Sunday, September 28, 2014

Zenger: Program had lost support at all levels

KU athletic director sheds light on decision to fire KU football coach Charlie Weis

Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen looks out over his defense as the Jayhawks warm up prior to kickoff against Texas on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen looks out over his defense as the Jayhawks warm up prior to kickoff against Texas on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 at Memorial Stadium.


Sunday was an early morning for Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger, but he had been through mornings like it before.

Three years ago, at the end of the 2011 season, Zenger fired Turner Gill after two seasons, one day after the final game of the season. Sunday, Zenger let go of Charlie Weis, the man he hired 33 months ago to clean up Gill's mess.

In two-plus seasons at Kansas, Weis won just six games in 28 tries. At times, the progress was evident. At others, it was questioned by thousands. But Zenger said the decision to move on for the rest of 2014 without Weis was about more than wins and losses.

Charlie Weis out at Kansas

Here's a collection of links to our coverage of the firing of KU football coach Charlie Weis after two-plus seasons as the leader of the Jayhawks:

Weis dismissed as KU football coach

Speculation about Weis' future quietly took toll on Jayhawks

Matt Tait's coaching candidates list

Reader poll

Who should replace Charlie Weis as KU football coach?

  • Clint Bowen: Interim KU head coach, defensive coordinator 25% 746 votes
  • John Reagan: KU offensive coordinator 0% 24 votes
  • Ed Warinner: Ohio State co-offensive coordinator, offensive line coach 12% 362 votes
  • David Beaty: Texas A&M receivers coach, recruiting coordinator 8% 254 votes
  • Tim Beck: Nebraska offensive coordinator 1% 54 votes
  • Eric Kiesau: KU receivers coach 0% 10 votes
  • Dave Doeren: N.C. State head coach 9% 277 votes
  • Jim Leavitt: San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach 8% 239 votes
  • Chad Morris: Clemson offensive coordinator 2% 69 votes
  • Butch Davis: Former NFL and college coach 3% 96 votes
  • Mark Mangino: Iowa State offensive coordinator, tight ends coach 17% 511 votes
  • Other: Suggest another name in the comments 7% 228 votes

2870 total votes.

“In close review, what we found was the program had lost support at all levels,” Zenger told the Journal-World early Sunday afternoon.

The final act was swift and came after Zenger spent much of the early morning hours driving around Lawrence to collect his thoughts and visualize the meeting. Zenger and Weis, with associate athletic director Sean Lester present, met early Sunday morning in Weis' office at the Anderson Family Football Complex. The meeting didn't last more than 10 minutes and, according to Zenger, all parties involved were very gracious. Sure, it might have been the end, but the destination did not completely eliminate the good that came from some of the stops along the way.

"I appreciate what coach Weis did with several facets of our football program," Zenger said in a news release announcing the move. "But we have not made the on-the-field progress we believe we should. I believe new leadership gives our coaches and players the best chance to make a fresh start."

A couple of hours after meeting with Weis, Zenger named defensive coordinator Clint Bowen the team's interim head coach for the rest of the season and introduced Bowen as such at a team meeting. Multiple sources with knowledge of that meeting told the Journal-World that Bowen was received with a hero's welcome by players on both offense and defense.

Bowen will retain his role as defensive coordinator and, because Weis' absence leaves a vacancy on the staff, director of player personnel, Louie Matsakis, has been elevated to special teams coordinator. Matsakis oversaw special teams and coached running backs for the final three seasons of the Mark Mangino era.

As for Charlie Weis Jr., who is in his third season as a student manager, Zenger said Bowen would have the final say in Weis Jr.'s role in the future.

A football guy who coached on staffs at Kansas State, Wyoming and South Florida, Zenger knows the importance of football in an athletic department. And it has been his goal since being hired to return Kansas to a competitive level that KU fans, players and the athletic department could feel good about. Although the start of the 2014 season has not gone how anyone had hoped, Zenger said a big reason for his decision to make the move now instead of waiting until the end of the season was because eight games still remain and he does not believe that all hope should be lost.

