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Has the fog lifted around KU football?

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Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will take over as interim head coach until a replacement for Charlie Weis is found.

Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will take over as interim head coach until a replacement for Charlie Weis is found. by Nick Krug

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.

Comments

David A. Smith 8 years ago

You have to feel great for Bowen. Being the head coach at the University of Kansas is his dream job. And make no mistake about it- nothing would be better for KU than having a KU guy- someone that has bled Crimson and Blue from childhood- at the helm, having success. So, I am rooting for you, Mr. Bowen! Play for keeps!

Andy Tweedy 8 years ago

Does Bowen get more money for this title? I was thinking about this last night, and from a financial perspective, firing the coach mid-season seems like it's just fine and dandy. If we aren't paying Bowen more money, we really aren't out any more than we would have been had we fired him after the season. Just a thought. Also, we read a lot about Cozart's confidence and how it had to be handled. How in the world does his confidence not get shattered when he HAS to know the lack of an offense and/or QB basically got his coach fired? I just don't see how this can help him in any way, shape or form. Just another random thought regarding yet another crap day in the life of a Jayhawk football fan (and I say that, not because Weiss shouldn't have been canned, but because 'here we go again').

Aaron Paisley 8 years ago

I'm happy to see Bowen at least get a shot at his dream job. We can debate all day long how he'll do in that role, but there is one thing that nobody can legitimately dispute. There is not a single coach in the country with more passion for Kansas football than Clint Bowen. I think that passion for Kansas football might be enough to not completely destroy the 2015 recruiting class.

KU national is hoping you succeed Clint.

Andy Tweedy 8 years ago

I just don't see how we can possibly know if he will succeed, even judging by what he has/hasn't done as a DC. Brian Billick was thought of as a great OC when the Ravens hired him, and he won a Super Bowl with maybe the best defense the NFL has seen in 50 years. His offense could barely score the year he won the SB. Clearly, he was a pretty good head coach, but it seemingly had very little to do with his ability to plan an offense, and that dude went through more experiments at QB than Weiss did!

Jordan Bass 8 years ago

Still with the Weis defending through Gill bashing? We are now two coaches removed from Gill. We get it, you didn't like him. Further, saying KU fans should be "forever thankful" for Weis "working hard" while throwing shade at Gill is pretty laughable and petty.

Matt Tait 8 years ago

Fair enough. It's my opinion, though, and that's what I was writing here. It's not about like or dislike, it's about I thought one gave it all he had (and just wasn't good enough) and the other didn't.

I think it's relevant because Bowen is following both failed eras.

Thanks for reading.

Chris Baker 8 years ago

Matt I agree with your opinion, and enormously respect your writing. While both Weis and Gill failed, I think there was an enormous difference in the commitment level and passion put into their work between the two coaches. Weis gave it his all. Gill... it never quite felt like he really threw himself into it the way Weis and Mangino did.

With that said, I too had to re-read that last line a couple of times to make sure I understood what you were saying right. It does feel a bit unnecessary at this point.

Gregor Southard 8 years ago

From what I've read and heard, Matt, your assessment of Gill was spot on. Anybody else out there thinking maybe we hired our next Fambrough?

Titus Canby 8 years ago

Yes! I was thinking the same thing.

Jordan Bass 8 years ago

I disagree, but fair enough. IMO, we are far enough from the Gill era that everything is going to be revisionist history and views on it are always going to be jaded. I don't remember him not working hard, but again, that was two coaches ago and my memory could be flawed.

Matt Tait 8 years ago

No sweat, man. And I'd agree that we are far enough removed from it if the decisions he made and didn't make weren't still negatively affecting the roster... It is time to move on. And, since Bowen and whoever's next won't have followed Gill, it won't come up as much. But they'll still be cleaning up part of his mess, at least for a little while.

Again, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Have a great night!

Titus Canby 8 years ago

I'm with you, Matt. There was a huge difference between the Gill and Weiss teams. Gill's team looked like they had no idea what they were doing on both sides of the ball. Weiss' team seemed well disciplined, but just couldn't execute. Totally a function of hard work and smarts.

