's important to keep in mind the entire college football landscape because what happens one place with one opening can impact what happens at another in a hurry.

That's certainly true at Kansas University and has been during each of the past two searches the Jayhawks had for a head football coach.

I've spent parts of the past couple of days looking back at our coverage of the search in 2011 and it brought back some serious memories, a couple of headaches and a few laughs.

One of the things that stood out the most, though, were the jobs that were open last time and how, at the time, it seemed like some pretty big-time gigs.

Texas A&M, UCLA, Mississippi, Arizona State, Washington State, North Carolina and Illinois all had openings at the time Kansas did, and all of them looked to be pretty heavy hitters with whom KU had to compete. The funny thing about that list is it pales in comparison to the jobs that are open this time around.

Florida, Michigan and Nebraska all are looking for head football coaches right now, and, as if those three don't carry enough weight on their own, a few smaller schools, which might actually be trying to pick from the same candidate pool as Kansas (like it or not) also have openings. These include Tulsa, UNLV, Montana and SMU, which already has filled its opening with Clemson assistant Chad Morris.

Although there was more crossover between candidates at Kansas and other schools the last time around, it seems like jumping on their guy a little faster this time around might be a good move for the Jayhawks. When the dominoes start to fall with the big three, the trickle-down effect could impact KU's search in a big way and create unnecessary headaches for Sheahon Zenger and company.

The good news for KU here is that the top names that appear to be in the hunt for the Kansas job do not appear to be options for the big three. If they were, Kansas would be in trouble and likely would have to look elsewhere anyway.

The reason for KU to try to get its deal done before those schools do is because of the potential fallout from a hire by the big dogs. Let's say Michigan hired Brett Bielema away from Arkansas. (Yes, Bielema was in Lawrence on Wednesday but only to visit with and extend an offer to Lawrence High football standout Amani Bledsoe).

Bielema's departure would leave an opening at Arkansas, which could be filled by someone like Justin Fuente, of Memphis. Even though it seems like Fuente is pretty much out of the mix for the KU job, his departure would leave the Memphis job open and that could be appealing to any number of candidates involved with Kansas.

It's a bit of a paranoid way to look at things, but wouldn't that just be KU's luck to finally identify a guy they feel is a good option only to see him plucked away by someone else for more money or a better chance to win right away?

Last time around, when Tom Keegan and I were ranking the job openings from most appealing to least, it was tough to put KU anywhere other than the bottom. This time around, even though those three big-boy jobs are in a different stratosphere, the Kansas opening at least appears to be a middle-of-the-pack gig relative to what's available.

Anyway, it doesn't seem like timing will be an issue here. I still think this thing wraps up mid-to-late next week. And I still think the names who were on my percentage wheel last night are the most likely names KU will go with.

I made a few more calls today and got a little more input on the situation. Nothing earth-shattering, but enough to move the needle a little bit. The order of today's percentage wheel has not changed much, but the values have.

Here's a look:

1. David Beaty – 35%
2. Clint Bowen – 31%
3. Other – 20%
4. Tim Beck — 9%
5. Ed Warinner — 5%

______

• As you can see, the gap between Bowen and Beaty has narrowed a little bit (at least in my mind) and I think Bowen is still very much alive in this thing. This may seem obvious, but it really could all come down to how Bowen handles the formal interview, whenever that takes place. Sometime early next week seems likely. It's obvious that Bowen has some pretty good support among KU folks and Zenger has seen what he can do with the team, in the locker room and on the sideline. So those things are all known already. What is not completely known by Zenger and the search committee is the breadth and quality of Bowen's vision for how to rebuild KU — although I do know they've had general talks about this topic during the past few months. Answers to questions about his staff, his recruiting plans and things of that nature could be crucial and Bowen may have to be nearly perfect in there to get his shot. If he is and if he's able to really impress Zenger, it could still be him.

