Sheahon Zenger, the athletic director at the University of Kansas, is between a rock and a hard place. He’s up that well-known creek without a paddle. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
We’re talking about whether or not he makes the interim football coach, Clint Bowen, the permanent head coach. There is a lot of pressure on him to do so. There is also pressure from the “Big Cigars”, some of the donors, to come up with a big-time hire, a “name coach”. Someone who would almost instantly project KU back into the discussion of being for real in football. That didn’t turn out so well when Zenger hired Charlie Weis.
Almost to a man, the football players are asking that Bowen get the job. Sometimes that carries weight with the administration and sometimes it doesn’t. Right Mark Mangino? Most certainly these current players have been a better football team, played with more enthusiasm, than they did under Charlie Weis.
The townspeople of Lawrence want Bowen. He is a home-grown guy, playing at Lawrence High School and at Kansas University and he has spent most of his coaching career in Lawrence. Lawrence fans think of him as a young Bill Snyder.
The coaches of the teams that Kansas has played since Bowen became coach all suggest that he would be a good hire for KU. That, of course, could be a Trojan Horse. Opposing coaches all want someone they can beat to be coaching against them. Based on that logic, Big 12 coaches would much have preferred that Kansas had kept Turner Gill as their head man. They could beat him like a drum!
This I do know: Kansas has got to move west of Lawrence with their in-state recruiting. A quick look at their roster shows us that they either don’t care to recruit Kansas high school football players or they aren’t good at it. Kansas State and Bill Snyder dominate the matchup of which roster has the most Kansas kids. Even Oklahoma has as many starters from the state of Kansas as the Jayhawks do.
It wasn’t always that way. Kansas used to be a factor in high school recruiting in the Sunflower state. KU’s all-conference linebacker Ben Heeney from Hutchinson recognizes this problem. He states, “I feel like we need to recruit more in Kansas. I think coach Bowen can do that”.
A lot of the doom and gloom of the current football program at Kansas can be placed directly at the feet of one-time athletic director Lew Perkins. A “big name” outsider who was paid a lot of money. Kansas basketball was strong enough, tradition-rich enough, to not be lessened by Perkins. The football program wasn’t. Perkins’ hire of Turner Gill has got to rank right up there with one of the worst hires of a major college football program in the country. To put the icing on top of that dessert he gave Gill an exorbitant contract both in the amount of money and the length of the contract. That was preceded by his power struggle with Mark Mangino which ended with Mangino leaving town. Kansas football is still trying to recover from those boondoggles.
Thus, Zenger has got the biggest hire in his career facing him. Does he go with the popular young guy that the locals love or does he try for the “home run?” We don’t have long to wait to find out.