In its search for a next football coach, Kansas appears to be zeroing in on candidates with ties to one of the program’s finest eras.
Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, a former KU assistant under Mark Mangino, has discussed the job with the KU, The Star confirmed on Thursday.
Warinner’s contact with Kansas was first reported by Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman. Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck, another former Mangino assistant, also has spoken to Kansas, according to Feldman.
A source familiar with KU’s search process told The Star on Thursday that interviews for the position have been conducted via conference call with members of Kansas’ search committee, headed by athletic director Sheahon Zenger. The conversations, at this point, are believed to be preliminary in nature, with more formal interviews — possibly with a set number of final candidates — coming early next week.
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Warinner is coaching in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin on Saturday.
KU athletic officials are not publicly commenting on the timeline, but signs point to a hire being made before next weekend. Another source with close ties to the KU football program, who is not involved directly with the search, also expressed hope that the search would be finished by next week.
Next weekend is a key date for recruiting. Many top Kansas City-area prospects, as well as other recruits, are expected on campus for official visits, and it would be unusual to invite prospects on campus while the head coaching job is still vacant.
While Warinner and Beck have ties to Kansas, the only candidate that has been publicly acknowledged by Zenger is interim coach Clint Bowen, who served as a defensive coordinator for Mangino on a KU staff that also included Warinner and Beck.
Bowen, who returned to Kansas in 2012 to be an assistant under then coach Charlie Weis, led the Jayhawks to a 1-7 record as interim coach, guiding Kansas to a victory over Iowa State and a close loss to then No. 5 TCU before ending the season with blowout losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State.
According to a source with ties to the program, Bowen has the respect of key donors and boosters, but the decision ultimately will be made by Zenger, with consultation from members of the committee. Zenger also has enlisted former Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas to assist with the search.
Texas A&M receivers coach David Beaty, a former Mangino assistant with deep recruiting ties to the state of Texas, is also thought to be a candidate, though it is unclear if he has taken part in phone interviews this week.
From the beginning of the search, it was clear that Zenger would target candidates with knowledge of the Kansas program and the landscape surrounding it — though the scope of the search would not be limited to candidates with those credentials.
Zenger, a former college football assistant coach who worked for Bill Snyder in the early days at Kansas State, has not hid his respect for the job done by Mangino — another former Snyder assistant — and his staff during his days at Kansas. The Jayhawks played in four bowl games in six seasons from 2003 to 2008, including an Orange Bowl victory following the 2007 season.
Warinner — whose daughters are students at KU and have worked in the KU football office — was the offensive coordinator on the Orange Bowl team, engineering the efficient spread offense built around quarterback Todd Reesing. Beck, who was the passing-game coordinator for those offenses, was also a key member of that staff. Bowen, meanwhile, was co-defensive coordinator with Bill Young in 2007 before becoming the full-time defensive coordinator in 2008.
Beaty, a former high school coach in Texas, came to Kansas to be the receivers coach in 2008 and immediately paid dividends on the recruiting trail. He was responsible for bringing standout running back James Sims to Kansas, among others.
The search, according to Fox Sports, has mostly focused on assistant coaches to this point, though some sitting head coaches could become involved in the process.