Last Friday, February 26, I went to the "Football in February" event held by KUAthletics at Sporting Park in Kansas City. It was basically Williams Fund recruiting plus pep rally smashed together. Maybe 100 people showed up. There were old folks and crying babies. Ugh. Next time I'm sitting up front.
Anyway, after mingling with the crowd for a while, Coach Beaty got up and spoke for a few minutes, then took some questions. Then Clint Bowen did the same. Dr. Zenger was in attendance as well, and had to jump in on some of the questions. What follows are the notes I took, including direct quotes from some of the speakers.
Coach Beaty started off by saying he understands he needs to give the fans a reason to stick around until the end of the games. He says the program is not about him. It never has been and it never will be. It's all about the fans. It's about the staff. He realizes it's his job to get the program to a point to where we're all happy with it.
Beaty mentioned that every assistant coach on the Kansas staff got an offer to go somewhere else. Clint Bowen especially had several offers, but stayed with KU. Beaty says Zenger asked him what it would take to get the coaches to stay. Not, well here offer them this, but, tell me what it will take to keep them. Kansas made significant counter offers to each coach that left.
The ones that did leave, the stars aligned.
They're almost done replacing the guys who have left.
You would be shocked at the people lining up to come to your university.
Beaty said he couldn't believe the number of calls he got from folks interested in working at KU.
You work where? You make how much?? And you want to work here???
The word is out on KU, that it is a great place to be.
Beaty says they're just waiting on some paperwork, background checks, stuff like that. So offers have been made and apparently accepted. We just don't know who they are at this point.
The new wide receivers coach, Jason Phillips, is in the Ring of Honor at Houston. Phillips played in the NFL with the Falcons. The last couple of schools he coached at, his guys hold every single receiving record.
Beaty says that new LB coach Todd Bradford recruited half of Oklahoma State's roster when he was there.
Beaty says the KU program is based on plug-and-play, and that goes for staff as well as players.
A question was asked about new recruits who are already on campus and how they're doing.
The staff is very high on Stephan Robinson, the Juco CB from Northeastern Oklahoma. They have also been very impressed by walk-ons Dagan Haehn (QB) and Keegan Brewer (WR). Beaty especially pointed out that Brewer is looking impressive so far. He may push for playing time as a walk-on. Both of these players were great Texas high school football players, All-state, etc.
The question was asked can we expect to go back to more traditional uniforms, blue tops and white pants.
Dr. Zenger and I, we both want to make sure that what we do with our uniform is that we protect our brand and that we don't lose our identity. And our identity is our Jayhawk. And it is also KU, the Trajan KU. So, we want to make sure that we are being attractive enough to players to make sure that they enjoy the fact that we're able to diversify what we do, but at the same time, stay as close to our brand as we possibly can and accomplish them both. That's something that we have to do. Listen, here's the deal. They have to earn their way out of just the base uniform - playing good, practicing good, things like that. So, they don't just get that given. So they've got to earn their way out of it.
Kids today, they're pretty simple. They're really a whole lot like you and I. They're making decisions based on what they see and how they feel when they're seeing things. It's just like when you drive through a really nice part of the neighborhood, we feel pretty good. When we drive through a neighborhood that we feel isn't as nice, we don't feel as good. It's the same thing, the psychology that is kids. And the thing I learned a long time ago is, I can learn to accept it or I can get beat by it. One or the other. And I'm not gonna get beat by it.
So we got to stay with what these guys are looking for. We got to find a way to say who we are and be attractive enough to them so they don't simply rule us out for something that we can control, without getting away from who we are.
Coach says that in college football, everybody has good skill players. But not everyone has good line play. And he understands that. They're working hard to beef up both the O-line and especially the D-line. You may never know how good a quarterback is if he isn't protected. They are throwing all their resources on the line fronts, because success in the Big 12 depends on line play. The players they have and the players they just signed are not just average players. They are all good players and that they're going to get better under Zach Yenser. They're getting faster and stronger this offseason, and the experience they gained last year is invaluable.
