On Beginning to Think Constructively about KU Football

  • The title of my post, “On Beginning to Think Constructively about KU Football,” leaves me open to charges of expressing an oxymoron, but I am trying to roll up my sleeves and start somewhere on this mess that I have long avoided like the plague that KU football has been most of my lifetime.

    I was a feasibility analyst once very long ago, so I am predisposed to thinking nothing is impossible, just resource constrained, while at the same time being possessed of sufficient respect for complexity and unforeseen consequence, to also think some things are not worth the resources and effort required.

    So long as football appeared a certain brain wrecker, I resisted temptation to explore football rigorously. It was a moral issue, same as boxing. Its a great sport, but its morally wrong. Don’t support it. But as I noted recently in another post, some evidence has come in that calls brain wrecking into some (but hardly complete) question, so to be reasonable, I think I must start to consider the heretofore unthinkable–serious analysis of how to reanimate the corpse of KU football without re-enacting something positively Lovecraftian in the doing of it; i.e., analyze without going all Herbert West.

    First, everyone needs to forget about Bill Snyder and KSU; that situation is a blinder to good feasibility analysis. He was then, this is now. What is Snyder? 143?

    Snyder rebuilt KSU in a prior century under circumstances essentially as unlike today, as Amos Alonzo Stagg’s time was to young Bob Devaney’s build of Nebraska. Snyder was at a school as unlike KU, as storming the court from applauding great performances by opponents. Both have their places, but they just do have divergent world views.

    I may not be the first to note this, but it is an insight that bears constant reinforcement. Forget about Snyder and KSU. If what he did would have worked at KU, then Snyder protege Mangino would still be here, and Snyder protege AD Sheahon Zenger would already have had KU football well on the way to stability and glory, rather than the ignominy it still stews in post Mangino. Mangino was clearly on a right track, but something derailed in Mangino and in the KU culture that dismissed him, because he fell back to earth from a freakish apogee in the first place. We need to take a hard, dispassionate look and understand forensically, what derailed Mangino, and KU on Mangino, in order to find a more fitting model for rebuilding. Similarly, we need to take a hard, dispassionate look at Zenger and ask what it is about our KU culture that prevents Zenger from emulating Snyder’s success as an administrator of KU football before we even begin to think about what kind of rebuilding path to follow with, or without, Zenger.

    Next, if we are to seek models and techniques, organizational reforms, and personnel for how to rebuild today, we need to look to recent turnarounds in ours and other Power Conferences. We need to study them closely, then adjust for our means and expectations according to the state’s population, football heritage, infrastructure, time zone and administrative acumen. There is no point emulating from rote that which we lack the capacity in resources, circumstances and administrative capacities effectively to do, unless and until we find work arounds for our shortcomings and uniquenesses.

    Before proceeding, remember that a sufficiently inclusive, systematic rational feasibility analysis has by definition NEVER been conducted. How do we know? Because KU football persists in abject failure. Whatever feasibility analysis that was undertaken had to have been, itself, incompetently done–insufficiently inclusive of crucial factors and constraints. Even moderately effective feasibility analysis would have already yielded moderately effective results. Always remember: “failure” is context’s way of saying: “you’re not fitting with me. You’re not even really trying to fit with me. You’re living in denial about crucial parts of me. Wake up! Fit with me! Or I am going to keep rejecting you. And I will.” Failure speaks loudly AND carries a big stick. It is denial and self interest and sunk costs among listeners that prevents it from being heard, understood, and acted wisely upon. Failure in operational realm, is the equivalent of pain in the physical realm. Failure and pain are supposed to focus our attention on inadequate fits with context that need resolution. Some failure and pain have to be borne while finding and implementing a more fitting solution, but the only rational goal is to move toward reduced failure and pain. Anything else is masochism. Screw masochism.

