By Andrew Curtis
It’s finally that time of year. Three things are inevitable: School is back in session, the leaves are beginning to change colors and the Kansas football program is set to begin its 123rd season.
It’s safe to say that the Jayhawks enter the 2012 season with the most optimism since 2009, when Mark Mangino was still at the helm. The Turner Gill era was, well, if you want to call it an era, nothing short of abysmal. In my first three years at KU, the football team managed to get embarrassingly worse.
A program that had won an Orange Bowl just a couple years before managed to just 10 wins in 3 years, only half of them coming over a two year span under Gill. But now, under the new leadership of veteran coach Charlie Weis, things are looking up.
Weis comes to Lawrence with a proven track record as an assistant coach in the NFL which features a handful of Super Bowl titles, most recently as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. He brings with him a repertoire of offensive knowledge, a solid nucleus of coaches on his staff and a chip on his shoulder.
Weis is out to prove to the football world that he can get it done as a head coach at the collegiate level after failing by most accounts in his first go-around at traditional power Notre Dame. He doesn’t want to make the same mistakes that plagued him during his time in South Bend.
Some question why Weis took the job at a downtrodden program like Kansas, and I say to them, “why not?” The man has nothing to lose and wants a challenge. He’s a man on a mission, and he’s going to get this thing turned around. Just give it time, be patient and don’t expect instant results in the win column overnight.
The Weis hire has already begun to pay dividends. Circumstances made Weis fortunate enough to lure prized quarterback Dayne Crist, who was a highly touted recruit out of high school that signed to play for Weis at Notre Dame, to transfer to Kansas and use his one year of eligibility he has left.
Crist, who had injury problems as well as dealing with a coaching change when Weis was fired, fits Weis’ pro-style offense perfectly as a signal caller. He shares a lot in common with Coach Weis because of the adversity he has faced. Both are reunited and determined to help turn the KU football program around.
Crist is one of a handful of well-known players who have transferred to play for Weis at Kansas in hopes of rekindling their college careers. They join a group that is accustomed to losing, and losing big. That’s what Weis is here for. To change the culture by doing things the right way, and ultimately, being more competitive and winning more games.
Weis also convinced Dave Campo, longtime assistant for the Dallas Cowboys, to join his staff as defensive coordinator. Expect to see a big turnaround from the defensive side of the ball, which set records for futility last year.
Things certainly have nowhere to go but up at Mount Oread, and that starts with this Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Trust the process. Weis, the man behind the machine of the operation, adds instant credibility to the program, so give him time and the benefit of the doubt. He’s all in, so the fans should be too. Let’s pack the house this weekend and give the old ball coach the support he deserves.