• I went ahead and took Fuente off of the wheel completely because I had heard that whatever interest there may have been between Fuente and Kansas had cooled during the past couple of days and he's working on a new deal at Memphis. Here's what Memphis AD Tom Bowen (no relation) said in a recent statement:

“Our administration has been working proactively with Coach Fuente and his representatives on a new contract for several weeks. He has been very engaged and deeply appreciative throughout the process. We are very close to finalizing an agreement and look forward to making a formal announcement at an appropriate time. (We) are extremely excited about continuing to build the Memphis Football program under Fuente’s leadership."

Fuente also commented on the rumors surrounding his candidacy for various jobs during an interview on The Geoff Calkins Show earlier this week:

“Making absurd, definitive statements, in my opinion, is not the smart way to go,” Fuente said. “If something where there’s mutual interest comes along, then I’ll visit with them and we’ll think about it, measure everything out and make a calculated decision. But the thing I would say is I have a lot of sweat equity invested in this program. I have a lot of pride in what we’ve done. We have a fantastic coaching staff. I think we have a great support system to truly build a football program. So it’d have to be something pretty special for me to even look at it.”

• One thing someone pointed out to me that could be relevant if KU were to hire Beaty is that, although his recruiting ties in Texas would be huge, he would not actually be the guy able to recruit the state as much as his assistants because of the rules for how much head coaches can be on the road. Sure, he would be able to get out there and talk to kids and parents, but I don't think he'd be able to put in the same number of hours and visits as his assistants. Head coaches are allowed just one in-school visit with prospects and college programs are allowed a maximum of six in-person, off-campus visits with each prospect from Dec. 1 to Feb. 1, with the month-long dead period basically running during winter break. Such factors would make the staff Beaty brings to KU even more key. Something to consider with that is how well those guys — whoever they are — would know and/or be able to sell Kansas compared to Bowen and the staff he might put together. That's clearly not a make or break either way, just something I hadn't really thought of.

• More tomorrow as we do our best to stay on top of the situation and reach out to as many sources as we can to try to gain some insight into what direction KU might go with this hire.

Stay tuned….

Comments

Michael Lorraine 7 years ago

Texas A&M, UCLA, Mississippi, Arizona State, Washington State, North Carolina and Illinois all had openings at the time Kansas did, and out of that group only KU is looking for a head coach again.

Rick McGowwan 7 years ago

That's true, but Mississippi may be looking before the start of next season if Big Blue comes calling.

Aaron Paisley 7 years ago

Freeze already signed and extension this week so Ole Miss won't be open this year.

Michael Lorraine 7 years ago

...but I don't think he'd be able to put in the same number of hours and visits as his assistants.

Another reason to offer him a pay raise as a KU assistant.

Michael Lorraine 7 years ago

I wish we could attract a Nick Saban caliber coach but given the coaches we can get, I’m more convinced Bowen is the right man for the job. I think his KU ties and passion for the program puts him above any other candidates whose names have been mentioned. No question Doug, he lacks experience and success. But our history is littered with head coaches who were hired and who did have experience and success in one form or another and most of them have failed. With the exception of Mangino, those who did have any success at KU used us as a stepping stone. I don’t believe he is a quick fix but I believe he will be able to turn this program around and headed in the right direction. No question it will take time but I believe his passion for KU football is the one intangible no other coach can offer.

Rick McGowwan 7 years ago

A few days ago I had posted that I thought Fuente was the "unknown" and potential fourth finalist. As Tait posted he is now, unless more stuff shakes loose, staying with Memphis. The reason for this is he had overtures from some of the bigger programs--and though he won't land any of the marquee openings this time around--he realizes that in 1-2 years he should be in a prime position. In 1-2 years at KU he'll still be rebuilding. He's already done that.

We have done due diligence on Kill, Pelini, Fuente, and Fritz and the final three still stand--Beaty, Warriner, Bowen, with Beck still in the mix but fading. I had hoped Fritz would be given more consideration, but it looks like he's fading as well. Everything I'm hearing is that Tait's percentage wheel has this right on, it's between Beaty and Bowen, but everyone is hoping for the "other" to make this more of a "search" and less of a coin-flip.