Jonathan Allison 8 years ago

I agree, that was a bit of a low-blow shot on Gill. The man may not have slept in his office, but firing him after two seasons is not exactly giving him a fair shake, especially in hindsight. Not to ignore that Weis took over a bunch of problems regarding academics and other violations, but we honestly have no idea what the state of the program would be right now in the 5th year of Gill's 5 year contract. It's hard to say we'd be any worse than we are right now.

Waylon Cook 8 years ago

lmao. Are people really defending Gill? Gill and Weis hires made us the laughing stock of the Big 12 shortly after Mangino had managed to get us away from that title.

Jonathan Allison 8 years ago

not defending Gill. Just stating that he didn't get a fair chance. Hired by Lew Perkins and fired after two seasons by Zenger. Weis at least got a shot at a third season, but it was clearly squandered at this point. I don't know what Gill's work schedule was like, but Keegan and Tait have given him some flak about leaving work at 5pm. If the basis of their criticism is that Weis sleeps in his office and stays up late and gets up early, then I don't think it's a fair criticism. After all, Gill was actually making some good inroads on the HS recruiting trail, but he didn't get enough time to show if they would pan out on the field.

Chris Bailey 8 years ago

Gill was TERRIBLE. What did he do well in his time at KU? Not a Damn thing. Matt, I saw nothing wrong with it and in fact get it. Gill was not cut out to coach at this level. And at least Weis was able to clean up the program from the mess Gill left. Oh you don't wanna run or lift that's fine. We'll sit around and talk prayer and hope that makes us ready. I'm not bashing God so don't take that wrong I'm a Christian but just know God only helps those that help themselves. That means preparing and doing what is necessary to be better physically and spiritually. Gill allowed players to basically do as they pleased. Not gonna cut it.

Joe Ross 8 years ago

I hope everyone here has learned the lesson well of exercising caution with expectations. Kansas football has been so bad that even the appearance of change beckons fans to hope beyond what is reasonable. I can understand that. Honestly I can. Eventually some lever is going to be pulled and its going to be the right one. But thinking too optimistically can lead to disappointment when the optimism is based on hope rather than performance in a position. This was the critical error of the Mangino firing. He had performed and Lew, not having had the breadth and scope of the misery of Kansas football, thought him dispensable. He was not. Some knuckleheads here do not understand that the failures of Mangino's last season had more to do with losing a team because of Perkin's conducting of an investigation mid-season and making that inquisition very high-profile than anything else. Yet they held out false hope that Turner Gill would be the answer. That hope was not based on performance, yet the comments on this site would have had you believing Gill was the next Saban. Disaster followed. Gill was shown the door and Weis was hired. After the misery of the Gill tenure, I jettisoned my better judgment and threw skepticism to the side, and welcomed the Weis hiring. That hope was not based on performance. Even his relative success at Notre Dame was achieved with a disciplined squad that met with moderate success under Ty Willingham. They had played together for some time and had great senior leadership. Charlie Weis may be given credit for stepping in and providing motivation and inspiration to a group that may have only lacked that, but it's clear from those who were around the program at that time that Weis' coaching was not the catalyst. That was evident in subsequent seasons. Therefore, my hope in Weis when he came to Kansas had more to do with the replacement of Turner Gill than Weis' own qualifications for the Kansas job. Again, the error of false hope was committed. I have learned my lesson. With Bowen, I am neither excited nor do I view his upcoming stint with a downcast eye. I will simply wait for evidence to arise before I pre-qualify or -disqualify him. And at season's end, if Zenger has any chutzpah, he will undo Bernadette Gray-Little's glaring error and rehire the architect of a rebuilt Kansas program in Mark Mangino. And I dont care which of you candy-@$$e$ disagree with it. I'm actually looking forward to seeing Mangino return to Memorial with Iowa State. I guarantee you the talk will be buzzing about his candidacy by then. The next head coach at Kansas should have on his resume that he took a bad program and resurrected it to relevance. Bowen is not that man, though I would CERTAINLY keep him on as DC. Kansas is in a desperate situation that calls for a very BOLD move! Rehire Mark Mangino.

