The fall of Kansas football should look familiar to Texas Tech fans


In the middle of the 2000’s, a once fledgling Big 12 football program rose to national prominence under the leadership of an unusual and quirky head coach. Then, just as soon as the program’s tide of success came it, it rescinded back out to sea when a mutiny caused the removal of the mastermind that had guided the program to never-before-seen heights. However, this is not another piece about Texas Tech and former head coach Mike Leach.

While we are all familiar with the collapse of the Texas Tech football program, many may not realize that Kansas football has been through almost the exact same saga. In fact, the similarities are eerie.

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In 2001, Kansas hired former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Mark Mangino as head coach (one year after Texas Tech hired his predecessor at Oklahoma, Mike Leach). In only two years, Mangino led Kansas to its first bowl birth since 1995 when the Jayhawks lost to possible Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Phillip Rivers’ N.C. State Wolfpack.

Using a passing system similar to Leach’s Air Raid offense, Kansas soon found itself atop the standings of the Big 12’s north division. In fact, Mangino’s 2007 team won a BCS bowl (the 2008 Orange Bowl) after a 12-1 season.

But just like Texas Tech, Kansas football was soon headed for a terrible fall because of the actions of its head coach. In 2009, after the most successful 4-year span in over a century of Kansas football, Mangino was fired when allegations of player mistreatment were brought against him. Link

The second-winningest coach in the program’s history and 2007 national coach of the year officially resigned in December of 2009 in light of the growing allegations and an internal investigation into his actions.

In December of 2009, Texas Tech fired head coach Mike Leach after similar allegations of the mistreatment of a player. Leach’s firing came only weeks after he beat Oklahoma in the team’s regular season finale to become the program’s leader in coaching victories.

Both programs would soon make mistakes from which neither has yet fully recovered.

Following the dismissal of Mike Leach, Texas Tech hired veteran college head coach Tommy Tuberville to run the Texas Tech football program. While Kansas went in the opposite direction by hiring an up and coming coach in former Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill.

In only three years, both universities would have new head coaches again.

Tuberville lasted only three seasons at Texas Tech before he left to take the head-coaching job at Cincinnati. The former Mississippi and Auburn head coach was a terrible fit in west Texas and his seat was growing warm after three mediocre seasons. Many felt he skipped town after being told by athletic director Kirby Hocutt that better results were expected.

Meanwhile, Gill’s stint at Kansas was even more disastrous. After being given a 5-year, $10 million contract, Gill went only 5-19 in Lawrence. While Tuberville left Texas Tech to work for an old friend, Cincinnati Athletic Director, Tom Hathaway, Gill was fired in part because Kansas brought in a new athletics director, Sheahon Zenger (yes that’s his real name) who wanted to hire his own football coach.

As if the two universities’ paths were not similar enough at that point, the programs became even more connected by their next head coaching hires.

In 2011, Kansas hired former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charile Weiss who already had one failed collegiate head coaching stint at Notre Dame from 2005-2009 where he went 35-27 and was fired.

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A year later, a former student of Weiss, Kliff Kingsbury would be hired as the head coach at Texas Tech. Kingsbury was a member of the 2003 New England Patriots’ squad, spending time as a third-string quarterback under the tutelage of Charlie Weiss.

Though the two spent only one season together, Kingsbury has said that he considers his time with Weiss critical in his understanding of the game of football. After going separate ways, both men kept in touch and eventually landed in the Big 12 conference.

During Weiss’ three years at Kansas, the program failed to show improvement. The Jayhawks went 5-22 with Weiss at the helm before he was fired in the middle of the 2013 season.

Kingsbury has also seen his program struggle under his watch but in the middle of this his third season, people around the program and the nation can see that the culture and talent base is beginning to resemble what Kingsbury has envisioned from the beginning.

One of the most popular Texas Tech professors during my tenure at the school, Dr. Carl Anderson, always taught that, “Inconsistency is a crazy-maker”. And one has to look no further than the football teams at Texas Tech and Kansas to see how frequent turnover at the head coach position can destroy solid programs in a matter of months.

Fortunately, Texas Tech has a number of advantages that Kansas doesn’t. A strong recruiting base, a recognizeable head coach and passionate football fans that support the team financially give Kingsbury opportunities that simply do not exist at Kansas.

This season, under new head coach David Beaty, Kansas is arguably the worst team in the FCS. With only 54 scholarship players, Beaty is hardly able to field a full team. As you watch today’s game, look at the difference in the two teams on the field and be thankful.

Because just six years ago, both programs were at the height of their accomplishments before the alleged mistreatment of players by each university’s head coach sent each football program crashing down towards irrelevance.

Thankfully, Texas Tech appears to have found a path back and is poised to once again make a solid ascent up the Big 12 standings. Meanwhile, the Kansas Jayhawks appear more lost than ever and one must wonder if the program will ever recover.

Next: V.F. Castro provides national perspective on Texas Tech, Big 12