Seven seasons after Kansas finished 12-1 with a victory in the Orange Bowl and five years after firing the coach that took them there, Kansas begins yet another search for a coach to lead its program back to the levels that former coach Mark Mangino took them. Following a 23-0 loss to Texas, athletics director Sheahon Zenger informed Charlie Weis that he had been relieved of his duties as head football coach at Kansas.
No one for sure knows where Zenger will be looking, but odds are, he will want someone with Kansas ties that knows how to master a rebuilding project. Whether or not that individual has head coaching experience will probably not be as important as he made it sound in 2011 after the firing of Turner Gill. Still, there will be some big names on the list for a job that if you manage to win six games, might warrant the erecting of a statue in your honor as Weis so eloquently put it last November.
Now, the search begins and while the list will be long on names to replace Weis, we’ll take a look at what may make up Zenger’s top five, along with the names of five others that will at least get mentioned, knowing full well that in the end, it could turn out to be none of these individuals. Let the ride begin…
David Beaty – Texas A&M wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator
No doubt, Beaty needs to be at the top of the list. He has strong Kansas ties, serving under Mangino and Gill. Under Mangino, Beaty helped land great talent at Kansas and saw first hand what could happen when it all comes together.
Beaty is also very highly regarded and beloved among Texas high school coaches. At Texas A&M, he’s used that to help propel the Aggies to among the nation’s best in recruiting.
Also, if Beaty is to be the guy, now would be the time to act. The head coaching job is open at SMU following the resignation of June Jones a couple of weeks ago and Beaty would be a grand slam for a job located in Dallas at a school with money to spend. Beaty could also hold out knowing that even bigger schools could come calling his name. Still, Beaty and his family have always had a fondness for Lawrence and KU and the Jayhawks would be very lucky to land him should they choose to go in that direction, as he would be a grand slam hire for them.
Ed Warriner – Ohio State co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach
Ed Warriner’s name instantly makes KU fans smile and remember what once was. Serving twice during the Mangino era, both early and later. But, it was his arrival as offensive coordinator that helped launch the Kansas program into the stratosphere, as with quarterback Todd Reesing, the Jayhawk offense began to smash the record book and most importantly, win.
It also helps that in addition to Mangino, Warriner has also worked under coaches such as Brian Kelly at Notre Dame and now Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Warriner would also be a great choice if Zenger so chooses.
Tim Beck – Nebraska offensive coordinator
Tim Beck is also a coach that is near and dear to most Kansas fans. Beck was Warriner’s right hand man, as they installed the high flying Kansas offense in 2007. When Bo Pelini was named coach at Nebraska in 2008, he immediately sought Beck to join his staff in Lincoln.
Beck’s offense has been slow to get going as he ideally wanted it, but with the emergence of quarterback Tommy Armstrong and running back Ameer Abdullah, the Huskers have taken off, rocketing off to a 5-0 start, while putting up the kind of number that Kansas can only dream of. His Kansas and Texas high school ties would be a perfect fit at Kansas and as the Huskers continue to do big things this season, look for Beck’s name to get even more consideration nationally.
Darrell Wyatt – former Texas and Kansas assistant coach
When you look at one of the great recruiters to grace the Kansas sidelines, you look at Darrell Wyatt, who has brought incredible talent to Kansas in different eras and during times where Kansas had no business landing a particular individual. Wyatt was an assistant head coach at Kansas from 1997-2000 and co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2010, before leaving for Texas the following season.
Wyatt is a good coach and even better man and deserves to be in the mix. Don’t be surprised if he gets an interview.
Clint Bowen – Kansas interim coach/defensive coordinator
Clint Bowen is a Jayahwk through and through and despite the unfortunate circumstances, nobody deserves to get this opportunity more. Bowen grew up attending Kansas games, played at Kansas and has coached at Kansas in different regimes.
Under Mangino, Bowen saw first hand how to make it happen at KU. His return was a huge victory and despite adversity since his return, his defense continues to improve each week. The man coached his butt off against Texas on Saturday, as they single handily kept KU in the game against Texas, where it was nearly impossible for them to score points.
A great man and great coach, Bowen deserves to also be in the mix and unlike others will get a chance to essentially interview after showing what he can do if given the position, A year Ed Orgeron nearly landed the job at Southern California after saving their season following the firing of Lane Kiffin. If Bowen can somehow replicate the kind of success that “Eddie O” did, then his name may very well end up rising to the top of the list.
