Clint Bowen, newly named interim head football coach at Kansas University, made a few introductory remarks and fielded questions from the media on September 29, 2014 — the day after KU fired Charlie Weis and placed Bowen in charge of the program.
The Spodcasters, Tom Keegan & Matt Tait, quickly break down why Clint Bowen fits as KU's interim football coach.
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The sign on the podium he proudly stood behind read “Kansas Jayhawk Football Head Coach Clint Bowen.”
The word “interim” was nowhere to be found. And, really, it didn’t need to be there anyway. For the next nine weeks — eight games and a bye — Bowen is the Kansas University football coach.
He looked, sounded and acted every bit of that during his introductory news conference with local media Monday morning. With emotion in his eyes, passion in his voice and pride in his posture, Lawrence’s native son shared his visions of what the program could become under his leadership.
Bowen believes in Kansas football. He’s won bowl games here as a player. He’s worked under two coaches — Glen Mason and Mark Mangino — who proved you could win at KU. And Bowen said he was honored to be able to try to follow in their footsteps.
“Anyone that would consider this a stepping-stone job is an idiot,” Bowen said with conviction. “This is a destination job.”
And now that job is his — at least for the next couple of months. If things go well and Bowen and the Jayhawks get hot, he may be able to keep it long term. But the 42-year-old Lawrence High and KU grad said angling for the job permanently was the furthest thing from his mind right now. That’s why he did not dwell on the past. Nor did he look too far into the future. Instead, he focused on today, this team and the moment he’s been dreaming about for as long as he could remember.
“I’ve never known a day of my life that I wasn’t a KU football fan,” he said. “I grew up a Lawrence guy. I grew up coming to KU football games. So to be standing here today is truly one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had in my life. I’m prepared for this job. I’m prepared to take this thing for the next nine weeks and do the best job that I possibly can.”
For now, that means preparing for Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at West Virginia (2-2). After all, Bowen is still the team’s defensive coordinator and he does still have to come up with a plan to slow down a Mountaineers offense that’s averaging 38 points and 354 yards a game and already this season has stayed within a couple of scores of Alabama and Oklahoma.
“Based on yesterday, yes (that is) a challenge,” said Bowen of a Sunday practice described by some as “insane” because of all of the energy on the field. “We’ll obviously have to work as efficiently as possible, lean on the other assistant coaches a little bit more and make sure we distribute things out. If it comes down to just spending more hours here, then that’s what we’ll do.”
One of the reasons Bowen seemed so at ease with the tumultuous transition was the comfort he drew from past triumphs and the lessons he’s learned from past failures. He’s seen it all at Kansas, stood at the top of the mountain and felt the frustration of being up to his eyes in quicksand. KU’s new leader is pumped for the opportunity, but he’s not about to try to set a new course and go it alone. Monday, he thanked the current KU staff that “jumped onboard 100 percent, with great attitudes, great energy.” He also tipped his cap to Mason and Mangino, explaining that this team, for at least the next nine weeks, would remind people a lot of the teams that played for those guys.
“Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure,” Bowen said. “I really don’t. I feel like we have a way of operating that’s proven successful at the University of Kansas. I’ve seen the blueprint before here. I’ve been fortunate to be part of a turnaround in the Glen Mason era, in the Mark Mangino era. I feel like we have the stamp of how it works at Kansas. We’re going to implement that plan, and I don’t feel any pressure because I believe that it works. I know it works.”
Last Saturday night, Bowen was stewing over a 23-0 loss to Texas in which his defense was solid throughout but simply could not make up for the struggles of the KU offense. He went to bed that night prepared for another 7 a.m. Sunday trip to the office to grade film and try to come up with yet another way to inspire his guys to move forward. He never thought that 7 a.m. trip would feature a phone call from KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, and he never thought moving forward would be like this. On Monday, he remembered a time when such a scenario first crossed his mind.
“About 20 years ago, one of the first dates with my wife at what used to be the ice cream shop on 23rd Street,” recalled Bowen, setting the scene for a trip down Memory Lane. “I was a (graduate assistant) at the time and was trying to impress her a little bit and she said, ‘What are you going to be in life?’ or whatever that question is, and I said, ‘Well, I’m going to be the head football coach at Kansas.’”
He is exactly that today. And what happens in the next 61 days could determine how long it stays that way.