Will KU stick with Bowen?

By Steve Sell
November 13, 2014

Clint Bowen does —  and says — all the right things.

But will that be enough?

Bowen is hoping at some point soon to lose the “interim” tag from his title of interim head football coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.

Bowen was chosen to lead the Jayhawks for the rest of this season after KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger finally realized the great Charlie Weis experiment was not so great.

Bowen has compiled a 1-4 record in five games, the victory coming against an Iowa State team that probably got verbally flogged by its supporters upon its return to Ames. No team in the Big 12 was supposed to lose to the Jayhawks this year, but the Cyclones not only pulled it off, but were dominated in the process.

The Cyclones, not the Jayhawks, will finish in last place in the Big 12. Hey, given the circumstances of the last five years of KU football, you’ll take victories when you can (though tearing down the goal posts after the game was embarrassing, what would happen if they beat a really good team, tear down the stadium?)

Bowen’s coaching acumen really isn’t on trial here. Everyone knows the team doesn’t have near the arsenal to win any of these last three games or even be competitive. In fact, it’s too bad there’s not a running clock rule in college football like there is in high school because it may be needed with games left against TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas State, all capable of hanging about 80 on a given day. Maybe the great snow of 2014 will occur during these three games to level the playing field.

It’s clear the players want to win for Bowen and are giving max effort. Winning in college football, though, isn’t that much about the coaching, it’s about the talent. Bill Snyder couldn’t win with this bunch. There’s just not much there.

What Zenger and the KU brass have to figure out is, can Bowen convince top-flight talent to come to a football graveyard? His passion resonates with his current players, but will the players even in the Top 500 give KU a sniff?

I’ve never figured out why KU basketball is so wildly successful and football has been hit and miss, for the most part miss. Bill Self recruits McDonald’s All-Americans by the handfuls, but the football coaches are lucky to have an All-Big 12 player.

It’s a great school, I can vouch for it being a member of the KU Class of 1979. There’s lots for a college kid to do and there’s a major city nearby to enjoy. Millions have been poured into the football facilities and the fan base proved when the team had a winner (remember 2007 and the Orange Bowl?), old Memorial Stadium will put out the no-vacancy sign.

I think Bowen is going to get the job, primarily because no big-name coach would touch this program with a 10-foot pole. Forget Jim Harbaugh to KU, that story has flown like a lead balloon. There really isn’t a hot-shot coordinator out there who would seem to be a good fit. Kansas State, on the other hand, has two candidates to choose from when Snyder finally hangs up the whistle, Dana Demel and Snyder’s son, Sean. You can bet the Wildcat Godfather will have a very heavy hand in who is picked to continue his legacy.

Bowen is everything KU — a Lawrence native, former player, an assistant coach and interim head coach. He’s young enough to relate to today’s players and oozes with enthusiasm. If KU goes outside, an already near-impossible task turns to impossible. Most of the few good players KU has on its roster are seniors and if you think the talent level is low now, just wait for next year. The Jayhawks could be dead men walking and the Iowa State game is in Ames, so there goes the one legit chance to win in the Big 12.

My guess is that Zenger and his advising team will decide that Bowen is the right man at the right time. He’ll certainly be cheaper than a Harbaugh or a Brady Hoke (assuming he’s fired by Michigan). The Royals could afford James Shields next year with the money KU has paid to coaches not to coach (Mark Mangino, Turner Gill and Weis.)