10:48 a.m. Update:
It looks like the timeline for the the KU coaching hire has moved up drastically and, according to multiple sources, an announcement could come as soon as this afternoon.
It looks as if Texas A&M recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach David Beaty has emerged as the clear leader for the job and may be named the 38th coach in KU history as soon as this afternoon.
According to a source, the KU assistant coaches were asked to leave the football complex today because someone of some importance was coming through later. According to online flight tracking, there is a plane en route to Lawrence from College Station, Texas.
Beaty was believed to be a strong candidate throughout the process, with his recruiting ties in Texas and past experience at KU giving him two important qualities for the job based on what KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger outlined as key factors before the search fully began.
Beaty, 43, worked on the staff of Mark Mangino at Kansas from 2008-09 and for one year under Turner Gill in 2011.
According to USA Today, he made $359,500 at A&M in 2013. He is expected to make at least twice as much as that plus incentives at KU.
Stay tuned for more updates as this story develops.
Original post, 9:39 a.m.:
It's Friday, and we've now had a full week of coaching search speculation and banter while Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger has had a full week to conduct phone interviews and narrow down his list of candidates to replace Charlie Weis.
From what I've been able to gather, it sounds like this thing is close to wrapping up but that does not necessarily mean there's a clear No. 1 or No. 2 choice, just that they've done a fair amount of narrowing down candidates and are in position to conduct final interviews and use those to make their decision.
I think it's safe to say that between 7-12 coaches (perhaps one or two more) went through phone interviews with Zenger and members of the search committee this week — a couple are probably still doing that today — and I'm guessing that four or five of those will get an in-person interview, which could begin as soon as Sunday night but most likely will take place Monday and Tuesday.
There appears to be the sense that this thing could wrap up even before next Friday, but that, of course, depends upon how the in-person interviews go and assumes that no other new candidates join the party. It's hard to know whether that will happen, but it certainly could. As I was told from the beginning, the search committee would not be opposed to 11th-hour interest, provided it came from the right candidate.
It seems Clint Bowen, David Beaty, Tim Beck and Ed Warinner will get interviews. That has been reflected in the percentage wheel throughout this process. I still think there could be another serious contender or two involved here, but I've had a hard time pinpointing who that might be. If that's the case, it's most likely a sitting head coach, but my money would be on it being a name we might not have heard much, if at all, during the past week. In short, I don't think it's Willie Fritz, Bo Pelini, Jerry Kill or any of those other names you've all heard throughout this process.
I'm still working the phones to try to see if any of my sources have heard any other names pop up, so stay tuned throughout the day for updates, if available.
While we wait, let's look at a few of the factors that I think will be crucial during the interview process and probably already were during the round of phone interviews. Generally speaking, the second interview becomes an extended version of what already took place over the phone. I heard the phone interviews were around an hour, but you can bet the in-person interviews will be three times that long, if not longer.
• One thing I think the committee will really want to hear is who each candidate believes it can bring in as part of its coaching staff. This, obviously, is not a guarantee, but it's pretty common for guys who have head coaching aspirations to have an idea of who they'd like to have on their staff and many of them have even had conversations with these guys in the past. Something like, 'Hey, if I were to get this job or that job would you come with me as my OC?' They don't have to have signed contracts at the ready during the interviews, but I think one of the advantages of having a committee here is that you get several different opinions and reads on how confident a candidate is in the staff he could put together based on how he tells you who it might be.
• Another huge aspect is each coach's recruiting plan. This goes beyond just saying, “We'd hit Texas pretty hard” and stuff like that, and includes information on the types of kids and players they'd go after along with the crucial territories and any plans for how to make recruiting Kansas a priority and how to handle walk-ons.
• The committee also is going to want to hear about general football philosophies. For example, if a guy comes in and talks about running a pro style offense, he probably won't be seen in the most favorable light. But this step goes beyond just talking about offensive and defensive schemes. The committee also will want to hear how each candidate plans and expects to compete as a heavy underdog in a tough conference and how they would plan to narrow the gap between KU and the rest of the Big 12.
• Another important element of the interview could be to provide a detailed plan for how practices would be run. Again, the candidates probably won't have to go as far as drawing up a complete daily practice schedule — though that probably wouldn't hurt and a couple of guys probably will — but the committee surely will want to hear how practices will be run, what the tone of practices will be like and those on the committee familiar with how things ran under Turner Gill and Weis surely will compare what they hear in interviews to what they saw during the past four or five seasons. Clearly, what's been done in the recent past hasn't worked.
