Record, fan apathy doomed Beaty

By Steve Sell
November 05, 2018

First and foremost, David Beaty’s 6-39 record — 2-31 in the Big 12 — was the most prominent factor in Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long announcing on Sunday that the school will be severing ties with him after the season.

At least they’re allowing him to coach the final three games, though those will be painful to stomach as they are against a Kansas State team that he had hoped to rival for in-state supremacy; what surely will be a blowout of epic proportions at Oklahoma (which if it wanted to could score 100); and finally his swan song at home against Texas before what will look like a Western Kansas ghost town as there may not be 5,000 in the stands.

Beaty’s record, of course, was ignominious, but I believe when Long saw the stands for Saturday’s home game against Iowa State, that was the final nail in the coffin. He was gone in Long's mind by kickoff.

The Jayhawks were coming off an emotional victory over TCU and looked good in doing it. Iowa State has been a team the Jayhawks always looked at as one they could compete with, but the program has taken off the last two years under young-and-energetic coach Matt Campbell.

But the announced crowd was a scintilla over 15,000, many of those wearing red and gold, the colors of the Cyclones.

Some of the apathy has to be put on KU fans. Being an alum of the school, I can remember days in 1977 and 1978 when I sat in Memorial Stadium watching some really bad Bud Moore teams, yet the crowds still were decent and we supported our school through thick and thin. 

But the negativity the fans feel toward Beaty unfortunately was taken out on the Jayhawk players, who truly have played hard this year, they’re just athletically inferior to their opponents.

It’s often said that bad things happen in 3s and that’s the case for KU football. After the ugly firing of Mark Mangino, who had guided the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl victory in 2008, former Nebraska star quarterback Turner Gill was tabbed as his successor. It was thought since he played for the legendary Tom Osborne, he would bring a winning culture to Lawrence.

Gill was a man of high character, but appeared to be in way over his head. He never seemed to connect with his players and was gone after two forgettable years and a 5-19 record.

KU then swung for a home run in terms of name recognition and hired Tom Brady’s quarterback coach and former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.

It was a disaster. From Day One, you never got the sense he wanted to be in Lawrence and that he was too big-time for the school. He was 1-11 his first year, 3-9 his second year and while a creditable 2-2 four games into his third year, it was clear he was a square peg in a round hole. He tried the quick fix with jucos and nearly all of them had character flaws and off-the-field issues, many of them never seeing the field.

KU turned to Beaty, who was coming back to a school where he had served as an assistant coach with little acclaim. His selling point was his ability to recruit Texas and he was going to eschew the two-year route and build from the ground up.

And he came cheap, making far less than every other coach in the conference.

His plan never got off the ground as most of his Texas recruits were leftovers that the state schools didn't want and who wanted to go D-I, but didn't really have the talent. 

He was winless his first year, posted one win his second year, two wins last year and three this year. It’s safe to say, having just one commitment for his 2019 recruiting class, four wins next year would have been impossible.

It didn't help that other recent hires around the Big 12 — Campbell at Iowa State and Matt Rhule at Baylor– turned things around at their schools in a hurry.

Long, former Athletic Director at Arkansas, was hired this past summer for one reason and one reason only — to make a football hire. It’s one that will either start KU on the road to respectability — which is all the fans really want — or push the program deeper into disrepair.

I’ve heard Les Miles’ name floated and he would be another Weis. He's 65 and nobody’s been beating his door down since his LSU days ended in 2016, which means there has to be a reason everybody is staying away from him. He’s won 72 percent of his games in 16 years as a head coach and why would he want to tarnish his legacy with two or three years of disastrous football?

Long has said he wants a head coach with a proven track record of turning around programs. If there really is a coach out there looking for the ultimate challenge, this is it.

It’s going to take a lot of David Boothe’s money to make this happen. I know the guy, who is KU’s biggest contributor, is a billionaire and would give anything for the KU program to be big time, but he didn’t get rich by throwing good money after bad.

I can’t wait to see who Long coaxes into taking the job. It needs to be a home run, not another bunt single.