Dismal football hires did in Zenger at KU

By Steve Sell
May 22, 2018

Monday’s announcement that Sheahon Zenger had been terminated as athletic director at the University of Kansas should not have come as a surprise to anyone who follows Jayhawk athletics.

Yes, the timing to some was a bit strange, but the reasoning wasn’t.

Zenger was shown the door after 7 years, during which time many of the KU athletic programs have cratered.

Let’s face it, football drives a school’s athletic department in the Power 5 Conferences. That’s where the most revenue is generated.

It’s been 10 years since the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl and Mark Mangino was among the top coaches in the country. Lots has happened since then.

Mangino was booted due to alleged mistreatment of players. He always had the Jayhawks competitive, but obviously his boot camp style did him in.

So Zenger chose Turner Gill as his replacement (a colossal flop) and once he was exposed as being in over his head, there was the splashy hire of Charlie Weis, whose career was made by being Tom Brady’s mentor at New England. He did have some success at Notre Dame, but every Irish coach should win given the resources and pedigree.

Weis tried to go the quick-fix route with a passel of jucos, most of whom were of low character and never played a down. It set KU football back 10 years.

Weis didn’t even last through his final season, with Clint Bowen serving as an interim coach. While he displayed fire, he didn’t have the talent necessary and was passed over in the next search.

That resulted in former KU assistant David Beaty returning to Lawrence after being at Texas A & M. The draw was that he allegedly had major ties to Texas and would turn KU into the Texas Jayhawks.

Well, that hasn’t worked out. He managed to unearth a couple of gems from Texas, but why would a top recruit leave the state when there’s so many big-time programs to play for?

Beaty is a ridiculous 3-33. Granted, he’s been hamstrung by the lack of scholarship players, but anybody who has watched the team the past three years has seen an organizational mess. The Jayhawks at times play like a team that should be NCAA Division II and the talent level doesn’t come close to approaching the next-worst team in the Big 12.

Zenger’s firing spells doom for Beaty, who will be serving a lame-duck season and will preside over a team that goes 0-12 or 1-11, while Memorial Stadium will turn into even more of a ghost town than last year, when TV shots regularly showed crowds that in real numbers probably didn’t total 10,000. 

Thank goodness for Bill Self and KU basketball. There’s 16,300 who faithfully show up for every game and if Allen Field House seated 20,000, it would still be filled to the brim.

Women’s basketball, though, is another disaster. Brandon Schneider had amazing success at Emporia State, but the Jayhawks have been the Big 12’s worst team during his tenure.

KU is near the bottom in many other sports and the only other success it enjoys are in sports that the casual fan doesn’t give a second look.

The next AD hire for KU — whose first move will be to hire his or her own football coach — will either continue the school on its downward spiral or start the rebirth of the athletic program.