It's dark days on the horizon when we are unable to successfully entice even one candidate with HC experience in the P5.

Aaron Paisley 7 years ago

KU is one of the bottom 5 jobs in a major conference. They are not going to steal a coach from a P5 school unless that school is under paying that coach.

Michael Lorraine 7 years ago

Or get a Rich Rodriguez type coach on the rebound.

Rick McGowwan 7 years ago

To clarify, I meant "any" P5 HC experience, not "currently" a P5 HC.

Mike Barnhart 7 years ago

TODAY KU is one of the worst power 5 jobs but that could change in a hurry!

The bottom of the 64 includes 'Cuse, Wake, Duke, Iowa St., Rutgers, Indiana, NWestern, Wazu, Oreg St, Colorado, Utah, Vandy and, notwithstanding this year, Mississippi St.

Hire the right guy and we could be top 50 in 2 years and top 30 in 5 years!

Michael Lorraine 7 years ago

Maybe we should hire Al Bohl as a consultant. He hired Saban, Pinkel and Mangino. We'd have to beg him. I'm okay with that.

Randy Bombardier 7 years ago

Wow. Great tidbit. I think you're onto something.

Aaron Paisley 7 years ago

Two thoughts, the first is that unlike the last go around, the number of major conference jobs open is significantly smaller and KU isn't competing with those schools directly for a head coach.

The second thought is that the competition KU faces with the other 3 P5 jobs is for assistant coaches. This is where KU could gain an upper hand over those schools in naming a head coach sooner in getting quality assistant coaches which is the biggest factor in improving the team because they do the vast majority of the recruiting.

Steve Corder 7 years ago

How much does the assistant coaching staff figure in the equation? Does Bowen have a revised plan with some significant assistant coaching changes which would outshine Beaty and the staff he might bring with him?

Good post, Matt.

Darin Bradley 7 years ago

The word out of Huskerland is he plans to take some time off. He'll be well compensated while doing so. Time will tell. Several schools will be interested in a fiery coach who delivers 9 win season consistently.

Darin Bradley 7 years ago

Looks like Warinner had his phone interview this week with a committee member per Fox Sports this evening. No mention of how well it went but glad he was interested enough to interview. Part of making the position appealing is getting quality and respected applicants to interview. Matt any insight on how the interview went would be great!

Rock Chalk

Calvin Miller 7 years ago

He's not interested "enough." Warinner wants the job. He's the best OC that KU has ever had, and has coached at KU a total of 5 years. HIs resume is far better than anyone on the supposed list of candidates.
Frankly, I'd be shocked if he's not offered the job. IF he isn't Zenger will probably be looking for a job in 2 years.

Robert Brock 7 years ago

It's looking like KU is headed for Conference USA. Thanks Zenger!

Austin Lopez 7 years ago

For me personally I would like to see Kansas get a coach who can recruit and is great at finding sleeping talent in the country, in my opinion before you win games you gotta get players who got talent and who can play, look at the 2013-14 UB bulls they had 2 great players on that team Kahlil Mack and Brandon Oliver a lot of people poke fun a Turner Gill but those was his recruits but UB turned there program around off of sleeper recruits, I just want Kansas to land a coach like that who can find talent and develop it along with a coach that can get 4 star players to ESPN because the truth is you could be the best coach in the world but without talented players your not going to win many games, you can coach them up but at the end of the day it comes down to the players executing the gameplan with results in a win or lose.....

Jay Hawkinson 7 years ago

I agree with Matt, if Bowen interviews well and has a convincing plan for what he will do with the staff, he will be a top contender. Connections in the coaching world could be the biggest advantage for Beaty and Warinner over Bowen. Those two have been at very successful programs since leaving KU, and could raid their current programs to build a good staff at KU. Places like Ohio St and A&M tend to have position coaches who are ready to be coordinators, and grad assistants and quality control coaches who are ready to be position coaches. Bob Stoops raided Bill Snyder's staff (including Mangino) when he took the OU job, and it worked out very well. If Bowen is the choice, I suspect that he would keep most of the current staff in place, for better or worse.