“I really believe there's talent on this team and on this staff and want to give it an opportunity to prove itself out,” Zenger said.

Bowen immediately will inherit all of Weis' responsibilities, which will make for a busy Monday. In addition to a news conference with the local media at 9 a.m., he'll handle the Big 12 football coaches teleconference at 10 a.m. and also be the featured coach during Monday's 6 p.m. Hawk Talk radio show with Bob Davis.


Kyle Sybesma 8 years, 2 months ago

“I really believe there's talent on this team and on this staff and want to give it an opportunity to prove itself out,” Zenger said.

I believe that too. Which is why it's so frustrating to this team underachieve. It blows my mind to think that an offensive guru like Weis was unable to get anything going on the offensive end. I guess it just shows that Weis needs to stick to OC at the NFL level.

Ray Winger 8 years, 2 months ago

Dr. Zenger, I would like to thank you for your explanation. I am a strong supporter of your AD Leadership, which is most exemplified in the success of the non-revenue sports. I remember the anguish of the Perkins/Mangino separation, which was magnified by the attempt for AD Perkins to not want to be blamed for decision he had to make. This hurt KU Football a lot. With big responsibility come big paychecks. Should we feel compelled to be more delicate than the releasing of position coaches, as long as the checks keep being deposited. I think anyone who thinks that there is a best way, is wrong. I am sure the alumni, student-body, and fans support your decision.

Kevin Kelly 8 years, 2 months ago

No mention that he hired Charlie in the first place? I support his decision....but it should be his last one. No way he should hire the next coach.

Jeffrey Nichols 8 years, 2 months ago

So, you get one hire and that's it as the AD Kevin? No opportunity to try and fix it? If you miss once you're done? Are we so much of an instant gratification mentality that there is zero tolerance if things aren't perfect on the first go around? You may recall that our program was in complete and total disarray when Gill was fired. We needed a splashy hire, someone to clean up the utter disaster Gill had created. We needed something to get the fan base excited. It didn't work as hoped. But that doesn't mean Zenger should abdicate his responsibilities to try and hire the new football coach. They always use search companies and there will be a committee reviewing the process. I think giving Zenger the benefit of the doubt is probably in order.

John Randall 8 years, 2 months ago

Good, honest perspective on this move, but I can't sit quietly by when you want to pretend that Perkins was in any way honorable in his witch hunt. What problems were afloat in the football program could not have been handled any worse.

Doug Cramer 8 years, 2 months ago

How does a guy like Bowen, who's had no success running a unit in the past, keep getting promoted ? ? ? I don't get it.

2009 Defensive Coordinator - Disaster <----he inherited a good defense from 2008. 2012 Special Teams Unit Coordinator - Disaster 2013 Defensive Coordinator - Disaster 2014 Defensive Coordinator - Texas's O Sucked. This D will end up being a disaster too.

Bowen must have some incredible people skills or something.

Surely Zenger knows not to permanently hire this guy as our next HC.

Micky Baker 8 years, 2 months ago

Dude, give it up man. KU gave up 329 yards in total offense, 212 through the air and 111 through the ground. Texas only scored on one drive that they didn't start inside our own 35. He's not the problem. You make all KU fans look stupid.

Gregor Southard 8 years, 2 months ago

Doug is actually right about Bowen's record. Look at the stats for WKU and N. Texas under him. Yeah, the D looked better against Texas but has everyone forgot about the SEMO showing or all the arm tackling against Duke? Having said that, I hope Bowen does well and whatever record he winds up having this season shouldn't be held against him. I don't question his commitment to KU at all

Doug Cramer 8 years, 2 months ago

Micky you need to give up your man crush towards me. You're starting to creep me out.

Bill Kackley 8 years, 2 months ago

Doug, he is not alone. I have never known anyone who is so continuously negative as you are.