    Rational feasibility is not a panacea of perfection. It is a rational process of iterating between identified necessary skills/resources/path and workarounds to those to find a solution that fits the existing and changing context as best can be achieved during the effort. It is a process of identifying a critical path from A to B and laying in all of the lines of communication (logistics) necessary to do and sustain what HAS TO BE DONE in order to go where you want to go.

    Rational feasibility from scratch is, unfortunately, like AA, too often a last resort. But like AA, it is also usually the only reliable way out of the collective addiction to incompetencies and total failure that the fat, lazy, bungling, protected caught in denial have triggered and allowed to accrue to unavoidable levels of insolvency. America herself appears in a painful process of finding out at a national level that it has been in denial about private central banking; that private central banking does not appear to work for republic’s best interests without a lot more constraints than any private central bank owners are apparently willing voluntarily to tolerate. KU, long in denial about its culture’s ability to produce a respectable football program without fundamental change, has apparently begun to see through its denial in football. Sugar daddies don’t know how to feasibly extricate KU football from persistent abject failure. They may even be partly responsible for perpetuating it for self interest. Neither apparently do our Chancellors or ADs, or football coaches. This is a systemic problem that requires all of the above figures that have bogged KU football down in failure to step back, admit they all suck at building a football program separately, admit they all have to find someone that actually knows something about how to solve this problem, and hire that person to undertake a rational feasibility analysis outside the spotlight, then agree that they all hang together, or hang separately, and get on with building KU a credible football program, according to a rational plan suitably broad in its recognition of constraints. I am not EVEN hinting at football excellence yet. I am talking about getting to mediocrity first but with an ambition of excellence for sure.

    Next, it needs to be pointed out that at the point of total failure, morally, ethically and financially bankrupt cultures invariably resort to being saved by a person. You can disparage this and hand wring about it, but in terms of feasibility, and how reality actually works, you cannot deny that this phenomenon of the hero replays endlessly in all cases of total failure of a culture. Sometimes the heroes look in retrospect as good guys. Sometimes they seem like evil incarnate. But either way, heroes happen at these times. Why does not really matter. I prefer Admiral Bull Halsey’s explanation: "“There are no great men, there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.” Thus ordinary man Beatty could turn out to be Halsey, or he could turn out to be the fine man that Halsey relieved before Halsey did the great things he did in the Solomons Campaign of WWII. Halsey said he could not have done the things he did had not the hard work of the man before him laid the foundation. It was not false modesty. All great accomplishments come only after the foundations have been laid. Chance and fate apparently decide among the hard working, competent men and women of history, who is relieved and who arrives to fulfill the role of hero.

    Whatever, since one cannot avoid the hero, as our founders well knew, one must set up all the institutions feasible to channel the selection and constraints on such persons, when they inevitably emerge, so they are not destroyed, and so they do not destroy us as well, by their own hubris. Only the well constrained hero succeeds. The rest end in tragedy.

    Thus, this person is either one that combines the inevitable cult of personality with rational feasibility from scratch building on the best foundations of the legacy culture (FDR), or one that combines the cult of personality with building on the basest foundations of the legacy culture (Hitler).

    KU is at such an inflection point in football, same as USA is at one in its national life.

    At such points of inflection, the train of change is leaving the station no matter what. Naives get in the way of it and hope to stop it. They are run over. Fools and evil doers and terrorists try to blow it up on the way out. Sane, decent individuals have only the option to choose whether to be on it, and help engineer it, or to leave by car, or boat, or plane, and find an entirely new place to call home.

    I like KU sports and have no intention of leaving them for amateur beach volley ball, or professional bowling. The train is leaving, one way or another. I am on board. Better late than never.

    So: if only for increasingly feeble old @jaybate 1.0, let us compile a list of recent football turn-around successes, discuss them civilly, and see if we can help engineer this train as it leaves its current junction of long term failure.