Jim Stauffer 7 years ago

One thing I believe KU needs that should be a strength for Bowen is finding quality walk ons and developing them into contributors by their Jr and Sr years.

Everyone talks about Texas recruiting, but I believe it is more important to really work Kansas and KC Metro and mine all the good to great players as well as those who may become walk ons or preferred walk ons.

Certainly Texas should remain very important in the eyes of the coach, but let's not minimize what we can do locally.

Logan Johnson 7 years ago

Jim: I don't think a good strategy would be to "find" walk ons. I think walk ons typically try out just praying for a spot on the team. I will have to disagree with your opinion on the KC Metro talent. I would have to say that Texas has all around better talent. They breed their children for football down there. I think having a connection in Texas recruiting is important, but I do agree with your idea of that fact that we need a coach who can build descent players into great players. I think the latter point of that last sentence is most important in our next coach. I don't see our recruiting, regardless of who we hire (exception Jim Harbaugh) getting any better in the next few years. KU just isn't a program that 4 & 5 star players are dying to go to.

Cody Riedy 7 years ago

I'm not saying he should be a candidate, but ironically, besides Warriner, Kiseau has as much or more credentials as some of these candidates, especially Beaty. The only advantage Beaty for certain has over Kiseau as even our OC is the geography of where their experience occurred and thus their relative recruiting potential. By the eye test, though it still struggled mightily at times, I thought our offense clearly improved when Kiseau took over. Of course, that more or less coincided with Cummings taking over at QB, but still. If our options right now are Bowen HC - Kiseau OC, Bowen HC - Beaty OC, or Beaty HC - unkown OC - Bowen DC, I don't think I'd pass on the modest progress we made to close the season and the stability of keeping Bowen/Kiseau for the entirely unproven HC/OC potential of Beaty and his ambiguous recruiting prowess (who couldn't recruit Texas kids to a Texas powerhouse playing in the NFL minor league). Kiseau impressed me in his short time trying to salvage our offense and in his personal interviews; it seems to me that he's getting short shrift a bit in this discussion.

Erich Hartmann 7 years ago

Cody, I agree about Kiesau's credentials and impact. But his timeline at KU is simply too short for cautious decision-makers very likely. And hate to nit-pick, but as an OC, when your team gets a fumble on TCU's 10yd line, that play calling was the sequence the game was lost. The first play, a run up the middle netted 5yds, but that was it, as we tried a fade route, then a sweep by Pierson, who got -minus yds. We showed our lack of power run game. I liked the idea of giving it to Avery or Mann 3 straight times, or even on 4th down. And with the WeatherBowl at OU Sooners, who power-ran all over our designed-for-spread defense, we couldnt run there either. I like the impact Kiesau had as a WR coach here, but his body of work as a KU OC is simply too small. And my apologies to all for sounding a bit like a Thursday morning armchair QB, but all one can do is look back at the close losses and see the missed opps (TCU, OkieSt)...oh, and the TX loss was utterly unacceptable, and Weis deserved to get axed. Cozart just flat blew a golden chance vs TX.

And if we had won the TCU game, we probably wouldnt be having a coach search as that would have been the biggest win by KU since the Orange Bowl.

Bill French 7 years ago

I believe we have to think long term. KU football needs a five to seven year plan. I'M FOR CLINT ...

He will have patience, desire, and love of KU to make this plan happen. I also believe we need assistant coaches with Texas backgrounds and to a lesser extent Oklahoma backgrounds for successful recruiting.

Logan Johnson 7 years ago

Matt Tait: Could you please indulge a few details about why Warinner is the lowest on the percentage wheel when he clearly stands out as the best candidate (resume wise). Is this because you think he will not take the job or because you think his skill set is not worthy. To me, and a few other readers, it is clear that Warinner (out of that list) is a no brainer for Zenger. Please shed some light on your opinion on the matter as I find your percentage wheel confusing. Thanks.