Jonathan Briles 8 years, 2 months ago

I completely agree with Mickey. Bowen is a great mind and he has a lot of passion. No one on this staff wants KU to succeed more than Bowen and he has the chops to get it done. Last year he was in charge of the DB's and they were incredibly improved. This year he is in charge of the whole defense and the main guy for the LB's. Heeney and Love were already good, but they look better than they ever have this year. The guy can coach. There is a reason he is so well respected by his peers. This is not a shot at you Doug, but you are not a coach so you are not a peer. People who know the game much better than you or I think he is a very good coaching mind.

Stephen Johnson 8 years, 2 months ago

Doug - give it up. The players like him and the defense has looked good. Why the bitterness? Did he steal your girlfriend and the bully you when you were in grade school.

Greg Lux 8 years, 2 months ago

I see nothing about the Offensive Coordinator, If he is the guy who was calling the plays Saturday then he needs a boot print on his ass also. I saw some of the worse play calls in the Texas game I have ever seen a coach call. As to Weis I wish he had completed the job he was hired to complete. Kansas Univ. deserves a quality football program and that has to start with the coaching staff. It way past time to stop experimenting and hire a quality coach and recruiter for the Kansas football program. Losing millions of dollars on another failed coach plus his staff is insane and it's time to put the experiment to an end. I know it's not as simple as recruiting a quality coach and paying him. No quality coach wants to walk into a failing program unless he believes he can make a difference. Great coaches need good and great players to make a winning program. Kansas, thanks to all the failed programs of the last failed coaches, has a horrible image that needs to be turned around. Good players will not sign on unless they believe they can win and that comes with the support of the fans and the quality of the coaching staff. Let's make it happen this time.

Robert Brock 8 years, 2 months ago

Hey, Zenger - where's the mea culpa? You made a colossal error. Fess up and tender your resignation.

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 2 months ago

And howb is that supposed to bring program stability and progress?

Matthew Pyle 8 years, 2 months ago

Totally agree. Why should this twit get another crack at hiring a coach? Weiss was a disaster, perhaps more so than Gill if that is possible.

David A. Smith 8 years, 2 months ago

Ok, so with Rock Chalk Park, a national track championship, a championship calibre volleyball team, and a proactive approach to competitive football- where is the sense in Zenger needing to all?

Jack Jones 8 years, 2 months ago

Rock Chalk Park is yet to be proven a "success" ~ Zenger has zero credit for the track championship, the success of the volleyball team ~ and "a proactive approach to competitive football" is simply an unproven opinion. I'm surprised you didn't give him credit for the basketball program. A competent AD doesn't panic 4 games into a season and fire a head coach after only 2+ seasons, at a D-1 level program, in one of the premier football conferences, with a lengthy history of a lack of success. Until we have an athletic director with guts and a real 'proactive approach.............', who is willing to give a coach a minimum of 5 years to rebuild a program from the depths ours has been for a long, long time (with a very brief exception), the football program will continue to languish and stumble along. It is absurd to believe that you build a program in this increasingly competitive (for top quality players) era by changing coaches every 2-3 years. No, Zenger must go if we expect the football program to become competitive. Obviously, he doesn't have the backbone to stand up to all the whiners and naysayers who have absolutely no clue as to the hard work and time required to succeed.

Kevin Kelly 8 years, 2 months ago

Exactly. Why did you bring him back at all this season? What game did he not win that he was supposed to win? I had us 2-2 at this point and we are. Just because its the right decision doesn't mean it needs to be made right now. It looks like this department is hell bent on fighting itself. It all started with a rumble in 2009 and it hasn't stopped since. Everyone hates everyone. The fans. Keegan. The coaches. The AD. The donors. I'm out. When this team becomes about hard work and respect, let me know. We are a laughing stock...and its not because we loose. Its because we act like losers. And that starts at the top with the AD. The man hired Charlie....he should have the self respect to resign if that decision turned out to be THIS bad.

