* Talking about coaches and their job status is never something I take lightly as a sports columnist. So in Friday’s edition of The Eagle, when I said first-year KU football coach Turner Gill should be on watch after the Jayhawks’ embarrassing 59-7 loss to Kansas State on Thursday night – Kansas’ third embarrassing loss of the season – it was with careful thought.
Turner Gill seems to be a genuinely good man with good morals. He did not inherit a ready-to-contend football team at Kansas. There are signs that recruiting is going reasonably well.
But after what I saw on the field Thursday night, and after talking to a few people around the KU program more than I am, I got the feeling that Gill might not get the kind of rope a first-year coach would normally get.
The biggest reason is because the athletic director who hired Gill, Lew Perkins, is no longer around. A new AD will be hired in the coming weeks or months and it’s conceivable that person will have leverage to at least start thinking about who he might want to hire. Chances are, that new AD will not be in place until the winter or spring, dead in the most important recruiting time. Therefore, it’s almost a certainty that Gill will get a second year to prove himself at Kansas.
The only way that doesn’t happen, probably, is for the Jayhawks to continue to lose football games and lose them in humiliating fashion. North Dakota State, Baylor and K-State qualify as humiliating losses and if there are three or four more, the pressure on Gill will intensify.
Kansas fans spoke loudly with their actions Thursday night. Many of them – far more than half – had exited Memorial Stadium by the middle of the third quarter.
The major issue here is KU’s sudden decline as a football program. Just three seasons ago, the Jayhawks had a historic season, going 12-1 and reaching the Orange Bowl. They were one of the most exciting teams in the country. At one point, they were 25-6 over a 31-game stretch. But since a 5-0 start in 2009, Kansas is 2-9 and 0-9 in Big 12 games, having been outscored 365-164 in those defeats.
I’ve heard the point made that, “Oh well, it’s just KU football.”
Well, KU football made great strides not only on the field in recent years, but off. A solid and enthusiastic fan base was built and that fan base is growing more disgusted by the day.
Previous coach Mark Mangino is not without blame here. It bothers me when people say Mangino would not allow some of the things that are going on under Gill, that he would somehow figure out a way to make the Jayhawks more competitive in these blowout losses.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Mangino was on the sideline for a seven-game losing streak to end last season. He was embroiled in controversy with some players for how he treated them. Things had started to slide. I believe, though, Mangino earned enough credit to be given more of a chance to fix KU’s problems.
Instead, the program was turned over to Gill. And based on early returns, there are big questions. I never said Gill should be fired, now or at the end of the season. I simply wrote that Gill should be on watch and that it shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion that he returns for Year 2.
* Sundays are one of my favorite television nights, thanks to “Dexter” on Showtime and “Mad Men,” the season finale of which is set to air this week. Television viewing used to be such a relaxing venture. But with so many quality shows on so many channels, it’s difficult for me to let new shows into my existing pattern of viewing. There is only so much time in a day, after all. So it’s not uncommon for me to DVR a show and decide later that it’s not a show I’ll ever watch and delete it from my queue. Anybody else have the same dilemma?
* Some college football picks for Saturday:
Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 20 (my shocker of the week; game to be played in Madison)
Missouri 24, Texas A&M 20 (Tigers remain unbeaten going into next week’s showdown against OU in Columbia)
Arkansas 27, Auburn 24 (another unbeaten goes down)
Nebraska 34, Texas 21 (Longhorns won’t completely roll over, but it won’t be that close, either)
Oklahoma State 34, Texas Tech 27 (winning at Lubbock is never easy)
It sounds as if former Wichita State catcher and Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge is about to be named manager of the Seattle Mariners. This makes me happy.
Wedge is one of the best guys around and I think he’s a fantastic manager. Eventually, player development became an issue in Cleveland and the Indians traded away many of their stars. Wedge got caught in the middle of a rebuilding effort.
Seattle was one of the biggest disappointment in the major leagues last season. With a pitching staff centered around Felix Hernandez and Ichiro Suzuki still getting 200 hits per season, there are some pieces. However, the Mariners have a long way to go. Wedge would have his work cut out for him, but Seattle has a great ballpark and a strong fan base. This would be a win-win, I think.
Sorry, no Shock Talk this week. Blame your host, who was out playing golf today instead of working on the blog. The golf didn’t go so well – thanks for asking. But what a gorgeous day.
Thanks again for reading and we’ll be in touch here soon.