Soren Petro of 810 WHB in Kansas City interviewed KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger in a segment that aired on Thursday, April 19. They talked about several different topics, including the FBI probe into college basketball, but I want to focus on his responses to questions about the football program.
Obviously there was a lot of political-speak, but several things stood out to me.
Zenger said that the indoor facility has been fully funded (5:35).
When asked where KU was in terms of funding the entire $350M project, Zenger said (6:00):
That’s something that you don’t put out there when you’re in a project like this until you get to a certain point. We have a lots of asks out there right now. We’ve made further progress faster than we thought, but you want to keep people hungry, so that can hurt you if you start throwing numbers out there, then people back up.
Zenger said that possible realignment when the Big 12 grant of rights expires is “almost an urban legend that’s grown legs beyond what it really oughtta be” (8:49) and called the Big 12 “as solid as any conference in the nation.” He cited Midwestern Pride as the primary reason for the strength of the conference.
Zenger also called the arms race of Big 12 football facilities a “chicken or the egg” scenario (9:39). He cited TCU, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State of examples of schools that invested into their football programs to win games.
Now, I don’t know about Oklahoma State, but I know K-State won games first, THEN invested in their facilities, and I’m pretty sure it was the same way at TCU.
Zenger said that the current plan is to begin on “Phase 2” aka the south end zone renovations by the end of 2018 (10:16) and that construction is projected to take place between the end of the 2018 season and the beginning of the 2019 season.
When asked if KU is moving in the direction of winning football games, Zenger reiterated the company line that things are indeed moving that way (13:30) and that the current staff has the full support of the athletic department.
When asked about firing Gill and hiring Weis, Zenger admitted to “limitations” with how much money he could spend at the time (15:00), specifically on buying out a coach from another university in order to hire him, and that was one of the reasons why Weis was a candidate. Zenger did acknowledge that those limitations are now gone (16:31).
When asked about showing progress via wins on the field, Zenger said (17:20):
You’ll know it when you see it. Our fans, our donors, our stakeholders, you, I, we’ll be able to see if there’s improvement. And I think that’s what people are looking for. Do there need to be wins? Yes there do. What that number is, I don’t know. It’s possible to have more wins and not look as competitive – I’m talking figuratively here – or have fewer wins and look better overall throughout the whole season.
When asked if he felt he had the support of the fans (18:00), Zenger didn’t answer the question and even made himself out to be a bit of a martyr:
Well, one, I’m a big boy. And I would tell you this, Soren, anytime you’re taking on a leadership role in our society today, with the world of social media and all that we have going on – I’m not comparing myself to national leaders, but I turn on the nightly news – and what you see going on in our public discourse, that’s just part of being a leader today. And if you can’t put on your big boy pants, then don’t step up into these jobs, because it’s common - criticism, praise, etc. etc.
I grew up being taught you accept blame and deflect credit. Maybe sometimes I do too much of that, personally. Because that’s how I was raised. I was a quarterback in sports, I was a catcher in baseball, those are positions where you learn to shoulder responsibility and put your head down and go.
So the answer to that is, I’ve done the best I possibly can with the resources we’ve had. We’ve supported all of our programs, but football, I can’t think of a time I’ve said no to them in terms of support, with facilities, funding, etc etc. Now I’m willing to do all I can, and do more, if that means working 25 hours a day.
So Zenger was a quarterback in sports? Ok.
When asked about the scholarship situation, Zenger said (20:46):
We’re in the low to mid 60s. It will take another couple of years to get up toward 80.
How on earth are we getting ready to start Year 4 of the David Beaty regime and we’re in the same scholarship number situation we were in when we began? Gee, I wonder if the juco recruits have anything to do with that.
When asked if that means that Beaty has a “free pass” for the next two years to rebuild the scholarship situation, Zenger said (22:54):
I think even David Beaty wouldn’t like that phrase. We all want to work for what we have. We just need to keep dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, working hard, and recruiting his best, and putting his best foot forward every day.
I wish Petro would have pressed Zenger and asked what Beaty did to earn the extension that doubled his salary after the 2013 season.
I was originally willing to give David Beaty a chance, but it’s clear that neither he nor Zenger have any clue how to run a football program. I mean, Zenger played quarterback in sports, you guys!! He’s totally qualified for this job!!
Being the AD at Kansas really shouldn’t be too difficult. There’s what, maybe three things you have to do? 1) Fund raise, 2) Keep Bill Self happy, 3) Hire a football coach who can make a bowl game every other year. Any AD that’s even semi-competent should be able to do the first two things.
Why are we staying the course with a football coaching staff that showed major regression last year, both offensively and defensively, with very little hope for improvement this year? Zenger needs to “put on his big boy pants,” admit he made a mistake, and beg for a third chance to hire a football coach.