Give the man credit, Les Miles is going for it — for now

Newly-hired Kansas football coach Les Miles shakes hands with a fan as he is introduced to the Allen Fieldhouse crowd during halftime of the Jayhawks’ game against Stanford.

It’s been 137 days since Les Miles was introduced as the next football coach at the University of Kansas and in that time the program has taken on an entirely different look.

From a new coaching staff and fresh crop of players to the way things are done around the complex and inside the brand new indoor facility, Kansas football is quickly distancing itself from the days of the past.

The only place that will really matter is on the field this fall, and the jury is still out on whether significant changes will be a part of the 2019 team’s season, too, and whether they’ll be enough.

Either way, now that Miles and company have reached the final few practices of their first session of spring football, it feels like as good a time as any to examine what we know about the KU football program’s new leader.

We don’t know who his quarterback will be yet. Even if we do. We don’t know the identity of the 2-deep depth chart, although some sections of that are becoming clearer with each passing week. And we don’t really know what type of offense Miles will run, how his defense will operate, whether he’ll call heads or tails for the coin flip or how many games he expects this team to win in Year 1.

But we do know this — Les Miles is going for it.

For Miles, the football part is easy. It’s a game he’s been around seemingly all of his life and a job he has done very well at all of his coaching stops. Modern times, an evolving game and a new environment won’t change that, even if all three do present legitimate challenges for Miles.

It’s the rest of the equation — the most important part, which includes selling the program to the public — where Miles is really going for it, though. And whether that’s actually his doing or part of a bigger marketing and branding initiative tackled by a team of new Jayhawks, Miles is the man at center stage for all of it.

Don’t get me wrong, this program needed better coaching and player development when Miles took over and has needed it for the better part of a decade. But getting the fans to buy in, no matter what has been sold, has proven to be one of the absolute toughest — and most important — parts of this job.

To that end, it’s clear that Miles, at least during his first 137 days as a Jayhawk, is doing everything he can to try to bring fans back to the program.

Some of it has been terrific.

Buying lunch for KU students last week at The Underground was a great move and no doubt gained him some fans among the student body.

On Wednesday, Miles was at it again, back in the heart of KU’s campus, playing tailgate games against students and handing out prizes to the winners. More goodwill. Free food and free stuff have a way of speaking to college students.

These gestures won’t gain Kansas so much as a single first down during the upcoming season. And they’re not a completely foreign concept. Many of Miles’ predecessors tried these same engagement stunts, but few of them did it with the regularity that Miles currently is and none of them backed it up by producing on the field.

There’s the rub.

Miles could buy lunch for 5,000 KU students a day for six months straight and not have it matter one bit on Saturdays at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium unless the team on the field is worth watching.

That part takes time. And Miles deserves more of it before we judge him as the head coach at Kansas.

As for his part-time role as KU football hype man, the first-year KU coach gets high marks in that department.

All we need to watch for now is whether Miles’ outreach efforts truly make a difference and if the product on the field and in the locker room is prepared to take advantage of it if they do.

Stay tuned.

Comments

Len Shaffer

Being liked certainly never hurts when it comes to selling a product, and Miles is great in that department. I can't wait to see what changes there are on the field as well.

I think all realistic KU fans don't expect much if any of an improvement in wins and losses this year, but we would love to see some real signs of progress in being competitive. (Admittedly, Beaty showed some of that last year, but it was way too little too late, and he also continued to regularly exhibit his inability to make sound decisions.)

7 months, 1 week ago

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Dane Pratt

Agree, don't think realistic KU fans are expecting a seismic shift in year one, but I'm not sure what percentage of KU fans are realistic. Year after year I read numerous posts predicting a bowl season only to fall well short of six wins and each time we go searching for a new head coach the list becomes more and more absurd. Someone went so far to recommend Bill Walsh which was in itself ridiculous enough if he were alive.

7 months, 1 week ago

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Waylon Cook

Pretty clear he can coach.
Pretty clear he can recruit.
Pretty clear he can do the PR part.

Thanks for the negative outlook, what else could we expect from the LJW?

7 months, 1 week ago

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Phil Leister

Um, what article did you just read exactly?

7 months, 1 week ago

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Karen Mansfield-Stewart

From a distance it looks like he’s genuinely having fun. This is his greatest professional challenge and his last coaching rodeo. He wants to enjoy the ride - and to do that he needs some people on the bandwagon.

7 months, 1 week ago

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Brian Wilson

Pete asks, Who can coach and win at KU?

A man with a vision....."I can see for MILES and MILES !"

Maybe they'll play it at Memorial.
Probably not though, they would have to pay royalties.

7 months, 1 week ago

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Len Shaffer

I like it, Brian!

7 months, 1 week ago

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Dane Pratt

Not sure how many people would get the reference.

7 months, 1 week ago

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Darin Bradley

Yeah winning takes time but... not sure how you give more time to a man who hasn't completed a season yet. Just sayin :)
Excited to see what he can do! Rock Chalk!

7 months, 1 week ago

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Andy Godwin

Even before any improvements on the field of play the Williams Education Fund (WEF) is requiring donors to maintain their same donor status in order to retain their seats from last year (for our family - more than 5 decades), much like a licensing fee for pro sports. For me the level of WEF giving has been based on the location of basketball seats, not football. The athletics department is hoping to get WEF donor levels up with Miles in the helm. It will be interesting to see how much the coaching change alone and preseason hype (hopefully with this coaching staff it will be more than just preseason hype in a couple of years) will truly impacts the number of fans on the east versus west sides of Memorial Stadium before a snap and before they start winning. At least Miles is trying to engage students, which for most have lost interest in filling the east side.

7 months, 1 week ago

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