John Randall 8 years, 2 months ago

I don't believe the proactive approach was showing up on the field, and that has to fall on Weiss, whether he was just marking time for a paycheck or simply willing to take the check as a reward for vacating his office in a gracious manner.

Dr. Zenger put too much faith where it wasn't warranted, and that's the only mistake (across the whole department) I fault him for. We've stumbled on hires before, and likely will again … but this one will be tougher to get right than the last one.

John Pritchett 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree. The problem with KU football stems from the athletic department, not the coaches. It's impossible to bring in a quality coach and staff, even good players, when a program has the reputation that KU has EARNED. Scapegoating Coach Weis will not fix the problem. It will only make it more difficult to bring quality talent to Kansas at all levels, from players up to head coach. Who wants to come to a school that lacks loyalty, support and stability?

We were lucky to get Coach Weis and he deserved the time he was promised to put the program on the right path. Coach Mangino showed a rare talent of building a competitive team without top-level recruiting, but Coach Weis struggled to recruit the caliber of player, especially quarterback, that he needed to implement his on-field vision. It takes time to build a program that can attract that kind of player, especially in the wake of the Mangino debacle. And I don't like our chances of bringing in another Mangino who can manage to win in a tough conference with players that, frankly, only came to KU because they weren't good enough to play for our opponents.

I said it when we lost Mangino and, though I hoped I would be proven wrong with the hiring of Weis, I believe just as strongly today, that KU football will not return to the level it reached under Mangino for several decades, if ever in my lifetime. The issues are systemic. It goes much higher than the head coach.

Armen Kurdian 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree. At the very least, dock his salary the $5.5M we have to throw at Weis for buying him out. That's $5.5M the school can light a match too. I don't think CW was the entire problem.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 2 months ago

I do not like firing coaches in September, unless it's off the field issues. I understand it in November to get a head start on your coach search.

John Randall 8 years, 2 months ago

Only fools like to fire anybody early in a season, but this year hit the skids and was fast getting out of control. As Zenger explained, support was dwindling "on every level" and could have hit a low like KSU suffered from 1936 through 1985 – and that must have seemed forever for folks in Manhattan. Hunting scapegoats seldom solves problems, but as long as that is the choice of fans, we'll get more of what we deserve.

Mat Davis 8 years, 2 months ago

Give Coach Bowen a chance. He's a KU guy, who has paid his dues. His defensive unit this year has been good, despite not getting any help from the offensive side of the ball. He's energetic, a great teacher, bleeds crimson and blue, and will rally the troops.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 2 months ago

Lets recall also, that Clint Bowen as a KU safety in ?1993?, led his team with 114 tackles, and won some tackling award--so he's done this by example. And he has spent time in other universities and under other head coaches. We will all see if the "Interim" HC becomes permanent or not. He is absolutely going to have to earn it. And he will have to earn the $ also by his product...perhaps as it should be this time around. Reagan is too new, and while he proved himself at Rice, he has to prove himself right now, with this offensive unit.

As last year, the defense gives our team a if we can just give Pierson + Harwell + King + Mundine more chances to shine. And not forget about what's working with Mann and Avery...QB play has been the weak link. I'm curious for the sake of this 1 season, how SENIOR Cummings will do as the starter...?

I like the fact that Bowen was given a hero's welcome by the KU players. That's a good sign, especially as the story about Jacorey Shepard calling a team mtg on Sept.19 strongly hinted at a "distracted team" trying to maintain focus, as they obviously knew Weis was on a tightrope.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 2 months ago

Most importantly, how will this big change affect the KU offense?

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 2 months ago

I bet that Reagan's play calling will improve.

Kevin Randell 8 years, 2 months ago

Agree, at the college level, it is tough to let go of a coach in the middle of the season, unless it is for off field issues, but it had to be done. After driving back to Oklahoma, after the game, my neighbor who happened to be a Longhorns fan pointed out one thing to me. Yesterday was our Homecoming, and we could only muster 36 thousand fans?!!! That means nearly 14 Thousand unsold seats were available yesterday. If you calculated an average ticket price of $50 (even though face value was $80) nearly $700,000 lost revenue happened because of the state of the program. So yes......firing coach has to be done because, "Program had lost support at all levels".

