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Being a Football Team at a Basketball School

Why is it so difficult to win on the gridiron at Kansas?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe I haven’t been a fan of Kansas football for long enough, but I still get excited each year when the season comes around. It seems that I’m in the minority here when it comes to Kansas’ other sport.

College football in a major NCAA conference, what’s not to love? You’ve got the tailgating, the fans, and the cheerleaders, but at Kansas we have one thing missing: the winning.

KU hasn’t had a real winning season since 2007, when the Jayhawks marched to a 24-21 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The 2008 squad went 8-5, but since then not much luck has fared for KU fans. Three coaches, five losing seasons and a carousel of quarterbacks have left students at KU with not much to look forward to each fall.

In 2012, Kansas hired former Notre Dame head coach, Charlie Weis. Not to overvalue him, but Weis was supposed to bring success to Jayhawks. Weis was once the coach of a Notre Dame team who went 10-3 and played in back-to-back BCS bowls. He also had success in the NFL, coaching teams like the Patriots, Jets and the Chiefs. Things were supposed to start looking up now with a successful coach. That hasn’t been the case so far in Weis’ two year tenure in Lawrence, leading them to a 4-20 record since 2012.

Still, there seems to be some glimmers of hope scattered around each year.

From hanging in there with Oklahoma until the second half to Charlie Weis guaranteeing a win vs. Texas Tech, there have been moments where you thought maybe the season isn’t doomed after all.

KU started off the season 2-0 last year and some foolishly thought that this would be the year that the Jayhawks climb out of the Big XII cellar. Perhaps it’s just naivety, but some, not many, think that KU will finally turn it around in 2014.

It doesn’t really matter for most KU fans though, as the football season is just filler time in between the "real" season. That’s right, as the chase for a BCS bowl is happening across the nation, most of the Kansas fans already have their attention geared towards Late Night at the Phog, leaving the football team as something of an afterthought. Who can blame them though? The University of Kansas has always and will always prefer basketball over football. Winning does that. Kansas fans can look forward to March Madness each year. They can watch proudly as their former players become top picks in the NBA Draft. The same can’t be said for the football team and it’s not even close.

So what’s the problem here? Is it the coaching? Perhaps Weis had a lucky run at Notre Dame, being a benefactor of a good roster before him. Is it the recruiting? Let’s face it, not many high school seniors are jumping at the shot to play at Kansas. This program hasn’t had produced high number of NFL stars to brag about. The last player to have a real impact in the NFL was the Denver Broncos’ Aqib Talib, and he’s not exactly Champ Bailey.  Talib was good for Kansas standards but not so much when you look at the big picture. And it also doesn’t help when you have to compete with Bill Snyder for the local recruits. Maybe the answer is a simple one: there’s no room for two major sports to be successful in the same school.

Being a football fan in a basketball school isn’t easy.

While other schools enjoy watching Heisman hopefuls compete in sold out stadiums every Saturday, we stand pat hoping for a win against Iowa State in an empty Memorial Stadium. We want to be a part of the joy on Saturdays. We want the nationally broadcasted games on ABC on Saturday nights. We want a real rivalry with K-State. We want to win.

Sure, the basketball season fills the void for some, but the football lovers in Lawrence want both. Is the success of the basketball team worth the failure of the football team?

We’re tired of the students down the road in Manhattan holding our recent football slump over our heads (even though KU leads the overall football series 65-41 against the Wildcats). Some might argue that a school can either be a football school other a basketball school and that’s it, but there certainly have been schools that have had success in both. Ohio State, Florida and Michigan come to mind. KU fans yearn for yearlong success in Lawrence, from Memorial Stadium to Allen Fieldhouse. Perhaps this isn’t the year that the Kansas Jayhawks top the Big XII on the gridiron, but Kansas football fans certainly hope so.

2014 brings another year where a last place finish should be expected. After former BYU transfer Jake Heaps led the Jayhawks to a 3-9 record in 2013, Charlie Weis named Montell Cozart the starter for the 2014 season. Cozart hopefully can’t be worse than Heaps, who only completed 49% of his passes last season.  Cozart brings a certain level of athleticism that could be fun to watch if used correctly. The backfield has another starting slot available as running back James Sims has graduated and moved on with the Green Bay Packers. The defense will be led by last year's bright spot Ben Heeney.

While Kansas fans can’t be surprised if the team under performs again, they will give the team their devotion—at least until late October.