Right now KU football's primary competition is Maryland, which also has a coaching opening
While speaking with reporters Sunday night to discuss his decision to fire football coach David Beaty, effective at this season’s conclusion, University of Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long said he couldn’t point to one particular reason for the timing.
Any number of weekends following a KU football loss this fall, Long could have decided to move on from Beaty without drawing much criticism.
So why now?
It certainly wouldn’t be Long’s only motivation, but it’s in KU’s best interest to not allow another Power Five program get a lengthy head start on a coaching hire.
Last week, Maryland fired D.J. Durkin. The third-year Terrapins head coach had spent most of the past few months on administrative leave, coinciding with an investigation into the program’s culture, due to the death of one of Durkin’s players, offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who suffered heat illness during a workout.
So first-year Maryland athletic director Damon Evans, like Long, is in the market for a head coach who can inspire a mostly disgruntled fan base and produce victories.
True, the lists of possible candidates for KU and Maryland may not actually overlap that much. But if Long discovered even one coach that intrigues him as a replacement for Beaty might be on Maryland’s radar, he wouldn’t want to limit himself in his ability to pitch that candidate on coming to Lawrence.
Theoretically, the names of a proven winner such as former LSU head coach Les Miles and an up-and-comer such as Toledo head coach Jason Candle could be on the minds of any athletic director contemplating a regime change. So it’s pretty feasible to picture Long and Evans mulling over the merits of some of the same candidates.
And if you were a head coach looking for a new job, which is more appealing: Kansas or Maryland?
The Terrapins’ move from the ACC to the Big Ten before the 2014 season hasn’t gone perfectly. But Maryland has actually played in four bowl games while going 47-62 since the start of the 2010 season.
Kansas, of course, in that same timespan — known in this part of Big 12 country as the post-Mark Mangino era — has not experienced one season with more than three victories. Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, eight-game interim head coach Clint Bowen and Beaty have combined to give the Jayhawks an 18-87 record (.171 winning percentage) since KU fired Mangino.
Selling any coach on taking the KU job will likely prove difficult for Long. And when more Power Five jobs inevitably open up with the close of the regular season in sight, that means more competition for KU.
Long will spend almost all of his waking hours between now and finding KU football’s next head coach trying to make the perfect hire. He did himself and the program’s long-suffering fan base a favor by going all in on that endeavor with three weeks left in the latest unsuccessful KU football season.