Another Sunflower State program recently provided Kansas football with a potential blueprint for moving on from Les Miles


Kansas receivers coach Emmett Jones slaps hands with Steven Parker at the start of practice on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.

Kansas receivers coach Emmett Jones slaps hands with Steven Parker at the start of practice on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. by Nick Krug

Now that we know that Les Miles is out as the head football coach at Kansas in the wake of recent reports of an alleged sexual harassment scandal at LSU, KU officials need look no further than the southern part of the state for how to handle the aftermath.

Not long ago, it was Wichita State basketball that found itself in this kind of mess, with allegations against now-former WSU hoops coach Gregg Marshall threatening to destroy the program from the inside out.

In the end, after a longer-than-necessary waiting period, Marshall and WSU agreed to part ways and the WSU athletic department, still somewhat reeling from the collapse of it all, moved quickly to name Isaac Brown its interim head coach.

Brown was popular among the WSU players, he had been in Wichita and around the program long enough to know what needed to be done to keep Wichita State competitive and, most importantly, he was the polar opposite of the polarizing Marshall.

Wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Emmett Jones is that man for Kansas, and the Jayhawks could do far worse than to name him the interim head coach the way the Shockers did with Brown.

Like Brown, Jones is well liked by the current players and beloved by many of the promising young recruits who have signed with Kansas during the past couple of years. Keeping him gives KU its best chance at keeping them. The importance of that cannot be overstated right now.

Because if you think it’s been bad to this point, go do another coaching search, hire some other new face, start all the way over again and watch what that does to the roster numbers and competitive makeup of the program. Trust me, that outcome ain’t pretty.

Who knows if Jones’ story will end the same way Brown’s has. A little more than a week ago, the interim tag was removed from Brown’s title and he signed a five-year deal, worth about $6 million, to lead the Wichita State men’s basketball program full-time.

Maybe that would be Jones’ fate, too. Maybe not.

In announcing a mutual parting of ways between KU and Miles, the school indicated that a national coaching search for a replacement would begin immediately.

But who in their right mind — inside the athletic department or on the outside looking in — wants to watch Kansas go through another coaching search right now? Sure, there are candidates. Good ones at that. But how interested would any of them be in the Kansas job this time around? And how in the heck do you sell this place — to coaches, recruits, current players or donors?

Recent coaching searches have turned up nothing, and maybe it’s time for Kansas to go about this a whole different way.

Les Miles and Charlie Weis, and to a lesser degree Turner Gill and David Beaty, all came to Kansas as well-known names with a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding whether they’d be able to do the job or do a good job.

Jones, like Brown at WSU, has been completely off the radar for nearly every coaching hire that has taken place across the country for the past two years. He also has been the one current KU assistant who consistently has been praised by all of the people in college football and at Kansas who have I have talked to since he arrived.

Give him the chance to lead the Jayhawks and see if trying to execute a different game plan in the football building can save the program.

Because it’s obvious that what KU has been doing thus far — three ADs, four different head coaches and dozens of different assistant coaches and support staff members — just hasn’t worked.

Continuity is so critical at Kansas, and giving Jones the interim tag for the 2021 season would not only help calm the waters but also would give KU plenty of time to do an extremely thorough search.


Dirk Medema 1 year, 6 months ago

I definitely don’t know Jones or any of the other coaches, etc, but hiring Jones seems to have a lot of parallels with hiring Coach Beaty. Maybe with an interim tag, it would be more reasonable. It was obvious that CB was going to have to grow into the HC position and never did. Maybe if Jones is the IHC, it would be like a long interview that would be great if successful, but also not as crushing if it doesn’t work out.

At least the roster isn’t nearly the mess it was 6 years ago.

Matt Tait 1 year, 6 months ago

Yet. I'm telling you, if they make the wrong move here and a bunch of these guys enter the transfer portal, KU could be back there in a hurry. And then what?

Not saying it has to be Jones. But he'd help with roster retention big time. And, yeah, the year-long type of audition/interview is exactly the way I think I'd take it.

All depends on who else they could get, though, of course. In my mind, that list isn't very long. How the heck could it be right now? Unreal.

Jennifer Nikkila Pressgrove 1 year, 6 months ago

Ted Lasso also did pretty well with Wichita State and he's got midwest ties. Who's his agent?

Joey Meyer 1 year, 6 months ago

Matt, these are all great points. Some continuity to keep the talent that is budding on this roster is critical.

Any chance you see us finally thinking different and finally adopting a junk offense?

Would love to see us keep the talent we have, take a unique approach and recruit/play to a strength in the triple option. The program is at such a low with coaching I feel like this is finally the time we should pull the trigger on a triple-option coach.

Buck Bukaty 1 year, 6 months ago

Check-in to inquire if Mr Eric Bieniemy may have an interest.

Andy Godwin 1 year, 6 months ago

That would be an interesting and exciting hire for the football players and program. I am not sure if Bieniemy would want to hurt his chances for an NFL job (maybe even as early as next year with the new rules to wait until the playoffs are over to start hiring replacement head coaches) heading 40 miles west. But that should be Long's first call. Followed by Ted Lasso- the the program needs some positive vibes.

Matt Tait 1 year, 6 months ago

I can see why you thought of Bieniemy, and he's a terrific coach. But the guy has a future as an NFL head coach and seems to be very happy at that level. Coming here to take over this mess is probably not something he would even consider for fear of knocking him off the path he is currently on. Not to mention, another year with Mahomes sounds like a heck of a lot more fun than running the show in Lawrence.

Rae Bricil 1 year, 6 months ago

the chances of KU getting Bieniemy are only slightly better than getting Reid.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 6 months ago

So there is a chance to get Reid? I'm all in.