Don't get me wrong, I think the interviews will be very important because they'll allow the committee to get a real, live feel for the confidence, comfort-level and charisma of each candidate. But I don't think this is a deal where a guy can win the job simply by hitting a home run in the interview.
If this committee has done its job, which it seems is the case, then its members have talked to all kinds of people about each one of the candidates and done extensive background checks on each of them, involving everything from football to family to philosophy.
I think that may be why this search has gone at the pace that it has. After back-to-back swings and misses with the past two head coaches, they cannot take anything for granted this time around. And that has way more to do with the overall good of the program and the university than it does just for Zenger and his future.
Having said all of that, my latest percentage wheel has not changed much at all from yesterday morning. I know people expect Warinner to move up on my list, but, even with him coming in for an interview, I'm leaving him where he's been all along for now based on what I've been hearing.
If there's an 11th-hour candidate, that will certainly change things, but, as of now, it seems like Bowen and Beaty are the front-runners and pretty close at the top. It could come down to the interviews and whether Beaty gets an offer. If he does, I think he takes it. If not, I think it's Bowen.
Here's a look:
1. Clint Bowen 34%
1. David Beaty 34%
3. Other 22%
4. Ed Warinner 5%
5. Tim Beck 5%
Stay logged on to KUsports.com throughout the day for any news or updates that may come our way…
1:44 p.m. update:
There was a Tweet out there — isn't there always? — that said that the KU job had been offered to Ohio State assistant coach Ed Warinner.
I talked to plenty of sources today, both before and after the Tweet, who said no offer has been made and that KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger and the search committee were still in the process of trimming down their list and identifying the finalists.
Warinner may very well be in that group and there have been reports that said he was one of the guys who participated in the phone interview with members of the committee this week, but reports of an offer having been made to anybody are definitely premature.
I've been told from the very beginning that Warinner would likely get a chance to interview. That has not changed and he may well be one of the final few guys who gets a face-to-face interview with Zenger and company next week. Time will tell.
Stay tuned for the latest from the search, which is starting to catch some heat given how quickly Florida and Nebraska filled their openings. None of that should matter to KU, though, other than in the obvious way that the openings at Colorado State and Oregon State could impact what KU's doing.
Original post: 9:30 a.m.
It's a little early for an update but I was able to get on the phones a little quicker today and found out a few interesting tidbits that might impact the KU coaching search.
The first has to do with Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, who, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle recently interviewed for the head coach opening at Tulsa, which is his hometown.
The news of Spavital's interview was first reported by KRIV-TV and confirmed by the Tulsa World.
According to a couple of people I've talked with, it sounds very likely that Spavital will get that Tulsa job, which, obviously, would leave open the OC job at A&M. That's where things get interesting for Kansas and for two very different reasons.
If Spavital leaves, one could make a case for Beaty being the obvious choice to replace him as the Aggies OC and that could come with a significant raise and be enticing enough to make him pull his name from contention for the KU job.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if Spavital leaves and A&M coach Kevin Sumlin chooses to put someone other than Beaty into the OC job, it would open up some questions as to why Beaty was passed over a second time for that OC job. When talking about Beaty as an option for the KU job, many have said it would be hard enough to envision KU hiring someone who's not even a current coordinator, but wouldn't the hire be even more difficult to sell with a guy who keeps getting passed up?
It's things like this that make the whole timeline of this hire very critical. The more these other moves happen around KU, the more possible it is that they impact the KU job. That's not to say each instance has a direct effect on what KU is actually doing, but, in the coaching world — especially as far as the fans and media are involved — perception is almost as important as reality.
And it's things like this that leave me believing Clint Bowen still has a very good shot of getting this job.
Here's a look:
1. Clint Bowen – 38%
2. David Beaty – 30%
3. Other – 23%
4. Ed Warinner — 5%
5. Tim Beck — 4%
Stay logged on to KUsports.com for more updates throughout the day.
When covering a coaching search, it's important to keep in mind the entire college football landscape because what happens one place with one opening can impact what happens at another in a hurry.
That's certainly true at Kansas University and has been during each of the past two searches the Jayhawks had for a head football coach.
