After two years in the Big XII cellar, the Kansas Jayhawks fired head football coach Turner Gill. Gill finished his tenure with a 5-19 record and lost the last 10 games this past season, including a 24-10 loss to the Missouri Tigers at the Border War.
Gill’s replacement was announced on Dec. 8 as Charlie Weis, the former Notre Dame head coach and most recently the Florida Gators’ offensive coordinator. Kansas hopes that Weis will be able to turn around a program that won the 2008 Orange Bowl, but has dealt with scandal and losing seasons since then.
Weis had great success at the professional level as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 2000-2004, during which the Patriots won three Super Bowls. He also served as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010, when the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
His success at the professional level did not translate into the college level, however. In 2004, Weis was hired as the head coach of Notre Dame after Ty Willingham was fired after a 6-5 season. In his first two years the Fighting Irish finished the regular season 9-2 and 10-2 and made back-to-back trips to BCS bowls, though they lost both games.
In his third year in the program, the Irish regressed dramatically, finishing 3-9, the most losses in a season in Notre Dame’s history. The graduation of quarterback Brady Quinn after the 2005 season contributed to the dramatic drop in wins, but Weis also attributed the team’s lack of success to his own faults, saying he did not properly prepare his players.
In both of Weis’ final two years at Notre Dame, the team finished 6-6. The 2009 season was seen as especially disappointing, considering the Irish had a preseason top 25 ranking. Weis was fired after the 2009 season and replaced by Brian Kelly. Weis finished his Notre Dame career with a record of 35-27, but was only 16-21 in his last three years.
The Kansas job will be Weis’ fourth job in four years. After being fired by Notre Dame, he was brought in by the Kansas City Chiefs as their offensive coordinator. The Chiefs’ offense improved dramatically under Weis, leading the NFL in rushing offense and ranking ninth in total offense. Four offensive players, including quarterback Matt Cassel, went to the Pro Bowl that year.
After just one year, however, Weis returned to the college level as the Florida Gators’ offensive coordinator. He did not see the same level of success as he did with the Chiefs, as the Gators’ offense ranked 102nd in the nation. In comparison, Kansas ranked 106th.
It seems Weis was picked as coach mainly due to name recognition. Despite his up and down success, Weis is regarded as a great football mind and is respected in the football industry. He has not proven, however, that he can have sustained success at the college level.
The expectations at Kansas will be considerably lower than at Notre Dame. Weis was coming off three Super Bowl wins in four years with the Patriots, and was expected to put the Irish back into national prominence. He did so in his first two years, but failed once Quinn graduated and he had mostly his own recruits playing.
Given the way the last two seasons have gone for Kansas, with their only Big XII victory the last two seasons coming against Colorado in 2010, there is nowhere to go but up. 35 wins in five years, while viewed as failure at Notre Dame, would be seen as a great success and a huge improvement based off of the lack of success of Turner Gill.
Kansas is hoping that hiring a big name like Weis will generate interest in the football program once again. Being the conference doormat for two consecutive years doesn’t do a whole lot in terms of confidence, but adding a high profile coach is a first step in turning around a program.
That being said, it’s a long road ahead for the Jayhawks, and the name doesn’t always make the man. Weis failed at Notre Dame with top 15 recruiting classes and some of the best players in the nation. He will be working with considerably less at Kansas, which can’t attract the kind of big name football recruits as a program like Notre Dame. It’s an interesting and flashy hire, but it will remain to be seen if Weis is the answer at Kansas, or if they will remain in the Big XII basement.
Topics: BCS, Big XII, Border War, Brady Quinn, Brian Kelly, Charlie Weis, Fighting Irish, Florida Gators, Irish, Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas Jayhawks, Matt Cassel, Missouri Tigers, New England Patriots, Notre Dame, Orange Bowl, Pro Bowl, Turner Gill, Ty Willingham