John Pritchett 8 years, 2 months ago

If the program has lost support at all levels, isn't that bigger than a head coach? Why does Weis shoulder the full blame for this? KU has become the Oakland Raiders of college football. It's sad.

Micky Baker 8 years, 2 months ago

I think the verdict will be in very quickly on the offense. KU may not win many games this year, but if they finish out scoring an average of 30 points a game here on out, then we will know. I think Weis had his hands all over the game planning and shouldn't have been. Of course the HC needs to be involved, but ultimately if you hire an OC, you let him made those decisions.

There are other problems and I think it's in how our QBs have been coached. With the way the offense for Texas played yesterday, I'm pretty sure they're in for a long season too, but you'll also see offenses on other teams obliterate their defense that really isn't as good as it was billed. They still allowed KU over 300 yards in offense despite the 4 turnovers we had.

You have to run plays that allow for quick passes, and not just one option. Plays in which a receiver drives up field for 4 to 6 yards getting the defense to back pedal, then throw it before the receiver turns to a spot. Or a slant in which Harwell or Pierson runs across the chest of the defender, you get the snap, and you throw it. Don't drop back, just throw it. On screen plays, you back pedal and draw that defense further in, then dump it right over the top, and maybe have two separate guys available for the screen pass receptions. Leak out the tight end or a running back. We aren't equipped for the down field passing game with this OL. That could change in a couple of seasons, but right now the down field passes won't get it done unless we use good, play-action plays that freeze the linebackers and the those blitzing on the run. Then, that doesn't even need to be a deep ball, but a mid-range ball to a 12 or 15 yard cross. This is done by reading what the defense is doing. I don't think that this coaching is going on. I think that Weis was trying to create an identity that the Patriots have, and we're not them and don't have the personnel to be them.

That game against Texas was winnable if we maintained drives and didn't turn the ball over. We could have even overcome the long punt return their first score. We can't have any more false starts, and the QB, whoever it is, has to be given an opportunity to be successful and under Weis, that didn't happen with any QB. There were some exceptions in games, but those came rarely. Gotta be able to exploit the holes that opposing defenses create on their own through blitzes. We can't run 3 wideouts to the short side of the field. We can't run the option to the short side. We should not do a bubble screen to the short side any more. The receive needs to catch the ball while running, not standing still. There are so many things that are coachable but haven't changed under Weis.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 2 months ago

Exactly right, Micky, good post. If anybody saw the quick-firing QB of Baylor and that Baylor offense, that is the way to fire the ball around in a spread offense. It was amazing to watch, just from a football standpoint. We've got a lot of work to do. Our QB cost us this winnable Texas game. 4 INT's is simply a killer.

Titus Canby 8 years, 2 months ago

"Bowen was received with a hero's welcome by players on both offense and defense."

That says it all.

Joseph Bullock 8 years, 2 months ago

if Weis would not have been at New England, he would not have had success at any level. He was the Offensive coordinator, but you also had a great head coach, and great assistants at every position. he got way too much credit for their success. Look what he did at Notre Dame-he got fired! and you don't even have to recruit there, to get players. Also, I'm tired of hearing how bad Gill was. Look at all the problems he inherited, after they fired Mangino 9which I still feel was a big mistake). You have to have time to clean up the program, and he did not have enough time, so there is no true measurement, on whether he was good, or bad. But I am sure glad Weis is gone. Players kept leaving the program (including that great Ju-Co cornerback, right before the season! Something is wrong with that picture! Rock Chalk!

