In the coming months sports fans and analysts around the nation will be faced with a very important decision—jump on the Kansas football train or fill up their Haterade.
Either way it doesn’t matter because Les Miles is about to bring the pain. And I can already sense that every Big 12 team, especially their fans, are nervous.
Jeff Long didn’t just hire Les Miles to put on a show. He hired him to win games. And not just a few more than Beaty did or the coaches before him, he brought Miles in to win Big 12 championships.
Most people will laugh, scoff, or even write me a strongly worded letter after such an audacious claim. But I don’t think it’s that audacious. Not even close.
See, we live in a world where winning is the only thing that matters. And if you’re not winning you’re forgotten. Unless you’re as bad as Kansas. And then you’re laughed at, coddled, then finally nursed back to health with “at least you have basketball.”
The problem is Kansas can’t afford to just have basketball. They need football. And in the worst way. And that’s exactly why Jeff Long hired Les Miles—to resurrect a program that had been for so long buried into the depths of irrelevancy.
And those that doubt Miles can execute are in denial. He made LSU what they are today. And he created the high expectations and title aspirations they have every year.
Yes, they were good before he arrived. Nick Saban did a solid job starting the process. But for the following 12 years under Les Miles’ tutelage they won more games than they have with any other coach. And let’s not forgot the 8-4 bowl game record that included a National Title in 2007, which would be one of the three National Titles that the LSU program has won.
It’s not like Miles fell into a perfect world and just glided through as if the program carried itself. He put in work. He recruited big time players and he got them to the NFL. And had he not had a rough relationship with the LSU AD he’d likely still be there. Winning games and breaking program records.
But he’s not. He’s at Kansas now and he’s already starting to turn heads. His staff is as impressive as a staff I’ve ever seen assembled at Kansas. He hired an OC in Chip Lindsey who was most recently at Auburn. And the guy has been tremendously successful everywhere he’s been. He even landed arguably one of the best and most sought after WR coaches in the nation in Emmett Jones. Jones isn’t just a great coach but his recruiting prowess, especially in Texas, is off the charts.
Fans are even excited about recruiting, which less than a month ago was even more upsetting than the 3-9 record the program ended with. They’ve went from a 178th ranking to a 123rd ranking in the matter of weeks. And from one recruit, who has since de-committed, to six recruits and counting.
There are those fans, though, that may not be impressed with the stars next to the names of these recruits. They may even scoff at the amount of JUCO players Kansas has offered. But let’s remember Miles wasn’t left much time and there really wasn’t much left in the cupboard.
But I applaud him for getting on the recruiting trail immediately after he was hired.
I applaud him for even going after guys that were already committed and even able to flip a few.
I applaud him for getting a four star LB that had already committed to LSU to take an official visit to Kansas. The LB loved the visit by the way and is strongly considering Kansas. He likely stays with LSU but the consideration is huge in itself.
I also applaud Miles for giving out so many preferred walk-on offers especially in the state of Kansas. It may seem confusing to some fans but this is the exact same route Bill Snyder took. He loaded his team with depth by developing these PWO’s into scholarship players. And that’s what will dig Kansas out of its seemingly never ending scholarship hole.
But why is he offering so many JUCO’s now when it hasn’t been a trend of success for the Kansas program in recent years? Well, he doesn’t have much of an option with most players having already committed to other programs. He’s also of the mindset to win now, which can help build the foundation and do it quickly.
Charlie Weis wasn’t successful with JUCO’s because he didn’t make sure they’d qualify before he brought them in. He also didn’t look at their character which is a huge part in recruiting. And most of his JUCO recruits never even touched the field.
David Beaty wasn’t successful with JUCO recruits because he relied on them towards the end of his tenure instead of the beginning. He found the players weren’t developing like they needed them to and in desperation brought in guys that already had experience. It didn’t pan out and still left Kansas in the scholarship hole they’ve been unable to dig out of.
But I trust Les Miles. He knows what he’s doing. He’s won more games in his career than the last four coaches at Kansas combined, which includes Mark Mangino. That’s a solid base to gain the trust of fans and administration.
And remember, this is just the beginning. Les Miles has just gotten started and once he gets rolling he won’t be stopping anytime soon.
The buzz around Lawrence is no longer just about basketball, it’s about football too. Fans are excited, anxious and finally tuned in.
Les Miles is exactly what the doctor ordered—that doctor being Jeff Long.
So whether you’re on the train or not, keep your eyes open and get ready to witness history. Things at the University of Kansas are going to change. And in a way that will have the nation tuned in with clear eyes, full hearts, and an affinity for watching a once downtrodden program finally win again.