Sam Mellinger

New coach is just the start of what KU football needs

David Beaty was introduced as the new Kansas football coach at halftime of the Jayhawks basketball game against Florida.
David Beaty was introduced as the new Kansas football coach at halftime of the Jayhawks basketball game against Florida. The Kansas City Star

The easiest thing in the world is to list all of the things that the new Kansas football coach is not.

David Beaty is not well-known, first off. He’s not a guy with any previous head coaching experience and, in fact, was not even a coordinator at Texas A&M.

Beaty is not coming to Kansas with the national title experience that Mark Mangino had as an assistant at Oklahoma, or the momentum of having just won a conference championship like Turner Gill, or even the outdated and at least partially fraudulent reputation of Charlie Weis.

He is also not — and this will be the headline in some places, and the jokes in many others — well-paid by power five conference standards. Heck, he’s not even the highest-paid football coach at his new school.

For the favor of no longer coaching at Kansas, Weis is being paid more than twice what Beaty likely will get for trying to clean up the mess of a program that’s won three conference games in five years.

But at this point, highlighting the negative of KU football feels a bit like pointing out that a wrecked car is also dirty.

Kansas is surely one of the worst three power-conference football jobs in the country, and that might be too nice. There are no safe hires for a program like that, no slam dunks. Beaty makes as much sense as anyone else.

Good programs hire who they want. Average programs hire the best of what’s available. KU used to be the kind of program that could at least hire off the list of hot coaching prospects, but now it is the kind of program that must hire a guy who might be a hot coaching prospect in a year or two.

That’s not an insult. That’s just reality, the product of poor infrastructure (worst facilities in the Big 12), inherent disadvantages (light recruiting base and an in-state powerhouse) and poor decisions (firing Mangino, hiring Gill and Weis).

There used to be a time where facilities upgrades and Mangino’s success meant KU could at least choose from the table scraps left by bigger programs, and it’s worth noting that table scraps can be delicious. Three years ago, for instance, KU had considered hiring Gus Malzahn, then the offensive coordinator at Auburn.

That time is over, and as easy as it is to make jokes about KU paying its head coach less than some schools pay assistants, it’s probably more realistic to applaud the school for recognizing its place.

They’ve paid the going rate for big-time coaches.

Which is why they’re this desperate in the first place.

Beaty has been at Kansas through success (a bowl game in 2008) and failure (10 straight losses that ended the Gill experiment in 2011). He is 44 years old, energetic, with a bright offensive mind that’s helped A&M be one of the nation’s highest scoring teams the last three years (having Johnny Manziel for two of those years certainly helped).

A big selling point to both athletic director Sheahon Zenger was deep recruiting ties in Texas — particularly in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. With interim head coach Clint Bowen staying on as defensive coordinator, the Jayhawks have essentially set themselves up with the passion, familiarity and pride that’s been lacking the last five years. Bowen and Beaty, together, give KU what it’s needed for some time now.

The truth is that Beaty could be Bill Belichick, Bill Self and Bill Snyder put together and it still might not be enough.

KU football is broken, and it will take more than one man to fix it.

The Jayhawks were wretched in 2014 — Vanderbilt was the only other power conference school to finish 100th or worse in both points scored and points allowed — and figure to be even worse in 2015. This is not a one- or a two- or even a three-year project, and this is at a school where the last two coaches haven’t lasted three years.

This is an enormous task, done as competition across college football is at an all-time high. Beaty will need help. Beaty will need to find assistant coaches and high school prospects with vivid imaginations and high ambitions. He’ll need to sell something that doesn’t exist. He’ll need hard work, facilities upgrades, and a lot of luck.

Most of the men who’ve tried this before have failed. The last two failed in spectacular fashion.

Kansas isn’t going to stop trying. So it might as well try something different.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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