A Weis man once said...
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
There is no cryptic message or veiled reference associated with the well-known quote, as its inference that an individual or team settle for anything less than being the very best strikes at the core of what is both right, and wrong with competitive sports.
The University of Kansas has been fielding a football team for more than 120 years, but despite being one of the nation's oldest programs, success has been fleeting at best. The Jayhawks have won only six conference crowns all-time, with the last being back in 1968, and the team has played in a total of 12 bowl games (6-6), four of which came during a highly-successful run from 2003-08.
The last couple of seasons have been particularly rough for KU, as it went just 5-19 overall, 1-16 in the Big 12 Conference under the direction of Turner Gill. With the overmatched coach's brief stint at the school over, the administration felt it necessary to make a big splash and after a stealth-like search, Charlie Weis was hired as the 38th head coach in program history.
Kansas athletic director Dr. Sheahon Zenger was looking for someone to bring stability to the team and believes Weis is the ideal choice, "As I look back over 25 years in this business, the few things I know about football are: it begins with hard work, tireless hard work and attention to detail. That's what I found first and foremost in Coach Weis -- that relentless pursuit of excellence and a passion for the game and for the kids. If you talk to people who know his teams, he's a disciplinarian, and they love him. To me, there's magic in that."
Plain and simple -- winning at Kansas has proven to be extremely difficult so Weis is going to need to pull more than one rabbit out his hat. Mark Mangino posted a 50-48 record during his stay in Lawrence (2002-09), but you have to go all the way back to Jules V. Sikes (35-25, 1948-53) to find another Jayhawk coach who had his teams on the positive side of the ledger. KU is hoping Weis is the man who will get the program headed in the right direction, and while he is one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, his first head coaching job resulted in his termination from one of the most revered programs in the country.
Weis, who has served as the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL, and of the Florida Gators in the FBS, was the head man at Notre Dame from 2005-09. His first two years in South Bend were successful, as the Fighting Irish went 19-6 and played in a pair of BCS bowl games. Unfortunately, they lost both and the team went just 16-21 over the next three seasons.
While expectations are tempered at present, there is an air of excitement at Kansas as Weis certainly has the name recognition Jayhawk fans have been clamoring for. His track record of directing potent offenses speaks for itself, but his overall leadership skills are in question as he faces the monumental task of reviving a program that has certainly experienced its fair share of losing.
During his introductory news conference, Weis talked about why he chose this particular situation to throw his hat back into the head coaching ring, "It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Being able to go into a place that was down low and being able to see it back up and rise to the top. Anyone who is goal-driven in anything, whether it was starting up a business that was doing bad and turning it into something good. It's no different. It's what I do."
The return of 16 starters this year could be viewed as either a positive or a negative, depending on your perspective. But in the eyes of most KU backers, they believe in seeing the glass as half full so they are willing to give Weis the benefit of the doubt, and the time he will need to hopefully build a consistent winner.
Having a veteran field general is imperative to any success a football team hopes to achieve, and former Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist is the man Weis will entrust with running his offense. Crist, who suffered a pair of significant knee injuries earlier in his career, is about to embark on his fifth year of eligibility. He had his best year in 2010 when he threw for more than 2,000 yards and 15 TDs.
The key for Kansas however, will be improving a defense that ranked dead last in the FBS last season (516 ypg, 43.8 ppg). Weis hired former Dallas Cowboys head coach Dave Campo as his defensive coordinator, and the return of some talented seniors, notably DE Toben Opurum and DBs Bradley McDougald and Greg Brown, should help.
Weis was asked recently about the difference between coaching at a school as football-centric as Notre Dame and Kansas, an institution whose legacy is deeply rooted on the basketball court, "The expectations are different, but everyone wants the same thing."
By the "same thing", he is obviously referring to winning. And while the quote that opened this piece is the mantra for many teams set to begin their quest for the next BCS National Championship, Weis has more realistic goals in mind. Goals that simply center around doing the little things necessary for his downtrodden squad to begin the arduous task of climbing out the Big 12 basement.
08/03 10:47:40 ET