THE MORNING AFTER… Nebraska

I ran into Zac Diles last night. The Houston Texans rookie linebacker watched the “Laugher in Lincoln” on television in Manhattan, and he was embarrassed just talking about it hours later. A number of topics were touched upon briefly, but the one that left him shaking his head was the 3-4 (although the Wildcats played some 4-3 yesterday, I believe).

“They don’t have the personnel,” he said.

That’s kind of where I am right with this, the Ron Prince Experiment. And make no mistake, that’s precisely what this is because it’s become a dangerous time for K-State athletics. I can’t state this enough – if the Wildcats don’t finish with a winning record (more on that in a second) and KU somehow, improbably plays for the national title, does K-State become completely irrelevant in football? And does it happen only two years A.B. (after Bill)?

Hey, I’ve jokingly said to people who would listen that I think Ron Prince is going to be a great coach – the second time around. My point is, he needs to find out what works well, and really, this is trial and error. He’s going to make mistakes. He’s going to have successes. But, and we’ll be saying this about Frank Martin this winter, too, he’s going to be inconsistent, and every team follows its leader’s lead. My point is, some times, in order to become good, you have to fail. Look at Pete Carroll – he couldn’t hack it in the NFL. Went to USC, became arguably the best coach in college football. Bill Belichick struggled in his first go-around as a NFL coach in Cleveland, but look at him now.

I’m not comparing Prince to either of those men. The only thing he has in common with them is the fact that he is a coach. And he’s breathing. That’s not an insult. My point is, Prince doesn’t have a large enough body of work for us to give an accurate assessment of how he’s doing. Oh, you can be emotional and say he’s arrogant, and you might be right. But that’s a subjective “analysis,” if you could even call it that.

All he has is his record. He is 12-11 in two seasons. That is almost the definition of average. But for someone without head coaching experience, being average isn’t bad. Think of it like this – if you were immediately handed your boss’s job, and for the next year or two, as you got acclimated to the new job, you were “average,” would you be disappointed by that?

Maybe, maybe not. But there might be disappointment expressed by those beneath and around you, when really, their disappointment should be directed at the person who deemed you ready for the promotion.

If the Ron Prince Experiment doesn’t work – and at this point, again, the evidence is inconclusive – is it Prince’s fault because he was a novice head coach given an upper-tier job at a BCS school?

Do you turn down a date with Halle Berry because you’ve never, ever dated out of your league?

The answer to both questions is the same – of course not.

What Diles said is correct. Prince knows how he wants his team to play, but if you don’t have the personnel, doesn’t it become moot? Isn’t coaching also being able to make adjustments?

Clearly, he’s learning on the job, which had to be expected – given his inexperience. What happens now, though, might alter the football balance of power in the state. Maybe it’s already happened. And no, I’m not being too dramatic. Watch and see.

Usually, I tend to stray from predictions. But I truly believe K-State is in significant trouble the next two weeks. You can draw your own conclusions about Missouri, but the Fresno State game that everyone thought was such a sure thing when the season began? The Bulldogs battered Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan late Saturday night, but lost, 37-30, in Honolulu. They held Hawaii to THREE points in the second half, on the road. They have the week off, and you think Pat Hill isn’t geared up for that game? Here was his quote last night:

“We have two weeks to get ready for Kansas State. Kansas State is a good football team from the Big 12. They beat Texas earlier this year and I know they will have a lot to play for. They will be playing for their bowl life. It will be a big-time game at Bulldog Stadium.”

Pat Hill lives for these moments. He has a distinct coaching personality – he loves to play the underdog role and show up the big-boy programs. We know what Pat Hill is, so we feel like we know how his Bulldogs will play in the regular-season finale.

We’re still struggling with what to expect from Prince. And his team.