    Clearly, the leadership of KU and KUAD are baffled and so we can do no worse than they have, and will likely, if we bring fresh, unbiased, and politically and financially unencumbered thinking to the issue, find a way to clear the track ahead of obstructions and to fuel the boiler and arrive at the desired destination, where none has seemed to exist before, rather than derail and catastrophically injure KU sports and so KU basketball, too.

    Rock Chalk!

  • @jaybate-1.0 Dude, your writing is as dense as a double fudge brownie with thick chocolate frosting. I want two hours of college philosophy credit just for reading all the way though it.

    That said, you set the bar pretty high when you advocate for such a reality-based and rational review of the KU football program. Sadly, I am too old and cynical to expect that the university will do this kind of analysis.

  • @Careful-you You deserve a candy bonus if tou got all the way through. With all due respect to @jaybate-1.0, I couldn’t do it. Not because of him, but because the topic (KU fb) leaves me weeping and gnashing my teeth. So I have to click elsewhere on happier topics (you know, like Preston’s suspension) or face an emergency trip to the dentist.

  • @jaybate-1-0 - I suggested in another thread that KU convert to a contrarian type offense – the triple option or flex bone – one that will put us at a preparation advantage, one that will permit us to be more system oriented (and thus close the gap easier based on lesser talent), and one that will shorten games by more running of the ball (thus putting our inferior talent in a better position to win). It also is proven winner at the collegiate level. Further, it does not require the high skill level necessary from a QB to run an air raid or spread offense. The four or five star QB we have simply not acquired. Teams in the Big 12 don’t see this offense. They see the air raid/spread all the time.

    I just saw that Nebraska had made inquiries - “Nebraska is also considering coaches who run the triple-option, flexbone offense, specifically Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo. Sources indicate that if Nebraska approached Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, he would recommend Niumatalolo or Army’s Jeff Monken, both his former assistants.” – from SBNation.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    I recall neither the straight triple option nor the flex bone were ever solved defensively. They fell out of favor, because players, parents and agents decided it did not prepare players for the NFL draft, or NFL Offences. I read a quote from Barry Switzer that it was literally impossible to defend, except by repetitively cheapshotting the quarterback and fullback into injuries. He said it would work just as well in the NFL, if not for the size disparity between NFL backs an defensive line/linebackers. Even putting 250 pounders at QB and 275 pounders at fullback could not make up for to bruising NFL 325 pounders could dish out. And Switzer was clear: you had to be blindingly fast at the second and third options for it to be indefensible.

    I was at KU and a classmate of wishbone QB Nolan Cromwell and strong safety Kurt Knoff. If memory serves, Cromwell and Knoff had both been d-backs the year before—easily the greatest pair of safeties in KU history. The coaches decided to change to the bone with Cromwell. Cromwell was sensational—230 rushing yard in a game only a few games into the season. The idea was to pair Cromwell’s freakish combination of strength and speed with Laverne Smith’s 4.2 40 speed for corner turning. It worked, but you have never seen a quarterback so beat up each Monday at class. Knoff, who was a fercious hitter and fierce competitor, and who played through collisions that destroyed other players, and came to class pretty banged up said he was absolutely grateful he did not have take the beatings Nolan was taking. Over time the toll the bone took on quarterbacks and fullbacks (XTReme wear and tear) seems what caused it to dead end. Fullbacks just plain had no option but to wear horse collars! Every triple option snap a fullback bellied into tackle option that meant either a head on with a tackle staying home, or a charging linebacker if the tackle stepped across to stop the fake and force the hand off. It was endless.

    That said, I think your idea is great strategically both because of unfamiliarity AND INDEFENSIBILITY even without a Cromwell grade QB.

    The only question is: could any coach get players to sign with KU to run the offense? That I can’t hazard an educated guess about.

    But they would win at least a few games with the wishbone—it’s that hard to stop.

  • Two solutions to KU football:

    1. Let me coach. Things will change. We still won’t win any games, but the fans would be entertained. Think “All-Star Wrestling”.
    2. Drop the program. I know, I know, I know. But I don’t care.

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