I found out just as I got on the Kansas Turnpike that Charlie Weis had been fired as football coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.
The Weis hire was awful. KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger was looking for someone who was as close to Mark Mangino, who somehow coached the jayhawks to the Orange Bowl in 2007. He probably wanted to re-hire Mangino, but that would have opened Pandora’s Box of lawsuits because of the circumstances under which Mangino left.
I did not like Mangino. To put it kindly, he was a major butthole. He once told an African-American player he would “send him back to the hood to get shot with his homies”. How the heck did he stick around for EIGHT SEASONS? Mangino also played favorites, and if you weren’t one of his golden boys, you were pretty much screwed.
Not only is Weis a carbon copy of Mangino–a jerk, offensive minded and physically imposing–but Weis had the pedigree of mentoring Tom Brady with the Patriots when they won three Super Bowls in four seasons. Weis parlayed the success in New England into the head coaching job at his alma mater, Notre Dame, where he attended school but did not play football in the 1970s. He became the first Notre Dame alum to return as football coach since Hugh Devore in 1963. Three of the four coaches following Devore–Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz–won national championships in South Bend, and Weis was expected to get the Fighting Irish back to that level.
Weis fared well in his first two seasons at Notre Dame, although the Irish were humbled in BCS bowls by Ohio State and LSU. In his third season, Notre Dame plummeted to 3-9, and two years later, Weis was sent packing. He made one-year stops with the Chiefs and the Florida Gators before landing with the Jayhaws in December 2011.
It was a panic hire by Zenger, pure and simple. He felt he needed to get a tough guy, a disciplinarian, to follow Turner Gill, whom most felt was too soft. Zenger also was looking for a big name, and Weis fit that bill too.
Weis was just as bad as Gill in Lawrence. The Jayhawks were 1-11 in Weis’ first season of 2012, and it got little better, as KU was 3-9 in 2013, although it ended a 27-game losing streak in Big 12 Conference games to West Virginia.
This year, the Jayhawks have beaten two punching bags (SE Missouri and Central Michigan) and been mauled by Duke (41-3) and Texas (23-0).
At least Zenger is making a decisive move to get a jump on the other schools who may be in the market for a coach following the season. USC did this last year when Pat Haden fired Lane Kiffin in late September and then took his time before hiring Steve Sarkisian away from Washington. Weis was not going to make it to year four, so why prolong the agony?
Clint Bowen is the interim coach, but he’s a stopgap. He should be retained as an assistant if he can get KU to play better, but they have got to get someone with name recognition, preferrably someone with ties to the Big 12.
If I’m Zenger, I go to Tuscaloosa and beg Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to come to Lawrence.
Then again, Zenger could have had Gus Malzahn, but instead, he let him get away for $750,000 to Arkansas State. That’s sad. Really sad. Now Malzahn is at Auburn, where he took the Tigers to the national championship game a year ago and could have them in the playoff this year. Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2010 when Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy and the Tigers won the national championship. Instead of going with a known commodity in college, Zenger was blinded by Weis’ Super Bowl rings and Tom Brady’s resume.
KU fans should be worried if and when Bill Self retires. Hopefully, Zenger will not be in the athletic director’s chair when that day comes. I don’t have faith Zenger can make a successful hire to replace Weis, and if he has to replace Self, lord help Jayhawk Nation.