I've spent parts of the past couple of days looking back at our coverage of the search in 2011 and it brought back some serious memories, a couple of headaches and a few laughs.
One of the things that stood out the most, though, were the jobs that were open last time and how, at the time, it seemed like some pretty big-time gigs.
Texas A&M, UCLA, Mississippi, Arizona State, Washington State, North Carolina and Illinois all had openings at the time Kansas did, and all of them looked to be pretty heavy hitters with whom KU had to compete. The funny thing about that list is it pales in comparison to the jobs that are open this time around.
Florida, Michigan and Nebraska all are looking for head football coaches right now, and, as if those three don't carry enough weight on their own, a few smaller schools, which might actually be trying to pick from the same candidate pool as Kansas (like it or not) also have openings. These include Tulsa, UNLV, Montana and SMU, which already has filled its opening with Clemson assistant Chad Morris.
Although there was more crossover between candidates at Kansas and other schools the last time around, it seems like jumping on their guy a little faster this time around might be a good move for the Jayhawks. When the dominoes start to fall with the big three, the trickle-down effect could impact KU's search in a big way and create unnecessary headaches for Sheahon Zenger and company.
The good news for KU here is that the top names that appear to be in the hunt for the Kansas job do not appear to be options for the big three. If they were, Kansas would be in trouble and likely would have to look elsewhere anyway.
The reason for KU to try to get its deal done before those schools do is because of the potential fallout from a hire by the big dogs. Let's say Michigan hired Brett Bielema away from Arkansas. (Yes, Bielema was in Lawrence on Wednesday but only to visit with and extend an offer to Lawrence High football standout Amani Bledsoe).
Bielema's departure would leave an opening at Arkansas, which could be filled by someone like Justin Fuente, of Memphis. Even though it seems like Fuente is pretty much out of the mix for the KU job, his departure would leave the Memphis job open and that could be appealing to any number of candidates involved with Kansas.
It's a bit of a paranoid way to look at things, but wouldn't that just be KU's luck to finally identify a guy they feel is a good option only to see him plucked away by someone else for more money or a better chance to win right away?
Last time around, when Tom Keegan and I were ranking the job openings from most appealing to least, it was tough to put KU anywhere other than the bottom. This time around, even though those three big-boy jobs are in a different stratosphere, the Kansas opening at least appears to be a middle-of-the-pack gig relative to what's available.
Anyway, it doesn't seem like timing will be an issue here. I still think this thing wraps up mid-to-late next week. And I still think the names who were on my percentage wheel last night are the most likely names KU will go with.
I made a few more calls today and got a little more input on the situation. Nothing earth-shattering, but enough to move the needle a little bit. The order of today's percentage wheel has not changed much, but the values have.
Here's a look:
1. David Beaty – 35%
2. Clint Bowen – 31%
3. Other – 20%
4. Tim Beck — 9%
5. Ed Warinner — 5%
• As you can see, the gap between Bowen and Beaty has narrowed a little bit (at least in my mind) and I think Bowen is still very much alive in this thing. This may seem obvious, but it really could all come down to how Bowen handles the formal interview, whenever that takes place. Sometime early next week seems likely. It's obvious that Bowen has some pretty good support among KU folks and Zenger has seen what he can do with the team, in the locker room and on the sideline. So those things are all known already. What is not completely known by Zenger and the search committee is the breadth and quality of Bowen's vision for how to rebuild KU — although I do know they've had general talks about this topic during the past few months. Answers to questions about his staff, his recruiting plans and things of that nature could be crucial and Bowen may have to be nearly perfect in there to get his shot. If he is and if he's able to really impress Zenger, it could still be him.
• I went ahead and took Fuente off of the wheel completely because I had heard that whatever interest there may have been between Fuente and Kansas had cooled during the past couple of days and he's working on a new deal at Memphis. Here's what Memphis AD Tom Bowen (no relation) said in a recent statement:
“Our administration has been working proactively with Coach Fuente and his representatives on a new contract for several weeks. He has been very engaged and deeply appreciative throughout the process. We are very close to finalizing an agreement and look forward to making a formal announcement at an appropriate time. (We) are extremely excited about continuing to build the Memphis Football program under Fuente’s leadership."
