It’s time for another edition of the roundtable! In each edition, our staff gets together to look at two questions about the Kansas Jayhawks that are being talked about by those who follow the program. Take a look at our answers, and then give us your own in the comments below.
There has been a lot of talk about attendance. We’ve made the case here at RCT that Jeff Long and the KU football program need to find ways to bring fans back to the stadium. Do you think they have done enough at this point? What have they done and/or what else do they need to do?
David: I’m firmly in the “start winning games” group when it comes to attendance. I’d like to see them start handing out some free tickets around Lawrence to give things a boost, but at the end of the day, teams that go 2-10 and 3-9 don’t draw crowds. There’s no off-the-field quick fix for attendance. We saw it increase quickly during the Mangino years, so I’m confident that if Les Miles gets this team playing competitive football, fans will show up.
Kyle_Davis21: I’m not sure about “done enough” since, like David said, winning games will be the ultimate tactic to bring fans into the stadium. But I do like what Miles has done to specifically engage students and bring some excitement back to KU football: buying lunch, inviting students to practices, the extra entertainment around the spring game, etc. It’s a small segment of the stadium, but we know students are one of the biggest factors of a strong home-field atmosphere, so that can go a long way.
Fizzle: They have done enough to warrant a big crowd at the opener. HCLM has people excited and the beer will be flowing. Now they just have to win.
Brendan: Yeah, winning is the ultimate trump card answer here. People care about competent teams. But I will say the athletic department and program have done a good job of trying to drum up enthusiasm and support. The public appearances, videos, the miniseries on ESPN+, these are all things that can help perception and increase intrigue. It helps that Les Miles is just a far more interesting person than the last coach.
Mike: The university has put quite the social media campaign together to try to encourage people to buy tickets, and Jeff Long even does it on his own Twitter account. I get it, that’s their job. But this is still a program with 18 wins over the 10 seasons. People will come out on nice days in the fall. Well, maybe. Who are we playing? You see the problem. If they want butts in seats for 2019, they need to do more than ask (harass) people to pay for the privilege.
Andy: I talked about this last week, and I think they have done plenty so far to energize the fanbase for at least the first few weeks of the season. With Jeff Long being hired later than usual last year, there wasn’t time to build momentum for attendance, and the stance of “wait and see” that he took with David Beaty didn’t help matters. But now that there is some real change at the top of the program, some positive buzz is now actually plausible. Some sort of results are needed, whether it is wins or being competitive without huge coaching gaffes, but there is at least a little bit of a cushion.
What needs to be accomplished for this to be considered a successful season?
David: The bar is low. After four years of puzzling decisions and obvious mistakes by the last staff, more than anything I want to see solid gameplans and execution. The Mad Hatter is known for some weird in-game stuff of his own, but there should be no penalties coming out of timeouts, punts on 4th and short in the opponent’s territory, timeouts after timeouts, communication problems, or lack of organization. Show me a team that, even if they aren’t that good yet, looks like they know how to execute a competent gameplan.
Kyle_Davis21: Any amount of progress, and not just in terms of the record. Let’s see a more competitive team that looks like it actually belongs in the Big 12. So, an offense that can move the ball down the field, especially through the air, not committing bad penalties, not looking lost on certain plays and not losing by 40 to the best teams in the conference. And then from a record standpoint, just beat an FCS team to start the season and win four games total. That, plus competency progress, is a successful season.
Brendan: A modern offense is definitely at the top of my list. RPOs! Moving the ball efficiently down the field! Not punting on fourth and one in plus territory! Like David said, the bar is low. I’m optimistic that four wins is possible, but even a competitive three-win team (like one that doesn’t get blown out by other Big 12 cellar dwellers and can at least challenge the top dogs) will be a step forward.
Mike: It may be a year or two (or three) until we’re competitive with the top of the Big 12; I think that’s a pretty big ask for 2019. Just start 2-0, knock off one of WVU, TTU, or KSU at home, and maybe put a scare into a couple more teams. That would make this a successful season for me.
Andy: Anyone who expects this team to compete for the top of the conference is either on something or just wants to be disappointed. There is a slim possibility that this team could catch fire and compete for a bowl game this year, but even a 2-win season can be considered successful if they show improvement from week to week, and we avoid coaching mistakes that make you wonder if they’ve ever even WATCHED a game before. It won’t be hard to tell if play designs are solid, whether they are executed perfectly or not. It also won’t be hard to see if the coaching staff recognizes when things aren’t working and try to make a change.
But the most important sign of change that I need to see is a coach that holds his guys accountable, including himself. They are allowed to make mistakes, so long as they recognize them, own up to them, and then work to correct them in the future. Give me a staff that has a good process, and I’ll consider the team being back on the right path to making this team competitive again.