This time around, KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger was going to leave little to chance.
The Kansas football program was broken. That much was clear. In the last five years, the Jayhawks had won 12 games and lost 60. They had hired and fired two head coaches.
Three years ago, Zenger boarded a private jet and went searching for a football coach, eventually luring Charlie Weis from Florida. This time, Zenger stayed right at home, employing a search committee that featured former Jayhawks from at least five different decades.
Last Wednesday, that carefully-chosen search committee gathered on a conference call and listened to the plan of a 44-year-old former high school coach from Texas. David Beaty had waited his whole life for this opportunity — from his days of coaching and cutting the grass at Irving MacArthur High School, to his current role as a highly successful recruiter and receivers coach at Texas A&M.
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By 10 a.m. Thursday, Beaty had outlined his plan, and KU’s committee — which featured former players John Hadl, David Jaynes, Nolan Cromwell and Darrell Stuckey — had reconvened and began the process of sifting through a list of candidates, looking for “clarity,” as Zenger would later put it.
What ultimately came was a directive to Zenger.
“End the search,” Zenger said Monday, “and go get David Beaty.”
This is the story of how Beaty, a former Kansas assistant, ended up in Lawrence on Monday morning, wearing a suit and introducing himself to a crowd of gathered media, administrators and alumni in a news conference.
Beaty, who becomes the Jayhawks’ 38th football coach, will sign a five-year contract worth $800,000 annually, with incentives that could push his yearly salary to more than $1.5 million. As a first-time head coach for a program that has won just three Big 12 games in the last five years, Beaty will have to prove himself at college football’s highest level.
But as he stood in front of a microphone Monday, he appeared more than willing for the challenge.
“The foundation of our plans are going to rest squarely on a couple of different concepts,” Beaty said. “Hard work and earning everything. We’re going to earn the support of our students, our fans, the high school coaches of this great state, from east to west, north to south, and the recruits in this great state. We’re going to earn them one person at a time, one relationship at a time.”
Beaty is what you might call a “relationship” guy, a coach who rose from the Texas high school ranks on the twin ideals of elbow grease and an innate Texas charm.
“It’s a relationship business,” Beaty will say.
Raised in Garland, Texas, Beaty speaks with a deep drawl and is not shy about invoking his faith. Twice on Monday he choked up, mentioning his wife, Raynee, and two daughters, Averie, 15, and Alexa, 10.
For Zenger, the total package of communicator, recruiter and organizer caught the eye of the search committee, which believed the Kansas football program needed “the right fit” to help pull it out of its deep quagmire. The translation: Kansas needed someone who understood this place.
“I think when you get the right fit with KU, the state of Kansas, the Midwest, things just tend to go a little better,” Zenger said.
The idea that Weis, who finished 6-22 in parts of three seasons, was not the right fit for Kansas was an unstated theme on Monday. But both Beaty and Zenger used verbiage that set the new era apart. Zenger said Beaty was the type of coach “who valued substance over style, someone who would undersell and overproduce, and finally, just work hard.”
Beaty, meanwhile, promised a program that would identity with the ideals of Kansas.
“Humility is a minimum expectation,” Beaty said, “and that is something we identify with.”
Last Friday, when Beaty met his KU players for the first time, he held the team meeting in the weight room, a symbol for what he wanted his program to be about. On Monday, he outlined other core beliefs.
Beaty — who served as receivers coach under Mark Mangino in 2008-09 and for Turner Gill in 2011 — has been around spread offenses since his early days as a high school coach in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The Jayhawks, Beaty says, will run a “fast-paced” offensive system, the kind of turbo-charged football that can attract the eye of fans and potential recruits.
“It’s fun,” Beaty said. “It’s fun watching that ball go all over the yard. It’s fun watching guys catch touchdown passes. It’s fun watching Todd Reesing run around and swing that thing across his body for 75 yards and a touchdown on the post to Dezmon Briscoe.”
Beaty also said he would put a high priority on developing a walk-on program to strengthen the Jayhawks’ roster numbers and talent pool in the state of Kansas.
“There’s a lot of guys out there in the state of Kansas that want to be a part of their great program,” Beaty said. “And that walk-on program can be powerful. We want it to be the most powerful walk-on program in the country.”
As Beaty finished these words, he looked out toward the gathered mass of cameras, as if trying to pump fresh energy into the room. For Beaty, that’s part of the goal.
“He’s a man that has established relationships at all levels in the Big 12 footprint,” Zenger said.
On Monday, Beaty began his morning by eating breakfast with donors. Then came the hours of interviews, each answer designed to sell a program that few have been buying for the past five years. And next comes perhaps the most difficult sell of all: the recruiting. Beaty, no doubt, will tap into his Texas roots to find players, using old relationships to build the Kansas program anew.
But on Monday, as Beaty spent the day at his new office at the Anderson Family Football Complex, he wanted to focus on his new home.
“We truly want this to become a Kansas identity football team,” Beaty said “We’re going to hit the state of Texas, we’re going to hit the state of Oklahoma, we’re going to hit the state of Missouri, but make no mistake, it’ll be a Kansas identity football team.”