Fuente also commented on the rumors surrounding his candidacy for various jobs during an interview on The Geoff Calkins Show earlier this week:
“Making absurd, definitive statements, in my opinion, is not the smart way to go,” Fuente said. “If something where there’s mutual interest comes along, then I’ll visit with them and we’ll think about it, measure everything out and make a calculated decision. But the thing I would say is I have a lot of sweat equity invested in this program. I have a lot of pride in what we’ve done. We have a fantastic coaching staff. I think we have a great support system to truly build a football program. So it’d have to be something pretty special for me to even look at it.”
• One thing someone pointed out to me that could be relevant if KU were to hire Beaty is that, although his recruiting ties in Texas would be huge, he would not actually be the guy able to recruit the state as much as his assistants because of the rules for how much head coaches can be on the road. Sure, he would be able to get out there and talk to kids and parents, but I don't think he'd be able to put in the same number of hours and visits as his assistants. Head coaches are allowed just one in-school visit with prospects and college programs are allowed a maximum of six in-person, off-campus visits with each prospect from Dec. 1 to Feb. 1, with the month-long dead period basically running during winter break. Such factors would make the staff Beaty brings to KU even more key. Something to consider with that is how well those guys — whoever they are — would know and/or be able to sell Kansas compared to Bowen and the staff he might put together. That's clearly not a make or break either way, just something I hadn't really thought of.
• More tomorrow as we do our best to stay on top of the situation and reach out to as many sources as we can to try to gain some insight into what direction KU might go with this hire.
Talk to a dozen people and you'll get a dozen different opinions on which direction the Kansas University football program should go with its coaching hire.
Check that, you'll probably get about two or three times that many because not only could you get a different name from each person, but you also could get a different list of what factors and elements should be most important.
Welcome to Sheahon Zenger's world.
For some folks it's the idea of recruiting Texas that means the most. These people like, maybe even love, Texas A&M recruiting coordinator and receivers coach David Beaty. And why not? The guy can walk into just about any high school in Texas and bust out a secret handshake or hug with one of the football coaches and, from there, he's got a automatic chance with the players he's going after.
Don't think that's important? Think again. That kind of relationship, which current KU receivers coach Eric Kiesau developed with Nigel King's high school coach, was the deciding factor in why King chose Kansas. King trusted his coach. His coach trusted Kiesau. And the Maryland receiver picked the Jayhawks and never looked back. That's worked out pretty well for both parties, don't you think?
For other people, recruiting Kansas and/or Oklahoma is just as important as Texas. And I don't disagree with that. You'll always want to get as many players out of the Lone Star State as you can, but, at Kansas, you're never going to get the best Texas has to offer. Ever. In Kansas and Oklahoma, your chances go up to get the cream of the crop from those states and you don't have to look that far back to see proof of that. James Holt, Chris Harris and Jake Laptad all came from Oklahoma. Jake Sharp, Kerry Meier, Mike Rivera, Darrell Stuckey and Ben Heeney all came from Kansas. Both states are important. So there's no need for this to be an all-Texas-all-the-time endeavor.
Whether you favor Beaty, Clint Bowen, Tim Beck or Willie Fritz or think that recruiting, player development or sincere connections with big-money donors are the most important jobs of a head coach, this thing is probably going to come down to four or five names that have a real shot at becoming KU's next coach.
I could sit here and draw up a list of 20 guys who have been talked about, considered, contacted or crossed off the list, but that would be a waste of time because many of those guys, although intriguing for one reason or another, were never really in the running.
See, searches like this often travel down two paths. The first and most obvious path is the road to finding the right guy. It's the most important thing on the plates of Zenger and the search committee and you can bet that 12-15 hours a day — phone calls, research, investigations, etc. — from any number of people involved are being spent on trying to pinpoint Mr. Right.
The other path is completely different and, although it does not end up in the home or office of the right guy, it often leads to that person. That's where a lot of those 20 or so names come into play and many of them came into play during the last search, as well. Remember when it was rumored that Zenger had met with former Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez during the search of 2011? It wasn't to see if he was interested in the job. It was instead to see what he thought about the KU program, what others had told him about Kansas and the Big 12 and an inquiry into what factors should be important. And before you go thinking that Alvarez's answers shaped Zenger's opinion, remember that this was just one example of a meeting like that and, therefore, it only had some impact into how Zenger proceeded.
