David Beaty, in four years at Kansas, has repeated the catch-phrase often.
When the KU football coach talks about “dealing in reality,” he means there’s no point in pretending a challenge doesn’t exist, or in imagining that it will be easy to overcome. It’s best simply to embrace what’s ahead, put your head down and go to work to make things better.
The coach admits, though, that the words have taken a bit of a different meaning in recent weeks.
His own changing reality is this: Beaty’s seat has become hotter than any other FBS coach.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
“I think it’s very simple: I understand why it’s a story. I get it, man. Come on,” Beaty said reflectively, when asked about news reports questioning his job security. “Guys that run from that ... I’m not going to run from it. Listen, it is what it is. This is a production business.”
Beaty’s circumstances, in the last few months, have altered dramatically. The man who hired him — Sheahon Zenger — was fired this summer, with new athletic director Jeff Long taking his place. Beaty, who has gone 3-33 in three seasons, likely won’t have much time to show he deserves to retain his job past this season.
“The pressures are there. They’re real,” Beaty said. “They exist.”
And much of Beaty’s hour-long talk with reporters at Monday’s Big 12 media days was honest conversation around how he planned to approach an upcoming season with the stakes fully clear.
Beaty, from early talks with Long, said he respects his new boss’s vision and believes both agree on many topics when it comes to rebuilding the football program.
The coach, though, said he hadn’t been given any indication of whether it would be a set number of victories or better competitiveness that would allow him to keep his job into 2019.
“I don’t have the answer to that, and I can’t concern myself with it,” Beaty said. “It’s not going to change the way that we operate.”
Beaty followed by repeating a consistent message: He was going to focus on the responsibilities of the every day and see how things played out from there. The coaching staff would not change its mission or drastically switch up the way it had worked the last three years.
“When it comes to the situation, we understand the urgency. We understand the pressure that comes along with it, and we welcome it,” Beaty said. “We’re not afraid of it.”
Beaty, like many KU fans, was watching online during Long’s introductory press conference last week. While on vacation in Destin, Florida (his family has traveled there the same week for 22 straight years), Beaty said he started to look into logistics to make his way back to Lawrence before Long convinced him to keep his original plans.
“He was so good about the way he managed that,” Beaty said. “And he knew my desire to want to get back.”
The two have not yet met face to face, but Beaty says he looks forward to it. The fact that Long has seen college football success in previous stops makes Beaty believe that a fresh perspective could help.
“Having a new boss is only scary to people when they don’t have a plan and they’re not prepared,” Beaty said. “I am fully confident in our plan, and I can’t wait to give him an inside look (at the program).”
Beaty also spoke more openly about the challenges KU faced in the past. He admitted, when he first took the job in late 2014, he inherited only 39 true scholarship players, with that number dropping to 28 for spring practices. By the fall — with a 24-person recruiting class — the Jayhawks were back up to 52, though that still left them well behind the FBS scholarship limit of 85.
With some luck this year, Beaty said he hoped to have the scholarship number back to around 70.
The coach also has tried to improve from past mistakes. He keeps a notebook in the right-hand top drawer of his office desk, writing down lessons he’s learned each season.
His main takeaway after reflecting this year? Beaty believed he needed to do a better job of emphasizing smart football, as 2017 only reinforced to him that most games are lost by one team instead of won by the other.
Beaty doesn’t appear to lack enthusiasm entering his fourth season. He made a point Monday to say that he has to “choke (himself) to sleep” each night, partly because he often wants to continue his work to turn KU into a winner.
“I love that I’m at a place where it matters. It would not be any fun to be at a place where it didn’t matter, like, ‘Hey, just keep showing up and do whatever. It ain’t no big deal.’ No,” Beaty said. “This is a storied program that deserves to be among the best. We are striving to get that done.”
The team will need to start its improvement soon. Beaty, whose contract runs through 2021 with a $3 million buyout, no longer has the security of working for the man who hired him and gave him a contract extension.
Those facts, he knows, are part of a new existence.
“Is there pressure? Listen, anybody that tells you they don’t have pressure in this job is lying. There is pressure,” Beaty said. “But that is what makes it so fun.”