The Coaching Answer for Kansas Football?

Rob Carr

We are probably stuck with the current regime until Charlie Weis's contract runs out, but after it does the candidate list for next Kansas head coach should be exactly one name long.

I don't need to start off this post by saying that Kansas isn't Alabama, or Florida, or Texas (even this depressed version). It's not in a spot like Oregon where a ton of shoe company money is going to instantly make the program more visible (even if Adidas seems like they're trying to turn us into their Oregon). 4 and 5 star players aren't going to flock to Lawrence where they will be the second most popular group of players and try to start something from scratch. They'd rather go to Columbus or Ann Arbor or South Bend and try to win a national title. It's just the way it is.

With us having established that we can't get top shelf talent, why not try to hire a coach who can win with less talent? I think that was the thought behind Turner Gill, but 1. he hadn't proven he could do that and 2. Kansas paid him like he had been doing it for a decade. But if we are going to hire a coach who needs to win with less talent, let's hire a coach who has proven he can, and one who has given the college football world no reason to think that would stop upon his moving to a bigger program.

The answer? Navy's Ken Niumatalolo. Niumatalolo is 43-27 in his career with Navy, with one 10 win and one 9 win season under his belt. Kansas doesn't have an 8 win season since 2008-09.

The biggest arguments against this hire would be the style of football and the step up in competition. The Big 12 is obviously much better than the types of teams Navy regularly schedules. The Midshipmen currently have wins against Delaware, Indiana and Air Force. Hardly a murderer's row (then again, that's double the FBS wins in the last month than Kansas has in two years, and beating a good FCS team 51-7 is much better than we could do).

Those fears can further be assuaged by looking at Niumatalolo's predecessor at Navy, current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson. Johnson went 45-29 at Navy and has a nearly identical 44-28 record at Georgia Tech, winning one ACC title and two ACC division titles. Granted the Big 12 is a step up from the ACC, and Georgia Tech was in a better spot when Johnson took over, but I don't know a single Kansas fan who would say no to 41 wins in the next five full seasons.

As to the style of play, I know a lot of people think triple option football can be boring. It can be. It's also pretty tough to mount a comeback when your entire gameplan revolves around long running drives. (and for more on that, see the great Navy blog, The Birddog). Plus, it's pretty tough to recruit kids to run that type of offense. I have heard, and understand, all those objections.

The thing is, though, we have already established that Kansas doesn't get a lot of elite recruits anyways. They're sure to get even fewer after the third straight season of 2 or fewer wins (probably). Plus, I don't need to link to Rivals to tell you the type of talent that Navy recruits. With the nature of the academy and the commitment a midshipman has to make after graduating, it's very very tough to recruit to Annapolis. Georgia Tech has has only had marginally better recruits, ranking 29th in Rivals for 2014, but 84th in 2013, 56th in 2012 and 41st in 2011.

This type of offense does not take an abundance of talent to run correctly. And with all of the other Big 12 offenses running (for the most part) spread attacks, Kansas would provide a nice change of pace that would be tough to prepare for and hopefully would allow them to come away surprising a few teams. It also would allow Kansas to maximize its talent. It would be too late for James Sims, Darrian Miller and Tony Pierson, but Kansas has proven that they can recruit running backs a lot more easily than any other position on the field. Furthermore, this type of offense puts more of a premium on having offensive linemen who can move rather than having giants up there (obviously the line would be different when this theoretical coaching switch took place, but the offensive line hasn't been very big in awhile).

The last stumbling block is the salary. Niumatalolo currently makes about $1.6 million per year. But, the chance to move to a bigger conference and with the cost of living in Lawrence being much lower than Annapolis, perhaps the cost won't be so outrageous after all.

Kansas has tried an unproven up and comer. They've tried a big name with Super Bowl rings and BCS berths. It's time for Kansas to think outside the box and hire someone who can overcome the talent gap. Ken Niumatalolo is that man. I'm pretty confident that the only complaints we would have about him is that we would get sick of going to the Pinstripe Bowl, and newspaper columnists would get sick of googling his name to make sure they spelled it correctly.

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