Kansas is back in the market for a head football coach after parting ways with Les Miles on Monday night amid detailed reports of sexual misconduct during his tenure at LSU.
The argument for Miles’ dismissal is unbreakable: LSU officials were aware beginning in 2009 of “chronicled significant alleged misconduct” involving the former coach, who was fired early in the 2016 season, going so far as to bar Miles from being alone with student workers. An investigation conducted by an outside law firm revealed that then-LSU athletics director Joe Alleva found Miles’ behavior so problematic that he recommended his firing in June 2013.
Kansas is the punchline of college football, with at least nine losses in every season since 2010 and no significant infrastructure, recruiting base or blueprint to reverse the program’s embarrassing run at the bottom of the Power Five conferences.
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Miles did nothing to change the Jayhawks’ direction, even if the youthful makeup of the current roster suggested building-block pieces to eventually make a run at bowl eligibility. Despite his pedigree, however, Miles went 3-18 in his two seasons and capped the shortened 2020 season on a 13-game losing streak.
Four themes loom as KU looks to make a nearly unprecedented coaching change with spring drills just around the corner:
► The program’s long-running downturn strongly suggests institutional issues that go beyond the coaching staff, even as several failed hires in a row have compounded these concerns.
► With spring football already underway in every Power Five conference, the timing is horrible to find an established head coach.
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Even if KU was willing to evaluate coaches off a lower level of competition — which the school has not seriously considered in the past — that the Football Championship Subdivision is conducting a spring season due to the coronavirus pandemic makes the process even more challenging.
But it’s not impossible. Colorado was forced to make a change late last February after Mel Tucker left the program after one season for Michigan State. The Buffaloes may not have made the splashiest hire in Karl Dorrell, even if Dorrell did nearly get CU into the Pac-12 championship game in his first season. He did have experience as a Power Five head coach and ties to the program and the conference, however.
► Kansas has an uncertain leadership structure in the athletics department
The attention now shifts to athletics director Jeff Long, who thoroughly botched Miles’ hiring and now has such a spotty track record — including hiring Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema at Arkansas — that allowing him to run another coaching search would be astoundingly stupid, even by the Jayhawks’ standards.
► The talent pool won’t be deep.
This is slightly overblown: Coaches want to make money and lead programs in the Power Five, and KU can check both boxes. The Jayhawks’ youth, especially at the skill positions on offense, is another enticement for a coach willing to embark on this daunting rebuilding project. But the program’s coaching board will be full of a certain class of candidate.
The contenders won’t necessarily lean young, though a less-established candidate is far more likely to take on the challenge. They’ll be defined by an offensive identity that can make up for the program’s inherent talent disadvantage. They’ll be experienced in running a program regardless of the level of competition, and very likely come off the Group of Five level or, as with Dorrell at Colorado, come from out of college coaching entirely.
And the strongest candidate will have to be comfortable gambling his reputation and career on the worst job in the Power Five. How many coaches fit the bill?
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg.
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