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 6 months ago

I totally agree that someone from the staff should take the lead for the next season and then if they are not selected permanently we can do a search then. Whether it is Jones or Eargle, I am not sure, but either of those would likely be better than bringing in a new coach at this time. A new coach would likely bring some assistants with him that would dismiss some of those who are most important to these kids on our roster. Calm the waters for a year. See what the OC and DC can do. We have solid coaching in the secondary, DL and now a solid OL coach who needs a year to show what he can do with these kids. This team, if led from within, could actually surprise some folks this year and definitely next year.

Brett McCabe 1 year, 6 months ago

Matt’s column hits a number of chords. There are three paths for KU: promote from within, do a true national search or, echoing Joey, we go hard after Jeff Monken or one of the Academy OC’s.

Matt is right that the worst option is the national search, significant transfers, new staffing. It sets us way back. And who knows how it will all work out?

Thee triple option approach, to me is the clear top choice. But that would require courage. Not sure if Girod has it. Yes, you have the negatives of transfers, etc. but at least you have a clear vision of where you are headed and why you are headed there.

Promoting Jones would offer a lot of value, a lot of stability and it would make a lot of sense. I like the idea of having a person of color in charge of the program and Jones has certainly delivered in many ways for KU already. He has certainly earned a look.

KU has had two successful coaches in the past 40+ years. One was a proven success at a MAC program (just like Pinkel and Campbell) and one was a proven OC at the highest level, in our conference. If one of those descriptions fits you as a coach right now, are you taking a call from Kansas? Ummmm, not a chance.

KU needs to do something different. Promoting from within fits that bill.

David Robinett 1 year, 6 months ago

Totally agree Matt: Emmett Jones is that man for Kansas.

We need to keep the recruits and kids we have. And having an African American head coach would be a differentiator in recruiting as well.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 6 months ago

A receivers coach with no coordinating or head coaching experience is a differentiator? We just tried that before Les Miles and it was not successful.

We need a head coach.

Cora Smith 1 year, 6 months ago

I wonder if Dearmon is sad he left. Such strange circumstances. He would have been a top candidate for head coach if he had stayed (even though I was never impressed.)

Matt Tait 1 year, 6 months ago

Not sure he would've been the choice. But it's safe to say he definitely would have had some support from the fan base.

Brett McCabe 1 year, 6 months ago

Dearmon was impatient, or he was pushed out by Miles. Dearmon knew Miles had another year or two, maximum. Then the job would be available.

I agree with you that Dearmon didn’t do much to impress. Although his recruiting was solid. With a full roster of Big 12 players, maybe he would have done something. The problem with offensive gurus is that their schtick has a limited lifespan. Then they have to change and adapt. Some do. Some don’t.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 6 months ago

Am i the only one that can't believe that the recommendation is to hire a WR coach with no coordinating experience sounds exactly like the mistake we made with Beaty?

Get a coach that has success and I don't mean running the triple option like OU did back in the 80s. High Schools aren't running that, and so recruiting would be hard for that.

An Interim tag is not good for recruiting...we need a head coach, not a trial.

Matt Tait 1 year, 6 months ago

I don't disagree, but the job of finding a head coach is much, much tougher given what the calendar reads.

The No. 1 goal right now should be to retain as much of this young and potentially promising roster as possible so that the next head coach has something to work with.

Starting over at a time when the rest of the world is starting spring football is a dangerous move and could wind up leaving KU football even further behind if you can believe that.

I think you can operate with an interim coach for 2021 (KU has enough experienced assistants to pull it off) and spend the next 10 months truly vetting and searching for the best possible replacement.

Hire that guy in December, keep some of the current staff and head into the offseason ready to go full speed ahead in 2022.

It's certainly not the only approach. But it's definitely the way I would do it, whether with Jones or some other interim HC.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 6 months ago

I enjoy your articles and i enjoy your perspective, but there is no way we should do exactly what we did with Beaty. With the free transfer year and an interim tag, half the players will be gone by the end of spring training. You have to hire a coach.

Layne Pierce 1 year, 6 months ago

Matt with all due respect, Mr. Brown had a lot more experience and was ready to be a head coach, Mr. Jones, simply is not ready yet, and even if all the players stay, what is the point, they will not be successful, and a year later we are right back where we were.

I suggest that we should assume that what Miles was doing was building the program in the right way, and we emphasize that we are looking for someone to continue the process.

I totally agree that we should hire a coach, who as Mr. Debord said organizes the offense and defense around the abilities of the players, not the other way around. We will never recruit well enough for that.

Lastly, we should look at the track record of the person in terms of developing players, that is why the academies might be the place to go. Being so desperate is exactly how we got where we are now. I would pay a mint to a very good oc or dc who has the skills and preparation to manage a Top 50 program, which is where we are going. Also, be sure he has never so much as smiled at a cheerleader, sad, but true, those are the times we live in.


Jeff Kallmeyer 1 year, 6 months ago

How about recently-hired OC Mike Debord as interim head coach? How about looking at UT-ex Tom Herman as head coach?

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 6 months ago

Tom Herman might be the best idea that I've heard. Not that i think he would do great, but I do think he could hold down the fort. I'm a hire or don't hire, not an interim guy though.

Steven Haag 1 year, 6 months ago

Matt, remember Beaty’s last year at KU? Almost everybody could see the writing on the wall....even the recruits. So, when Beaty was sent packing, we had like 2 recruits. Here’s my question: if you give the reins to Emmett as interim and say he is able to keep most of the recruits. Building on next years class may be hard as many recruits could be scared to commit with the possibility that Emmett doesn’t land the HC job and whoever does, may send him packing. Any concerns there?

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