Such conversations are crucial when you're trying to find a coach because Zenger has a much greater responsibility in this whole deal than just to pick the guy he likes. That's especially true this time around after Charlie Weis was shown the door. Zenger has to like the guy in order for him to have a chance, but, believe it or not, this time around it's just as important for others to like him to — committee members, current and former players, athletic department officials and donors alike.
The only way that Kansas is going to successfully rebuild its football program is by finding a leader that can take all of these elements and personalities into account and make all of them work and come together. The project is too daunting for one man — coach or AD — to do it alone. And the road is too rocky and fraught with pitfalls for anyone to expect that.
I think that's why Bowen seems to be the odds-on favorite right now. He's working with the advantage of being able to show concrete evidence of how successful he can be in some of these key areas. The players love him. The alumni is all-in. The product on the field has improved, Oklahoma and Baylor notwithstanding, and Zenger likes him. He would not have given him this chance if that weren't the case.
So, in Bowen, you've got a known commodity, a guy who plenty of people would support and a guy who, no question about it, would give his heart and soul to the program. Heck, he already has.
What the next two weeks or so are about is stacking candidates up against what you know you have in Bowen.
How does Candidate A compare to Bowen in recruiting philosophy and production? How does Candidate B compare to Bowen in player development? How does Candidate C compare to Bowen in ability to connect to people, donors, players and fans alike?
Such a scenario is rare in college coaching because, more often than not, the interim guy is not actually a candidate for the job, more just a guy who can land the ship before leaving town with the rest of the staff.
And because of that, coaching searches often produce a final pool of guys who have to be compared to one another in a guessing-game situation. If a school narrows its choice down to three guys, it has to pick the best of the bunch based on what it thinks it knows — and likes — about each guy. In KU's case currently, it can stack the strengths and weaknesses of the other finalists against what it absolutely does know about Bowen.
While that figures to be a good thing for Bowen, given the way his time as interim coach went and was received, it's an even better thing for Zenger and Kansas because it increases the odds that they'll get this one right.
From the minute he was named interim head coach of the Kansas University football program, on the same day former KU coach Charlie Weis was fired, Clint Bowen brought something to the program that previous head coaches couldn't — a deep and real connection to Lawrence.
That's not to say that Weis, Turner Gill, Mark Mangino and others did not appreciate Lawrence, enjoy living here or develop some kind of connection with the community. But it never came close to reaching the level that Bowen's has.
As you all know by now, Bowen grew up here. He played football at Lawrence High and KU, has been a Jayhawk for as long as he can remember and, perhaps most importantly, has no desire ever to leave. People know that. They also know that he can coach. And when you combine the two, you get the flood of support you've seen growing for Bowen day-by-day, week-by-week for the past couple of months.
I can't go a day or a place in this town right now without hearing somebody talk to me about Bowen and why he's the right guy for the job. It should be pointed out that most of these people are not qualified to hire a head football coach at a major university, but almost all of them are KU fans and it's those fans who will have a big role in helping KU football return to respectability, Bowen or no Bowen.
Some people just talk about their feelings. Others send emails and write letters or post their thoughts on social media sites. And still more have tried to think of ways to demonstrate their support for Bowen in a larger manner. One such way recently showed up at local bars Six Mile Tavern, in West Lawrence, and Louise's Downtown, on Mass Street.
Near the front of each establishment, hang giant banners that simply read “We Want Clint!” They may only be a couple of banners hanging at a couple of bars in town, but they speak for a lot of people and are merely the latest signs of support for the hometown candidate.
The KU administration is going to conduct a full and thorough search at season's end and it's absolutely the right thing to do. The last two hires went wrong and this one, for half a dozen different reasons, has to go right. So taking their time and making sure they get it right should be commended.
Besides, it's not like KU taking its time makes Bowen any less of a candidate or eliminates the overwhelming amount of support he already has received from the community. If anything, it might actually make that support swell.
Bowen will be in the mix. And he will get a legitimate chance to convince KU, beyond the recent results on the field, why he's the best choice for the job. Until then, don't be surprised if you see more banners like these popping up all over town.
The first signs showed up at the weekly Hawk Talk radio show at Salty Iguana a little less than 36 hours after he officially had accepted the title of interim football coach at Kansas University.
But things are starting to get a little more serious now.
That night, back on Sept. 29, friends, family and football supporters packed the restaurant in West Lawrence to standing-room-only capacity to show their support for Clint Bowen, who stepped in to replace the fired Charlie Weis as the leader of the Jayhawks.