Cody Riedy 7 years ago

I think Matt has made it pretty clear that he's a journalist and not an opinion maker. What he's reporting is not his personal ratings but his sense of what the mood is amongst the decision-makers and those who influence those decision-makers. If he has Beaty and Bowen at the top that's because those are the two candidates who he been hearing buzz about. That clarified (and sorry if I'm misinterpreting the gist of your question) there still remains the question, why isn't Warriner getting more buzz or why is the buzz negative?

Aaron Paisley 7 years ago

Warriner is only a co-OC at OSU right now and it's not his offense and he's not the play caller there. Same deal at KU, he may have been the OC those 3 years, but Mangino was the play caller. Warriner really doesn't have much experience running the show on his side of ball which makes him a question mark as to how he'd run a program.

Cody Riedy 7 years ago

Thanks for the info; I didn't realize Warriner was only a co-OC. As much excitement as there has been around Warriner and Beaty, the more one pokes at their resumes, it's not really clear how much is actually there. As I just noted above, it seems that Kiseau has a fuller resume than some of these other candidates. Not sure what that should mean, but it seems worth noting.

Jay Hawkinson 7 years ago

Are you sure about that second part? I'm pretty sure he was the play caller at KU.

Logan Johnson 7 years ago

He did in fact call the plays at KU for certain., and the point of him being only a co-coordinator still doesn't make sense why BEaty is higher. Beaty is only WR/recruiting coordinator, so how can you tell that Beaty can run a program?

Andy Hess 7 years ago

FOX Sports is reporting that it's down to Warinner, Beck, and Beaty.

Bob Stuber 7 years ago

The only candidate with head coaching experience is Bowen. He should be the pick. Hope Fox is wrong.

Erich Hartmann 7 years ago

Unfortunately what plagues KU football the most is spotty talent in the trenches. There isnt much wrong with Cummings (twice the QB that Cozart is currently, sorry.), Harwell, King, Mundine, Avery, or Mann....but if you dont have time to get them the ball, or open run holes, its a long day. Compounded by D-line not capable of putting pressure on opposing QB's unless they get blitz help, which leaves the pass zones vulnerable.

So judging Bowen, when the same fundamental talent gap exists in the trenches, is a dubious enterprise. We need better big-uglies talent. Its unfortunate, because once we switched to Cummings, our skill positions came alive. And in some games, the matchups worked out about even (like IowaSt, or OkieSt, or even TCU). But that's just happenstance matchups--you cannot really put stock or hope in that. We just dont have dominating O- and D-lines. And now we lose 21 seniors.

I agree with ALL of you who recognized this will take multiple years to fix. And sadly, we will take a step backwards next season, as we lose some A-rated guys like Harwell, Mundine, McDonald, Heeney, Jacory Shepard...but, maybe under stable coaching, and unchanged system, maybe the backups will be readier next season. I know Taylor Cox will be ready.

Randy Bombardier 7 years ago

Thanks. Looks like Warinner is well liked in Columbus. He really turned their oline around. Man do we need that.

Erich Hartmann 7 years ago

Regarding Bowen, the biggest factors working against him are in order: team performance vs. KSU, team performance vs. OU, and the TCU loss. And the fact the special teams showed zero improvement this season--watching our special teams was like playing Russian Roulette with a .44 revolver. (BAM!! it went vs OkSt and TCU)

Kyle Sybesma 7 years ago

I'm liking Ed Warinner and it sounds like he's had a phone interview. The biggest selling points to me are: OC of the Orange Bowl team. Worked under Urban Meyer and Brian Kelly Spent time at the Air Force Academy and Army which screams discipline

As much as Bowen is loved in Lawrence I think it's important to get an offensive minded coach in the Big 12.

Take a look at others who have worked under Urban Meyer

http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2014/10/ohio_state_urban_meyer_coachin.html

Logan Johnson 7 years ago

Twitter is blowing up inside sources saying ed Warinner was offered the job

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