LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger acted nearly as quickly and forcefully after the Jayhawks’ regular-season finale as his counterpart at Arkansas one day earlier.
The only difference was that Zenger kept his coach.
Zenger issued a statement immediately after a humiliating 58-17 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday that said coach David Beaty would be back next season. Beaty has won just three times over his first three seasons in Lawrence, and only one of those victories was against another Football Bowl Subdivision foe.
Still, that was evidently enough to convince Zenger and school administrators that the longtime assistant coach was the right man to not only turn the program around, but to do so while the AD and other officials are trying to drum up support for more than $300 million in stadium renovations.
“The thing it does it helps us move forward in recruiting because the key is going to be developing the ones we got and recruiting better ones,” Beaty said shortly after the loss Saturday. “That’s going to be a major part of getting this thing turned. We’re getting closer, we just aren’t there yet.
“We just have to keep on working,” he said, “and there is no secret.”
There is little doubt the Jayhawks, who went 1-11 this season, are in better shape than when Beaty took over for Charlie Weis. Scholarship numbers are back to a reasonable number, talent level has increased substantially and there were moments in which the Jayhawks were competitive.
But the turnaround hasn’t happened nearly as quickly as hoped, and that has stirred up angst for a fanbase weary of losing. Empty seats were plentiful at Memorial Stadium this season — at least, when they weren’t full of opposing fans — and apathy was returning to an all-time low.
That’s why some wondered whether Beaty would get another season.
“As I said several weeks ago, Coach Beaty and I have been evaluating the program throughout the season and will continue to do so now that the season has concluded,” Zenger said in his two-paragraph statement. “While we know the results of this season are not acceptable, the rebuilding of this program is a process, and Coach Beaty will continue to lead us through it.”
It hasn’t helped that other schools have rebuilt quickly, including Iowa State, which had won eight games over the three-year span before Matt Campbell’s arrival. The Cyclones won three games his first year and seven this season, earning a trip to a bowl game for the first time in five years.
The Jayhawks haven’t won seven or more games in nearly a decade.
“There are points here and there in the season to turn things around, and it just seemed like something always went against you right when you needed it to go right,” offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji said. “But we’re going to keep pushing. There are two ways you can go: You can fold or you can keep pushing.”
Beaty and his staff wasted little time in starting to push, many leaving straight from Stillwater on the recruiting trail. The priority is two-fold: Keep their commitments and add some more.
The Jayhawks have a pledge from five-star prospect Devonta Jason, but LSU and others are turning up the heat on the Louisiana wide receiver. They also have a four-star defensive back, Corione Harris, and a solid number of three-star recruits who have given verbal commitments for next season.
Meanwhile, a young team will hit the weight room and begin working toward next season.
The Jayhawks lose only four seniors from their offensive and defensive two-deep, and that means two quarterbacks with starting experience and nearly all their weapons will be back next season.
So despite another disappointing season, there are indeed reasons around Kansas to be optimistic.
That optimism helped get Beaty one more season.
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