We signed a REALLY good class, y'all. Not just Okay. We signed a GOOD class. These kids are very talented. I am really happen with them. The way that these places rank these classes, you have to sign a full 25, because you get points for each one. We don't care about any of that. I don't know who has stars or stripes or I don't know what they eat for breakfast. I just know whether they can play or not. I tell our guys all the time if you're recruiting off of recruiting boards, you need to leave here, because you'll miss. You'll miss. Recruit off what you know and how you have done it throughout your entire career. And don't worry about that stuff. Just bring us the best players. Go get the best players that fit what we want to do.
Then it was Coach Bowen's turn. Bowen says the athletic department has provided the staff everything they need to win, and that gives them no excuses for not winning games, which is actually a good thing.
Bowen was asked how the assistant coach pay scale at KU compares to the rest of the Big 12. After thinking for a second Bowen made a comment about "over my pay scale" and deferred to Dr. Zenger, who said that the assistant coach payscale at KU ranks #3 in the Big 12.
A question was asked about a Memorial Stadium facelift. Bowen again deferred to Dr. Zenger, and the length of his answer turned out to be very informative and also effectively used up the remaining time for the evening:
What I didn't realize, and I can say it now, because it doesn't hurt us in recruiting in those other sports - so often fans pay attention to football and basketball. Right? You know what ours look like and what others look like.
What you didn't know and what I didn't know - our facilities in our other sports were at the bottom of the league. Some were so bad that we were facing a civil rights lawsuit for what we weren't providing for some of the women in some of our other sports. Several years later we have Rock Chalk Park - new track stadium, new soccer stadium, new softball stadium. Ok? 50 million dollars worth of improvements. By the way, try and raise money for a track stadium, soccer stadium, and softball stadium.
Our basketball coach, who is worthy of anything he asks, asked for some apartments. Those are done. The day I took the job, I was told to call David Booth, the man who spent $4.3M buying the rules of basketball. He said ‘Sheahon, I'm gonna keep those at home instead of somewhere else. ‘ That was scary for me. He said, ‘When you build a facility worthy of that, I will give them to you.' The DeBruce Center, $20M later. That's $80-90M worth of construction in the past 4.5 years.
"You can only build so much, so fast. Here's where we're at now. By the way, there's a tennis facility going up. There may be some golf facilities going up in the not so distant future thanks to some golf alums - folks who weren't going to give to football. The goal was to clear the deck of all this other stuff so we have one thing left. That's where we're at.
The next five years, my goal, my dream, is all things football. Now having said that, Coach Beaty and I have spent a lot of time talking about this. I have been fortunate to be a part of some other big turnarounds in some other places. In order to turn it around, you need to provide things for the players first. We built a beautiful facility for them 9-10 years ago. It's hard for me to accept that, but there's some things that need to be done to that already because of what people have built in the interim. Things that help our football players and help these coaches recruit. So on the list of things that are needed, we are going to attack things to help our football players and football recruits.
The football stadium is in there. That is my biggest goal and dream. Now I'm gonna say something that sounds kinda funny to hear. But the players themselves only care that there's 50,000 sets of eyes looking back at them. They don't care where you and I eat or pee. That's reality. They care about where they live, where they dress, where they workout, what they do. I've had to accept that. I'm not going to let go of the facility facelift for football.
We engaged a firm several years ago to do a survey of all AAU member institutions who have done football renovations in the last 10 years. It needs to be a priority of the university; I believe our chancellor will support that. And it needs to be a priority for our student body. It is something that will impact each and every student at our university. You know how football rules the day in college athletics today. TV money and all the stuff that goes with it - if you're gonna be in the game, you better be in it in a big way. It's my commitment, for the next five years, it's about football. We gotta help these guys.
Now, keep in mind the setting, the context, all that stuff. It's basically a pep rally/fund drive. They want you to feel good about the direction of the program and buy more tickets. But still I'll ask you - are you drinking the kool-aid that Dr. Zenger is selling?