Since then, the love for Bowen has only grown. First was the decoration of the football complex that greeted the Jayhawks upon arriving home after their 33-14 loss at West Virginia, Bowen's first game as a head coach. Then came the show of support by former KU players and Bowen teammates prior to last Saturday's 27-20 home loss to Oklahoma State. Between 150-200 former Jayhawks showed up to line the field as the Jayhawks ran out of the locker room, and many said they came specifically because they believe in Bowen, a former Jayhawk player himself, who has spent 16 of 19 coaching seasons in crimson and blue.
The latest in the Bowen love fest showed up sometime Sunday, when a Facebook page touting Bowen as the choice for KU's next head coach was created. By the time I posted this blog it already had received 608 “likes.”
The goal of the Facebook group is spelled out ever-so-simply in the “About” section of the social media site: “This is a page dedicated to making Clint Bowen the next HC for KU football; through the support of KU students, alumni, and fans. WE WANT BOWEN,” it reads. It includes a couple of photos, a couple of posts — the most notable reads “Let Zenger hear us loud and clear - WE WANT BOWEN!!! — and a bunch of familiar names from past KU football rosters.
I first saw the page early Monday morning and thought to myself, 'Huh, look at that, more love for Bowen.' At the time it had around 140 likes and I didn't really think much more about it.
Later in the day, someone sent me a link to the page and when I checked in again, the number of likes had doubled. The same thing happened Monday night, just before I sat down to write this, and that's when I began to pay attention.
Don't get me wrong, I get it; 500, 1,000, even 5,000 likes on a Facebook does not magically make Bowen become the automatic choice to be selected as the next head coach of the Jayhawks. No matter how high the number grows, it likely will never register high enough for KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger to truly factor it into his decision. But I can guarantee you that Zenger, provided he finds out about it, will take note of the page and it will mean something.
What that is is anyone's guess. But, if nothing else, it's a clear sign that Bowen is well liked, and that gives him a chance.
Just for fun, let's say the page was created around 10 p.m. Sunday night. I wrote this blog around 10 p.m. Monday night. So in that 24-hour period, 608 people found it worthwhile to log on to the page and click the like button in support of Bowen.
If the page continues to grow at that pace —which may very well be tied to the question of whether Bowen's Jayhawks continue to play the way they have the past two weeks — then by the time he runs onto the field at Kansas State for the Jayhawks' season finale on Nov. 29, the “We Want Bowen” Facebook page could have more than 29,000 likes, which is probably a little more than the number of people who actually showed up at 50,000-seat Memorial Stadium for last weekend's game. Even that number is not as high as it needs to be to consider the potential hire a home run, but it sure wouldn't hurt.
Reaching that number is probably the longest of long shots. In fact, there's probably very little chance that the number of likes on the page even reaches five digits. But whether they find their way to the Facebook page or not, people everywhere are making it known that Bowen is the guy they want to lead the Jayhawks into the future. I've received emails, phone calls and Tweets that say just that and I'm just one person.
That does not include the feelings of everyone out there, of course. Nor does it mean that many of those same people would be upset if Zenger chose to go a different direction. There are plenty of guys who would be great choices for the job and several who probably would have a terrific shot at becoming successful. But not many of them, if any, would move into the head coach's office at the Anderson Family Football Complex with the kind of backing that Bowen currently has.
He has to sustain that, of course. And the only way for that to happen is for him to continue to make the Jayhawks competitive in what ESPN.com recently voted the second best conference in football in its latest College Football Power Rankings. So, there's that. But if it happens, and especially if Bowen can find a way to lead Kansas to a win or two, then there will be no need to take a poll to find out how people would feel about Bowen being hired. They've already spoken.
Here's a look at the "BOWEN should be HC" Facebook page
Now that interim head coach Clint Bowen is officially into his stint as the Jayhawks' head coach, it's time to examine a few of the more minor details of his takeover that got lost in the celebratory manner in which he transitioned into the job.
One of the important things to remember about Bowen's time as interim head coach is that just because he has the “interim” tag in front of the title does not mean he is not loaded with responsibility. Not only does he have to run the team, come up with the defensive game plan and handle all of the media obligations of the head coach, but he also has within his grasp complete control of his personnel. He showed he understands that last week when he benched starting quarterback Montell Cozart and replaced him with Michael Cummings and also did the same with starting center Keyon Haughton in favor of red-shirt freshman Joe Gibson.
