Has the fog lifted around KU football?
It's a risky proposition to make too much of an introductory press conference, but the one that went down at the KU football complex today was at least enough different than all the others that came before to make me wonder if this day will go down as a turning point for Kansas football.
KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen was introduced as the interim head coach this morning in Mrkonic Auditorium, and you could tell in 2 seconds what the moment meant to him.
Bowen was equal parts emotional, entertaining, witty and serious during the 20 minutes he spoke to the media, and he left many in the room believing that, at least for the next nine weeks, KU football was in pretty good hands.
Bowen's team — and make no mistake about it, this is Bowen's team for the rest of the 2014 season — will play tough, smart, energetic football and they'll have fun doing it. They'll represent KU the way Bowen has since he was a young boy sneaking into games at Memorial Stadium to watch some of his childhood idols, and Bowen will give everything he has to the program during his audition for the real deal. If he wins at all, he'll have a great chance at getting the interim tag removed. If not, well, he'll rest easy knowing he got his shot and gave it all he had.
Maybe that's what KU needs right now — a guy like Bowen, who will vow not to rest until things get better. Charlie Weis worked hard. And KU fans should forever be thankful for that, regardless of how things went on the field. But he wasn't a Kansas guy. KU didn't mean to Weis what it means to Bowen, and the same can be said about Turner Gill as well, save for the working hard part.
When Mark Mangino was forced out after one of the most successful stints in KU football history after the 2009 season, the Jayhawks paid a heavy price for the administration making the wrong move. Mangino did not deserve to be dismissed and, if you're one that believes in karma, it's easy to say that struggles and shellackings of the past four-plus seasons have been exactly that.
Maybe KU football was a little bit cursed. Maybe the Curse of the Mangino was to Kansas what the Curse of the Bambino was to the Boston Red Sox. But, instead of having to wait 86 years for the fog to be lifted, maybe Kansas only had to wait five.
Even if Bowen doesn't win and even if he's not the next full-time head coach at Kansas, it's possible that what he does during the next nine weeks will be enough to put the KU football train back on the right track.
In some ways, it seems like that's already happened. There's a different vibe around the building. Doors that were closed are now open. A larger portion of practice will be open to the media and the access to the players and coaches will be greater.
Beyond that, Bowen said he wanted to give the program back to the KU football family and emphasized that all former players are welcome in the building and at practice, no questions asked.
Those are all good first steps. Now all Bowen has to do is make the product on the field match the mood in the building and the vibe of the people close to the program. Only then will people entertain the idea that things might finally be different.