Here are a few more names that will at least be thrown out there just cause. Whether or not they get consideration is another story, but in the coming week, we’ll speculate and then speculate based on the speculation.
Jim Harbaugh – San Francisco 49ers head coach
Could it be that you can fix right what once went wrong? Five year ago, believing on who you speak to, Harbaugh was a stubborn mistake from leaving Stanford for Kansas.
Rumors have it that then athletic director Lew Perkins had hit a grand slam and lured Harbaugh from the Bay Area to Kansas to replace Mangino. Oh, how different things could have been. Story goes that Perkins threw down the ultimatum that Harbaugh leave immediately and not get the opportunity to coach Stanford in it’s Sun Bowl game with Oklahoma, which is all he asked for. When Perkins refused, Harbaugh decided to stay and the rest was history…for both parties.
Harbaugh stayed at Stanford and won an Orange Bowl the following year before moving to a very successful run with the San Francisco 49ers, while Perkins stuck Kansas with the punishment that was Turner Gill.
Now, some reports say that there are issues between the Niners and Harbaugh. If true, could he somehow be in play down the road? It’s honestly the longest of long shots, but hey we have some time to kill, so why not have fun with this whole ordeal.
Pat Narduzzi – Michigan State defensive coordinator
Narduzzi is one of college football’s hottest assistants and will have many opportunities. He’s already made it known that he would like to lead his own program and could field offers in the Big 10, but he’s put it out there that he has interest in Kansas.
Michigan State head coach Mark D’Antonio can give him many pointers about KU, as he served as an assistant at Kansas under Glen Mason. After coordinating a rock solid defense that helped lead the Spartans to a conference title and Rose Bowl victory, he’d be a really solid choice and should get some interest from the Kansas brass.
John Reagan –Kansas offensive coordinator/offensive line coach
Knows Kansas and how to win there. However, this season is just his first as Kansas’ offensive coordinator and it would be an awfully big leap to ask of him, but his future is very bright and he’ll no doubt one day get the opportunity to lead a program.
Jim Leavitt – former head coach at South Florida
Has history with Sheahon Zenger going back to their days at Kansas State, built South Florida program from the ground up and won. It’s unlikely that this would happen, but Leavitt deserves all the respect that he’s earned. He’s a good football coach and is very deserving of another chance to lead a program.
Josh Heupel – Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator/QB coach
Has history with former coach Mark Mangino and knows the Big 12 and how to win it, definitely a coach on the rise. As Oklahoma continues to succeed, look for the former National Championship winning quarterback to get mention for coaching jobs. Kansas would be smart to give him a look.
Justin Fuente – Memphis head coach
Speaking of former Oklahoma quarterbacks, albeit from a much different era, Fuente’s name is a one that is gaining popularity. Now, the coach at Memphis, he’s taking the Tigers and building them into a solid and tough program. As it stands right now, Kansas will get to see this first hand, when they host Memphis next season. Will Fuente still be leading them?
Scott Frost – Oregon offensive coordinator
Many Nebraska fans wanted Frost, a former National Championship winning Husker quarterback to replace Pelini if they had made a move a year ago. Nevertheless, look for Frost’s name to get more mention from schools going forward.
Mike Norvell – Arizona State offensive coordinator
Norvell is very young, but he’s on the rise, leading Todd Graham’s high scoring offense. Look for his name to be brought up for several jobs this offseason.
Willie Fritz – Georgia Southern head coach
Fritz represents a very good football coach with a unique and fun offense. Now, the coach at Georgia Southern, Fritz’s system is a power based option attack, but has principles that remind you of Gus Malzahn’s spread. Malzahn was a hot candidate the last two times around and Fritz could be a similar commodity in time. However, he lacks FBS experience and critics will point to that, but the man can win and his style is fun. Whoever gives him his big opportunity will get themselves an outstanding coach and football mind.
Dave Doeren – North Carolina State head coach
Kansas may have been Doeren’s dream job once, but that ship sailed when he was never granted an interview in 2011. In hindsight, it may have been a huge mistake. Now, it looks like that ship has sailed for good, as Doeren is getting things going at North Carolina State. You have to think he’d never leave there now and why would he?
Whichever direction Sheahon Zenger decides to go in, it appears that the days are finally looking brighter for Kansas football. However, make no mistake. This hire is vital to the future of the program and the university as a whole. It must be gotten right. So, be patient, let it all play out and sit back and enjoy the ride.