Whoever Kansas’s Coaching Search Lands on, He Should Be Different

This week's mailbag looks at Kansas's coaching opening, the odds of Notre Dame pulling a UCF and Jeff Brohm's future.
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There are now two Power 5 coaching openings—and at least one more on the way soon—and you have questions…

From Brian: Who should Kansas hire to try and have some sort of functioning football team?

Not to sound like a broken record, but programs that traditionally finish at or near the bottom of their leagues need to try something different. They need to establish an identity that differentiates them and keeps them from needing to beat much more successful programs for recruits on a regular basis. Kansas is one such program. Trying to play like the rest of the schools in the Big 12 is the surest way to finish ninth or 10th in the league.

If you read my column on the Maryland opening last week, you know where I’m going with this. Kansas needs to run the triple option. Aside from being a sweet throwback to the school’s Big Eight roots, this would actually give the Jayhawks a chance to win more games. You can read that Maryland column to learn why the triple option turns a recruiting disadvantage into an advantage, but since I already sent Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo to the Terrapins in that one, let’s give Kansas a different coach.

The guy I’d recommend is fellow Paul Johnson disciple Jeff Monken, who is currently working miracles at Army. The Black Knights had won eight games in three seasons before Monken showed up in 2014. The build took time, but Army went 8–5 in 2016, 10–3 last year and currently sits at 7–2, and is going to retain the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy for the second consecutive season.

Hmm, if only there was some video of Monken taking a vastly undermanned team into Big 12 country and pushing the league’s best program to its absolute limit. Oh, wait. There is.

If Kansas athletic director Jeff Long doesn’t believe he could sell tickets with the option, he could opt for a different version of different. In other leagues, that might mean hiring a coach who runs the Air Raid, but since half the Big 12 either runs the Air Raid or a derivation of it, that isn’t going to differentiate Kansas.

So go really different and hire Arkansas high school coach Kevin Kelley, whose no-punt, onside-all-the-time philosophy is not as crazy as it sounds. (Especially when you realize Kelley would be smart enough to adjust based on the stats.) It’ll either make Kansas the most fun team to watch in college football, or it’ll fail spectacularly. But remember, this is Kansas. There’s a better than 50/50 chance that any conventional hire will fail spectacularly. So why not try do something amazing?

ARGUELLO: How Long Will CFP Committee Respect for LSU Last?

From @incognito1520: Is there a scenario where Notre Dame goes undefeated, misses the playoff, then UCFs it and declares itself champs? #LetsGetWeird

I can’t envision any scenario where an undefeated Notre Dame gets left out of the playoff, but this would be truly amazing. If you thought UCF declaring a national title—yes, UCF fans, I know about the Colley Matrix; it’s just that I don’t care—made people mad, imagine the most hated program in America doing the same thing. Imagine all the Notre Dame haters yelling that this is definitive proof that the Fighting Irish need to join a conference in football and the Notre Dame fans responding by setting Under Armour sales records buying national championship gear just to spite everyone else. It won’t happen, but it would be extra salty.

Plus, this question further proves the genius of UCF athletic director Danny White steering into the national champion declaration. A year ago, we called UCF “Central Florida” on first reference because we figured no one outside Florida would know what UCF was. Now UCF is a freaking verb. Well done, Mr. White.

From Dan: It seems like a done deal that Jeff Brohm is going to Louisville. I’m holding out hope that a guy wouldn’t want to go put out a tire fire like UL right after spending two years fixing a tire fire at Purdue. Am I being unrealistic?

This is the opposite of all the tweets I got last year from Mississippi State fans guaranteeing Dan Mullen wouldn’t leave. Our Dan here has resigned himself to a Jeff Brohm departure to Brohm’s hometown/alma mater, and that’s probably a good baseline to keep in this situation.

But I’m not sure it’s a fait accompli quite yet for the reason Dan mentioned. Louisville is a messy situation right now because of all the upheaval in the athletic department after the basketball scandal(s), and Brohm has turned Purdue into a pretty good situation.

First, Louisville would need to do something with current coach Bobby Petrino. That should happen sooner rather than later, because Petrino’s buyout goes up next year and it seems the Cardinals have pretty much quit this season. There is no indication they’ll be any better next year or that the current staff will actually try to make them better. So unless Louisville is cash poor because it’s creating a war chest to deal with former basketball coach Rick Pitino’s lawsuit (which Louisville should prevail in anyway), then the Cardinals need to make a change.

The next logical question is whether Louisville is a better job. Not at this precise moment, but it would immediately become the better job with a coach like Brohm. The Cardinals are capable of recruiting the kind of players who can win the ACC. And if you can win the ACC, you can make the playoff. If you can make the playoff, you can win the national title. Two years ago, Louisville was six points away from eventual national champion Clemson. Had the Cardinals won that game, they probably would have won the ACC.

The ceiling is higher at Louisville. That’s a big deal. The ceiling at Purdue, however, is not as low as most people think. The Boilermakers are still mathematically alive for the Big Ten West title this year, and keeping a coach like Brohm probably would make them competitive for the West title every year. Would they be able to beat the beasts of the East? Maybe not every year, but this Purdue team did just beat Ohio State by 29.

If Louisville fires Petrino and can convince Brohm that the athletic department can stabilize going forward, he could live in his hometown, compete for titles and coach there as long as he wants. But if the department still seems shaky, he’s better off staying at Purdue, making the Boilermakers better and waiting for a job at a perennial national title contender to open.