Me, just over two years ago:
Never stop being you, KU football!
Since Les Miles arrived in Lawrence there have been rumors. Rumors about his health, his emotional investment to the program, his cognitive abilities. There was the curiously frequent turnover of offensive coordinators. Somehow Les was going into spring practice with the fourth OC of his two-plus years at KU, which seemed to point to consistent static between that position and the head coach.
So it seemed just a matter of time until his tenure as head coach of the Fighting Football Jayhawks came to an early end. I must admit, though, that allegations of sexual harassment that were buried by LSU was not on my BINGO card of reasons why Les would leave.
If you get past all the losing, Kansas football is kind of incredible!
Miles’ behavior at LSU, or alleged behavior, was plenty of evidence to relieve him of his coaching duties.
But the real bad guy in all of this, at least from KU’s perspective, is athletic director Jeff Long.
Long has kind of been a disaster. He was hired with one overriding purpose: hire his buddy Miles to stabilize the football program. Until this week, that was largely successful. The football team has not gotten better on the field, but Les stuck to his stated goal of only recruiting and signing high school players. He appeared to, finally, have solved the scholarship issues that had been present since Charlie Weis ran off nearly half the team and replaced them with Juco players.
With the most recent recruiting class – KU’s best in nearly a decade – Miles seemed to complete that task. His departure may rip that apart, starting another cycle of scrambling desperately just to get enough kids to field a full program again.
Despite that success, Long has fucked up about everything else he’s put his hands on at KU.
He decided to fight previous football coach David Beaty over his buyout, reporting a series of minor infractions to the NCAA to undermine Beaty. The resulting legal proceedings ended up costing KU nearly as much in legal fees as if Long had just paid Beaty the money he was due to go away. In the process Long made a former coach look bad, which is a great way to create an environment that other coaches want to be a part of. Oh, and there was the little issue of KU already being involved in the biggest ever recruiting scandal, and Jeff Long DECIDED TO GIVE THE NCAA MORE AMMUNITION.
This was a truly mind-blowing decision. Seriously, KU has had a lot of dumb administrators over the past 20 years – pretty much every AD has been incompetent or a criminal since the creation of the Big 12 – but this could be the single dumbest decision anyone associated with KU athletics has ever made.
Also along the way, without consulting Bill Self, Jeff Long told the NCAA that Adidas could be viewed as a booster of KU when the school was fighting to get Silvio De Sousa cleared to play. Again, there was already an NCAA investigation underway into the relationship between KU and Adidas. Yet Long somehow thought anything he said to get Silvio eligible would not be used as the central element of the NCAA’s broader case against KU.
Next came his bizarre press conference after the NCAA gave De Sousa a two-year suspension, when he claimed the NCAA told him that they were asking the question as “a hypothetical” only. Checkers and chess, and Long was the one playing checkers.
(I wouldn’t call it a huge disaster, but Long was also largely responsible – rumors say without involving either Self or Miles – for getting Missouri back on the basketball and football schedules. This was inevitable, but most people around KU seemed both surprised and disappointed by the timing of the announcement. Long acted like he had brought the Palestinians and Israelis together. My thought was, “Hey, maybe wait on football until we think we can win a couple Big 12 games.”)
There’s also his overall personality. He has always come across as a needy, camera-hungry, attention whore who thinks he’s being clever and funny but who actually makes people either laugh uncomfortably or stand there in awkward silence.
So, to sum up, he didn’t fully look into the reasons why his good buddy got fired by his previous employer, he shit all over a former coach who wasn’t very good but worked his ass off and deserved better, he pissed off the basketball coach, he got totally worked over by the NCAA (which is extremely tough to do), and has made the worst possible decisions at nearly every step of an NCAA investigation.
Les clearly had to go. But the lawyers inside KU’s administration – who have not made the best decisions in recent years, either – better be working on a way to get Jeff Long out of Lawrence before he can do any more damage to the athletic department. I don’t care if KU has to wait months to hire a new football coach: someone other than Jeff Long needs to be in charge of determining Les’ replacement. Although after all the buy-outs the money people behind KU have written over the last decade, I’m not sure the school can shake enough change loose to make Long go away quietly.
I said it couldn’t get worse. I should have known better.
At the Lawrence Journal-World Matt Tait has an interesting idea: follow the path that Wichita State took last fall when they fired Gregg Marshall and elevate Emmett Jones as interim coach. Jones is best situated to keep the current recruiting class together, and he deserves a shot as much as anyone else on the staff to run the program. Spring is an awful time to hire a new coach. I’d say let Jones be the iCoach for the next eight months rather than force in a subpar candidate. Best case, Jones keeps the program steady and earns the job. It also prevents Long from making another “inspired” hire. Worst case, Jones is in over his head but this gives a new AD plenty of time to search for a new coach who can start recruiting his own players to KU next November. The Jayhawks were only going to win 1–2 games at most next fall, regardless of who was coaching. If Jones is completely inept it’s not like it will cost the team a bowl appearance.
Actually, I take that back. There is the perfect candidate out there. He’s won in a tough location. His success has translated to different environments. Hell, he’s even from Kansas.
That’s right, Ted Lasso is the man to finally turn KU football around!