Jonathan Briles 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree that Weis should have been fired and I have to say I'm happy about it. However I will say that New England was not his only success. You don't get hired on as an OC in NFL by being bad and you sure has heck don't get hired by Belichick if you are not worth your salt. Aside from his success leading to NE he also had great success in his lone season with the Chiefs. Granted it was a very small sample size you cannot ignore the success especially when the following year with the same players was a disaster for the Chiefs. Weis is more than just Tom Brady. He is a great NFL mind. He just does not belong at the top of a program and especially not a college one.

Bill Kackley 8 years, 2 months ago

If Gil had been allowed to continue we would have lost 1/4 of our team to academic ineligibility.

John Pritchett 8 years, 2 months ago

He was also the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs in the only winning season under a not-so-great head coach.

Craig Carr 8 years, 2 months ago

2 words for all of the "success" Weis has ever been credited with: Tom Brady

Jack Joiner 8 years, 2 months ago

I would have liked to see Weis finish the season. That doesn't mean I liked the job he was doing, just felt he deserved to finish. In a spread offense the QB needs make the reads and make quick throws. I don't believe Cozart has that ability. Bowen appears to be the early favorite but he will have to earn it, might depend on what the big money people think. Tonight down here in Okla. the TV stations are saying that Brent Venables is one of the favorites. I guess we will have to see what happens.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 2 months ago

Bowen's first order of business as HC should be cancelling his 9am news conference.

Waylon Cook 8 years, 2 months ago

So does Zenger know now why Charlies phone wasn't ringing from AD's with openings? Fedora and Paul Chryst may have sounded like better options at the time but they aren't having the best seasons(we are still in the worst state of the 3 programs) so I am a little scared about Zenger making another hire. Will his head roll?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 years, 2 months ago

The problem with the football program can be illustrated by browsing through this comments section. ads to "Buy KU basketball tickets" are sprinkled between comments.

The basketball team gets all the support and ink. They are lauded right after their yearly fold up in the national tournament, which they have not won in many years. The addition of new one year wonders including some foreign born players is loudly heralded by this newspaper as well as other news outlets. The phrase "Wait till basketball starts" is heard even before the first football is thrown in anger.

The new coach, whoever he or she is will suffer the same prob;ems, they are doomed at Kansas long before they ever step on the field. Mark Mangino had a good start while here, but the harpies and grumblers had their say and he was gone. Mangino was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma in their national championship year in 2000. But the stunted and dysfunctional program at KU could not succeed with even such a talent as Mangino.

There needs to be a complete overhaul of the program extending to the alumni, the players, the coaches, especially the athletic director.

But I fear that nothing will change, the next coach will suffer the same fate as all the multitude of former football coaches at the University of Kansas

John Boyle 8 years, 2 months ago

Success breeds a following. The football team had lots of support when they were winning. 2008 was a magically year for football at KU. You cannot blame basketball as the reason football can't succeed. That is just wrong. You obviously don't like basketball based on your comments; "yearly fold up in the national tournament". Are you insane. They just won the NC in 2008 and made it to the national championship game in 2012. The team is good year in and year out. Football is a different situation all together from basketball. It is almost impossible to get back to prominence. With the number of players needed to be successful, the established programs are had a huge advantage every year. In basketball a team only has to pick up a couple blue chip guys and they can compete at a high level. That is why there are 303 Div 1 basketball teams vying for the national championship each year and only 119 football teams at the top level of ncaa.

Lance Hobson 8 years, 2 months ago

His son is a junior and part of the team as a manager? Ouch. College isn't supposed to come with this kind of turmoil. I wonder if Zenger thought about that at all, if he did I have to think it would have made the decision not to wait until the end of the season a lot harder.

Paul Christiansen 8 years, 2 months ago

I Hope this is a turning point for the football team. Admittedly, the AD made a huge mistake hiring Charlie Weiss but I think the fans, the students and the Alumni would like to see a head coach with Passion who was excited about KU football and gets the fans excited as well. There was no excitement in the Charlie Weiss news conferences. Everyone knew that we needed a change. Let's hope that Clint Bowen is successful from today on. Good Luck Clint Bowen! Go Hawks!

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