Despite the fact that the article didn’t do much at all support its points, the attempt by our SB Nation sister-site Viva The Matadors to convince everyone that other schools in the Big 12 should be scared of the fact that we fired Sheahon Zenger did get me thinking about the importance of that hire for KU.
I don’t think it is questionable at all that the main impetus for firing Zenger was his inability to fix the football program. But it’s also abundantly clear that there are some very big challenges facing whomever is tasked with leading the athletic department next. Let’s start with the obvious ones, and then work from there.
Hire the Right Football Coach
Whether this is keeping an improved David Beaty, (which I think we all agree would take a miraculous turnaround) or conducting an exhaustive search for a new football coach that can actually turn the program around, this decision has to be the right one. We’ve all seen the chatter about how Kansas is risking being left behind in conference realignment. We have talked at length about how every poor hire makes digging out of the hole that much harder. And of course it stands to reason that the head coach of the football team is probably the biggest determinant of how the team performs, given his impact on both recruiting talent and scheming to get the most from that talent on game days.
Continue Fundraising for “Raise the Chant”
Regardless of your feelings on whether we should be spending so much on football upgrades, especially given how much is actually directed at upgrades which directly affect players, I do think it is important that the campaign is successful. The school has an uneven history of raising funds for football upgrades, and failure here can make it harder to raise funds in the future.
Handle the Adidas Scandal
While I don’t think this is too much of an issue right now, the athletic department absolutely needs to be proactive now to make sure that they are up to date on the latest developments and have materials and information ready to combat any negative effects that come from the Adidas scandal. Again, I don’t think there is going to be much blowback on the Jayhawks for this, but being unprepared for this could potentially have dire consequences for the basketball team.
Non-Revenue Sports Management
While we have a few programs that are performing well right now (tennis, volleyball, men’s golf, etc), many of the programs are not doing well at all. Softball, Baseball and Women’s Basketball come to mind right away. While they are never going to be as important to the bottom line as Men’s Basketball and Football, the overall health of the athletic department will be important moving forward.
Preparing for Bill Self’s Replacement
Do I think it is likely this happens anytime soon? No. But it is definitely a non-zero chance that Bill Self leaves in the not-so-distant future, either by some unexpected fallout from the Adidas thing or if he finally is bitten by the NBA bug. While basketball is a completely different animal at KU, I do think that the new AD’s performance in other areas will at least inform how confident we can be that he will make the right decision if/when this scenario happens.
So ultimately, I do think the selection of the AD is vital this time around. If we can’t make enough progress to ensure a spot at the major conference table, then all the programs will suffer. And yes, that even includes basketball.