Until further notice, Kansas is going to do Kansas things when it comes to playing football.
The start of the 2018 season culminated with a 26-23 overtime loss, at home, to Nicholls.
If I only had a nickel for every time something like this has happened over the past decade. The Jayhawks stumble and bumble. There are terrible play calls with disastrous execution, penalties that come at the worst times and a general disarray that leads to overall embarrassment and humiliation.
Since the 2010 season, when Turner Gill replaced Mark Mangino, Kansas has won 15 of 97 football games. And in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks are 4-67.
Gill’s failures beget Charlie Weis, whose failures beget David Beaty, now in his fourth season and with only three wins to show. It’s a foregone conclusion that this will be Beaty’s final season.
And then what?
The storybook version is this: New Kansas athletic director Jeff Long will wave his magic wand and fix this mess with the hiring of the greatest football coach ever. That coach will wondrously make the skin of potential donors tingle with joy and KU will start moving up, up, up in the Big 12 standings.
The reality could be far scarier. If Kansas can’t fix this football mess, who knows what happens when the newest round of college football realignment comes upon us in a few years. The Jayhawks could be left out in the cold, literally, in a conference like the Mountain West.
That’s not a scare tactic. It’s the truth. College football pays the rent in the world of college athletics and Kansas, despite its world-class men’s basketball program, isn’t the kind of tenant conferences have chased or could again be pursuing.
That’s why KU wants to pour $315 million into Memorial Stadium and other football facilities, even though that would amount to about $21 million per victory over the past eight-plus seasons.
Kansas has already named its stadium in honor of a big donor. It’s now “David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium,” and I suspect Lawrence leaders would re-name the town if it meant being guaranteed Power Five status for years to come.
The important thing for Kansas football fans to remember is this: It’s the long game that matters now. Those of you clamoring for Beaty’s head, just one game into the season, need to calm down and regroup.
Beaty will be gone soon enough. Do you really want another interim coach? Say that interim coach does a bang-up job and manages to lead KU to three or four wins? That would, of course, lead to a chorus from fans who believe the right coach has been found, even if the right coach hasn’t been found.
Give Beaty the next 11 games. And then leave it up to Long to do what he’s going to do in an attempt to fix the mess.
There’s not much else to do at this point, although I suggest listening weekly to Beaty’s “Hawk Talk” radio show. It’ll make you want to pull your hair out, but also kiss his cheek.
Undoubtedly, Beaty is a good guy who wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to taking on the responsibilities as a Division I head football coach at a place that was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. He’ll go back to being an assistant at some college or a head coach at some high school and that will be that.
It’s what Kansas does post-Beaty that matters most. And in a post-Gill/Weis/Beaty world, making the next hire makes me hope Long has a strong ticker. Simply put, Kansas can’t afford to fail with its next football coach. The stakes are too high in the modern world of college sports.
I know this is easier said that done, but KU fans should do their best to enjoy this season. Or just write it off, if you must. Stop going to games, stop paying attention. It’s not likely to get any better.
If Beaty’s strange optimism has you clenching your teeth and is making you blink incessantly, perhaps you should read a book and wait for basketball season.
For basketball to keep its cachet, though, requires that football step up to the plate and at least keep the Jayhawks relevant enough to ward off those who would cut Kansas loose from its Power Five status.
There’s no reason the Jayhawks can’t fight their way into the middle of the Big 12 pack and occasionally do even better. That’s especially true if KU is able to come through on its facilities goals. To play with the big boys, you have to pay with the big boys. And Kansas is in the process of attempting to do so.
So, relax. There’s not much anyone can do about the Jayhawks at this point. Pull for the players, give the coaches a pat on the back and understand that the future of Kansas football begins when the 2018 season ends.