The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

October 4, 2012

Weis' road to riches paved with losses

ENID, Okla. — Just a little north of the border there is a pretty big college football game being played Saturday. While most fans here will be keeping a close watch on the Sooners as they take on Texas Tech, there is an equally intriguing Big 12 game happening in Manhattan, Kan.

OK, not intriguing in the sense of the outcome. The  undefeated No. 7 Kansas State Wildcats (4-0) are 24-point favorites over the 1-3 Kansas Jayhawks, but intriguing in the sense of seeing whether first-year KU head coach Charlie Weis is worth the pile of money the school tossed his way to make Jayhawks football somewhat relevant.

So far the results have not been equal to the $2.5 million per year, five-year deal Weis signed before the season after the Jayhawks dispatched Turner Gill. The Jayhawks’ only win this season came against South Dakota State, a none-too-impressive 31-17 win. Since then the Jayhawks have lost to Rice, TCU and Northern Illinois.

When Weis took the job he asked rhetorically “Why was the University of Kansas 2-10 and why was Kansas State 10-2?” He then answered “I don’t have that answer, but that is what I am here for.” Let’s face it, Kansas has never really mattered in college football. They are the equivalent of Duke and to a degree Kentucky – schools that are Goliaths on the basketball court, but merely bit players on the gridiron.

But in a quest to become relevant, the Jayhawks decided to go with a big-name coach whose real claim to fame was blowing a golden opportunity at Notre Dame and parlaying his failure into a lifetime of riches.Weis took over at Notre Dame in 2005 and did fairly well after inheriting Tyrone Willing-ham’s recruits. Weis went 9-3 in his first season, taking the Irish to the Fiesta Bowl where they lost to Ohio State. The next season the Irish improved to 10-3, ending the season with a 41-14 loss to LSU. Then the bottom dropped out on the Golden Domers.

The following season, once Willingham’s recruits were mostly gone, the Irish had one of their worst seasons ever, going 3-9 before crawling above .500 to finish 7-6 in 2008, defeating Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl, which is hardly the postseaon bowl game Irish faithful envision. His fate was sealed when he went 6-6 in his final season.

Weis compiled a grand record of 35-27 at Notre Dame. But being fired hardly was a bad thing as the Irish still are paying him on his contract. In 2009, he was paid $6.6 million and another $2.1 million in 2010. With termination payments scheduled through 2015, Weis is poised to collect nearly $20 million for doing little more than being one of the biggest coaching busts in Irish history.

Some have said the days of Irish dominance are finished and Notre Dame is no more than another school in today’s modern-day college football world. Current Irish head coach Brian Kelly has proven that theory wrong with the No. 9 Irish currently undefeated.

Give Weis credit. He has proven to be opportunistic. One thing he hasn’t proven himself to be is a winner, and the early returns at Kansas haven’t been promising.

If the outcome goes as expected Saturday, Weis will have compiled a record of 17-25 as a head coach since 2007, potentially keeping him on the road to future termination riches.

Weis still may not have that answer he was searching for at his introductory press conference, but he knows the path to financial wealth. Right now, it’s paved with canceled checks from Notre Dame. Will Kansas be next?

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.

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