At long last Kansas University has a chance to become a consistent and competitive football team; however, that’s not to imply that it’s going to happen this season. Down through the years, KU has been hampered by chancellors who either haven’t had the necessary interest or intelligence to hire outstanding athletic directors. Not all of the ADs and presidents have been incompetent, but many of them have been.
Taking an objective look at the history of KU football from 1940-present (77 years) tells a sorrowful tale. From 1940-45, coaches Gwin Henry and Henry Shenk didn’t have any noteworthy seasons.
George Sauer coached at Kansas for just two years (1946-47), but he awakened the Jayhawk faithful with two exceptional teams: KU went 7-2-1, in 1946 with Ray Evans as captain and 8-1-2 in 1947 with captain Otto Schnellbacher.
After Sauer left, J.V. Sikes became the Jayhawks’ head coach (1948-53) and he was highly successful. In 1948, KU had a 7-3 record; in 1950, John Amberg and Mike McCormick were captains and Kansas was 6-4; Sikes’ 1952 team had Bill Schaake and Aubrey Linville as captains and had an 8-2 record; and with Charlie Hoag and Oliver Spencer as captains, the Jayhawks were 7-3 in 1952.
After Sikes came the ill-fated experiment of hiring Chuck Mather from the Ohio high school ranks for four seasons (1954-57). Mather’s stay at KU was a disaster. Jack Mitchell (1958-66) succeeded Mather and had some excellent teams. In 1960, Doyle Schick captained Kansas to an 7-2-1 record; in 1961, captains Curtis McClinton, John Hadl, and Stan Kirschman led Kansas to a 7-3-1 record; the 1962 team was 6-3-1; and in Mitchell’s last successful season, the Jayhawks were 6-4 in 1964.
Pepper Rodgers replaced Mitchell and coached four seasons (1967-70). Rodgers had one great season in 1968 (9-2) with mostly Mitchell’s recruits.
Don Fambrough coached KU in split tenures (1971-74 and 1979-82); he had two successful teams: 1973 at 7-4-1 and 1981 with an 8-4 record.
Bud Moore succeeded Fambrough and had just one good year: KU went 7-5 in 1975. He coached Kansas from 1975-78.
Five substandard seasons followed: Mike Gottfried (1983-85) and Bob Valesente (1986-87) failed to produce a single competitive team.
Glen Mason (1988-96) put two first-class teams on the field during his nine seasons as the Kansas coach. Mason’s 1992 team had an 8-4 record and the 1995 ballclub was 10-2.
Mason was followed by the totally inept Terry Allen (1997-2001); Allen’s teams were all second-rate.
Mark Mangino succeeded Allen and had two superb teams during his eight seasons as the Jayhawks’ coach. In 2007, KU had a great 12-1 season and a better-than-average team at 8-5 in 2008.
Following the catastrophic leadership of ADs Lew Perkins and Sheahon Zenger, Kansas endured eight consecutive disastrous football seasons under three coaches: Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, and David Beaty.
In an oversimplified conclusion, Kansas has had just 18 better-than-average to near-great teams during the 77 seasons since 1940.
From here—despite the pathetic tradition of Kansas football—it looks like the unacceptable situation is slowly beginning to change. In today’s college football, four basic things are needed to be successful: 1. Successful programs need a president who’s both knowledgeable about and supportive of the football team. 2. Having such a chancellor insures that an outstanding AD will be hired who will in turn hire a capable head coach. 3. The university must have a donor base that will contribute generously to the football program. 4. It’s also essential that universities be well-located and a member of one of the nation’s top conferences. Kansas qualifies in all four categories.
Only time will tell, but KU chancellor Douglas Girod is off to a solid start in elevating the lowly status of the Jayhawks’ football teams. His hiring of Jeff Long as the new AD is a perfect beginning.
That’s all that can be done at this time. The next vital move will be for Long to hire a new head coach once this season is over; now isn’t the right time.
Kansas State began fall football practice last Friday. Coach Bill Snyder will be coaching his 27th K-State team and the 2018 outlook is promising indeed. Snyder has talent and experience at the vital QB position with sophomore Skylar Thompson (6-2, 205) and junior Alex Delton (6-0, 205).
Kansas State is well-stocked with experienced and talented players on offense and defense; the one potential glaring weakness is special teams. Assistant head coach Sean Snyder lost all of his key players off last season’s special teams, which are the most underrated units in college football. Young Snyder has a history of producing exceptional special teams and he’ll have to work some magic to do it again. Don’t bet against him.