Ron Prichard 8 years ago

So anyone who doesn't want Mangino back is a candy#*$? I said it yesterday and I will say it one more time. MOVE ON! Seriously, get over it already.

John Waszak 8 years ago

Although I do agree with much of what you have said. PLEASE ENOUGH WITH REHIRE MANGINO!

Look, the fighting Mangino's were fun and looked hopeful and MM did a great job of bringing some respect to KU football. But, let's look at the facts. Other than the Orange Bowl season, where we didn't play the top two Big 12 teams that season - Texas & Oklahoma and lost to the 3rd best Mizzou, (7-1 in league) Mangino was mediocre. In 8 seasons he was 0-8, 3-5, 2-6, 3-5, 4-4 and 1-7 (plus the 7-1 Orange-bowl season) in Big12 play. So, improvement from year 1 to 2, then what? In the 7 non-Orange Bowl seasons the hawks had 4 season with ZERO Big12 road wins and 3 seasons with ONLY 1 road win Really I wish everyone that thinks Mangino was great would just look at his record. Two of the bowl games we entered at 6-6 and 6-5. Really? ENOUGH ! MOVE ON ! Stop complaining about how the administration and others are happy with mediocrity when all I hear from the "Bring Back Mangino" crowd is a call for a return to mediocrity!

Gregor Southard 8 years ago

Can you name another coach who took KU to 4 bowl games in 5 years?

Aaron Paisley 8 years ago

When did Mangino do 4 bowl games in 5 years?

Aaron Paisley 8 years ago

Mangino did 4 in 6 seasons. KU didn't go to bowls in 2004 or 2006.

John Waszak 8 years ago

6 years, but who's counting? And, again, if the folks calling for MM to come back are setting the bar at 1 in 8 seasons with a winning record in conference and getting to 2 bowl games with 6 wins are this easily impressed than, wow, you don't really have big dreams...

I would love to see a Hollywood story play out with Bowen. A Kansas kid that apparently has bleed crimson and blue his entire life, marries Miss Kansas, plays for the Hawks and gets a shot to coach them. I'm not saying this will happen, but hey, the next few months can at least be a lot of fun. And, after all, isn't this what we are all here for? To cheer our favorite school, have fun and wish for greatness from these young men and coaches? That's why most of us love the college game.

Micky Baker 8 years ago

Did you really have to go there with the candy-a$$e# remark? That just made your whole post a waste.

Joe Ross 8 years ago

If you cant sift through to get to the meat of a lengthy post without being derailed by a two-word characterization, then your problem is not without.

Doug Cramer 8 years ago

PREACH IT J-ROSS !!!!!!!!! Bring back MANGINO !!!!!!!!

Jim Baker 8 years ago

What makes anyone think Mark Mangino would take Kansas back after the way he was treated in the end?

Christopher Hauser 8 years ago

I can only speculate as to how Bowen will do as HC so I will refrain from that. Having said that, I think we can all agree that Clint Bowen has a Don Fambrough type of love for The University of Kansas and that makes it very easy for me to root for his success. Maybe only someone KU can fix KU football, time will tell......

Chayse Patrick 8 years ago

why would anyone even think about MM coming back? He was insulted and constantly belittled about his weight problem with banners and cruel remarks from everybody. Zenger failed miserably with Weis so I really hope that if Bowen isn't the next head coach that Zenger will ask for a committee's help in going after the next coach!! There isn't any reason on this earth why KU cannot be competitive in football. MM did it so Zenger has plenty of time to get this done!! Rock Chalk!!

Micky Baker 8 years ago

That isn't why I think the KU football fanbase isn't that good, but it is true. This just solidifies that. So many of them are more interested in playing politics with this than they are being truthful about it.

Bryce Landon 8 years ago

When was the last time we had a true KU guy on our sidelines? Don Fambrough, maybe?

Jonathan Allison 8 years ago

I highly doubt that KU Football is anywhere near out of the fog.