Don't be surprised if you see more moves in the next few days and in the coming weeks — as Bowen has said clearly, the players have to earn the right to play — and don't be surprised if the same concept extends to the roles, responsibilities and input of the coaching staff, as well. Now five games into the season, it's abundantly clear that Bowen and the Jayhawks have to consider every option and angle in their efforts to get the offense going. And that might mean listening to any idea that anyone on the staff has, from the full-time offensive and defensive assistants to the GAs and lower-profile staff members.
OK, now on to some more concrete details...
First off, Bowen's contract did not change. He's still being paid as the school's defensive coordinator for his nine weeks as interim head coach.
On a similar note, Bowen will not be making any money for taking over Weis' role as the featured guest on the weekly Hawk Talk radio show, which airs every Monday night from 6-7 p.m.
As far as where Bowen does most of his dirty work, that did not change either. Bowen did not move into the corner office reserved for the head coach when Weis moved out but he has access to both his old office and the head coach's office so he can have easier access to the coaches on both sides of the ball.
Speaking of Bowen's office, in one of his first meetings with the players following Weis' departure, Bowen informed the team that his door would always be open and even warned them that if he saw any of them making their way into the hallway of coaches offices in the back of the football complex, they would have a meeting. It did not matter if it was one or two guys or a group of 10, Bowen said he would always make himself available to the team whenever they needed to see him. And, on the very first day after he was assigned his new role, nearly 85 members of the team made their way into his office at one point or another to check in with their new leader.
Say this for interim KU football coach Clint Bowen, the guy is going for it.
Not only does he seem prepared, ready and able to run the show, but he's also looked incredibly confident and been able to truly be himself during these past couple of days without having to worry about saying something that might upset his boss.
He's been respectful the whole way, but also flashed a lot of his true personality and, for lack of a better term, sense of humor. Never was that more evident than during Tuesday's regular meeting with the media when Bowen opened up by talking about West Virginia, this week's opponent for the Jayhawks.
Every college coach I've ever covered has opened these deals with a little bit about the team they're playing. They'll tell stories about how they know the opposing coach or how much they respect his staff and then they'll get into some of the highlights of their offense, defense and special teams.
Bowen did all of that and, if you ask me, did it in a way that seemed a lot more like a buddy of yours just telling you about the team than a coach reading something he wrote down to make sure he had something to say. That's because that's who Bowen is. What he was saying up there wasn't rehearsed and he didn't have to think of things to jot down because those things already stuck in his head while he watched game film and tried to prepare a defensive game plan.
He talked about WVU QB Clint Trickett's 72 percent completion rate. And he explained how that didn't come on dink-and-dunk throws. He talked about a couple of WVU receivers who were good players and remembered what they did against Kansas last season. And he talked about the WVU O-Line having some nastiness to it. All good info. All pretty basic.
But before all of that, he slipped in a little of that sense of humor I just spoke about.
See, last week, West Virginia had a bye and was able to get healthy, regroup and get an extra jump on prepping for this week's 3 p.m. Saturday home game against Kansas. During his regular press conference last week, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen was asked about last year's 31-19 loss at Kansas that ended a 27-game Big 12 losing streak for the Jayhawks and featured a KU team beating up the Mountaineers for much of the game.
Holgorsen cut to the chase and said exactly how he felt about it after explaining that he hoped his guys would be a little extra motivated to get some revenge for last year's loss.
“It was a miserable performance,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve been watching it for two straight days and it makes me want to puke.”
Fair enough. Nothing evil there. Just an honest assessment from a coach whose team is off to a 2-2 start but looks much better than it did a year ago and has hung in there big-time during losses to Alabama and Oklahoma, two of the top teams in the country.
Never one to let an opportunity for a joke pass, Bowen slipped in this gem about Holgorsen's "illness."
"I hope that this week his stomach has settled down a little bit, he's not so sick from last week, and he shows up in good health," Bowen said before moving on as if he had said nothing at all.
Nothing evil there, either. Just an honest assessment from a coach who believes in his team and believes it deserves respect. Good to see that all of the craziness and responsibility of the past few days hasn't overwhelmed Bowen and taken the bite out of his wit and humor.
Should be an interesting week.
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.