The odds are stacked strongly against Bowen to win the position going forward. I think he has to win 2 games to remain a candidate, and I don't know who Kansas is capable of beating. But if the players and coaches do have renewed freedom with Weis out and they are motivated by Clint's fire and they do win a few games then I think 3 wins makes Bowen the frontrunner for the position.

Perhaps Weis was unintentionally holding everyone back. Maybe Reagan didn't feel free to run the offense how he wanted too, maybe the players were anxious over all of the speculation about Weis' job. Or maybe we just aren't good.

I hope that Bowen wins, but if he doesn't win I hope that we will remove the coaching search blinders and look at every name and not just "splashy" hires. I don't even care if we hire a coach who sees KU as a stepping stone. If a coach can come in and do a 3 year rebuild and then get better offers then he's served us well. After all, Gill and Weis didn't even get 3 years.

Doug Cramer 8 years ago

Matt - you just won my heart back.

Matt says -

"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"

Its about gosh dang time we admit that...all of KU Nation...including the irrationals out there that supported Perkins in 2009. This University screwed itself, and we paid dearly, and we will continue to pay until we get another Snyder disciple in here that knows how to win in this state.

Micky Baker 8 years ago

Actually, not very many people supported Perkins because of the ticket scandal. They blamed it for him for that because, "it happened under his watch". You know, kind of like blaming a President of the USA for things that happened before him that create the housing bubble, and then dumped on the market by those institutions supported by government that created those assets.

That 2009 season didn't really have much to do with the 7 straight losses to end the season. Kansas went from 11-1 in the regular season to 7-5(barely getting that 7th win), and then 5-7, and they lead 4 or 5 of those games in the 4th quarter.

I'm not really a conspiracy theorist, but it is interesting that in 2009, there were investigations launched into Leavitt, Leach, and Mangino, all former assistants of Bill Snyder. Then after all three of the former assistants were fired, Snyder returns. Don't you think that timing is a bit suspicious? 3 teams having success. Kansas had won 3 of 4 from 2006 through 2009, Texas Tech won 5 straight against Kansas State. Then, same season, both head coaches gone just in time for Snyder's return.

Chayse Patrick 8 years ago

Yep Micky I had those same thoughts in my mind for 5-6 years about the 3 coaches being fired and grandpa bucky coming back!! Timing you say? It seems suspicious to me but I didn't bring it up where I live. People woulda wondered what I was smoking!! There are snitches everywhere..... and people do anything to win!!!

Gregor Southard 8 years ago

Yep, KU football sucks... it's Bush's fault!

Al Martin 8 years ago

Rightly or wrongly, probably wrongly, I'm taking credit for the phrase "Curse of the Mangino", and I do think that a program with a fragile history like ours courts disaster whenever we do something like fire a demonstratedly competent coach.

I was on campus this weekend (and yes I did stay for the entire game, sadly), and I do have this caveat. I was reminded several times that Mangino did bring his troubles on himself. He was an insufferable jerk to nearly everyone, and therefore had no friends when he needed them. Many of his coaches left, sometimes in sideways moves, and that doesn't speak well for what it was like to work with him. Joe might think that makes them candy-a$$es, and maybe so.

One would hope that perhaps he's learned from that experience, though. And heck, I don't have to put up with him, so sure, bring him back! :-)

Paul Rupp 8 years ago

Folks, I am as big as a KU Homey as there is. I convince myself to drink the kool-aid every year that we will improve over the year before, because....well I just do. I'm drinking it again with this change--but I don't do it now in the context of because one, unique, remarkable year, that I enjoyed very much and will always remember, we went to the Orange Bowl in which we had not just Todd Reesling, but Todd Reesling AND Kerry Meyer, AND a schedule of a lifetime that matched up well with having that dynamic duo as well as a good enough, then-jerk of a coach. We didn't go to the Orange Bowl because of Mangino. We didn't go because we had Todd. We went because we had Mangino, Todd, Kerry, and the schedule. It was magical, fun, enjoyable, and inspiring that a group of an underdog, hard working, inspired kids punched above their weight and achieved something fantastic in their circumstance.

My point? The folks that are setting the bar at 2-3 wins the rest of this season to give Bowen a thumbs up are delusional. Our schedule is: the Big Twelve/now Ten. Given the hole where we have been in the last few years, I'm closer to setting the bar at 2-3 touchdowns for a bigger chance to see what Bowen can do. Passion sustained over a period of time for KU is needed to dig out of this hole...and a break or two along the way.

RCJH.

Kevin Randell 8 years ago

Matt....for the love of all that is holy, would you please take a trip up to Ames and have a face to face interview with Mangino? I personally am curious if he "would" come back, but if he has truly closed this chapter in his life, and has moved on, I think it would help the fan base who so want him back to have closure and move on as well. Because whether it's Mangino, or someone else, I and many of the Jayhawk Nation just want a competitive program. Because we are for ALL of KU.....not just basketball.

John Fitzgerald 8 years ago

If you didn't get pumped up after listening to Bowen talk today then you're crazy. You can hear the passion in his voice. I love it. I'm totally rooting for him. Only concern I have about him being HC is his recruiting ability. Anyways, we have a lot of season left so we will see how it all turns out. If he magically gets us to a bowl game then the job is his, no question. Notice how I said "magically." Want all the haters to read that before they start pooping all over that statement.

Aaron Paisley 8 years ago

Bowen has always recruited the Kansas and KC areas well. A huge part of putting together a coaching staff is finding guys with strong ties to a certain region of interest. Dave Campo has strong ties to the DFW and Texas markets outside of Houston because of his long tenure with the Dallas Cowboys. Reggie Mitchell has strong ties in Big 10 country and the Kansas and KC region, Eric Kiesau has strong ties out west because of his time at Washington and Colorado, Jeff Blasko has a lot of JuCo connections, and Buddy Wyatt has some good Texas ties in the Houston area.

The biggest thing missing from the current coaching staff recruiting wise is someone with some Florida ties.

Don Frey 8 years ago

Clearly this is all the fault of Harry Reid

Stan Unruh 8 years ago

An assistant coach at Clemson took over their football team in '08 and is doing just fine. Dabo Swinney's enthusiasm helped turn that program around.
Maybe Bowen's energy will bring success to Memorial Stadium?

Jonathan Allison 8 years ago

If Bowen can win 3 games for KU, then I believe the job is his. If he wins two games then he's definitely still in the mix.

Here's the rundown on the remaining schedule in order likelyhood for a win. Five out of 8 games are against ranked opponents. WVU is also receiving votes in the polls.

Home Games ISU, 11/8 TCU (25), 11/15 OSU (21), 10/11

Winnable Road Contests @ WVU, 10/4 @ TTU, 10/18

Only Dreaming @ KSU (23), 11/29 @ OU (4), 11/22 @ Baylor (7), 11/1

Three of our 5 winnable games are in the next three weeks before our BYE week which does not bode well. The WVU game may be more winnable than the home contest with OSU based on the emotion around the program right now, but with our track record for road success I still think we're better off at home. I've got Baylor as our least likely win simply because they score so much and we score so little.

Richard Andrade 8 years ago

Mostly good points all around. Seems like Bowen's fate might hinge completely on winning at least a few games this season, and that goal probably hinges on getting Cozart to perform, and that goal hinges on building up what is universally characterized as his fragile confidence. So, no confidence, no Cozart; no Cozart no wins; no wins, no Bowen extension. When you only bring out your QB to talk to the media for games you won, you know things are really bad.

Now, if I'm coaching any upcoming KU FB opponent, I KNOW the KU plan offensively is going to be either run, while trying to start rebuilding that Cozart confidence with short, easy passes. Once I know that, and with the conventional wisdom that all remaining opponents will have at least, if not higher, talent level overall than KU (hey, it hurts but it's reality), then I'm already 90% of the way to beating this team.

That's a tough slog for anyone. I'm not a KU fan, but it seems Bowen's got some electricity going here, and even if KU can't put many more in the W column, I wouldn't mind seeing what he could do with a full season to work with, instead of basing that decision on how the rest of this season plays out.

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