Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 20, 2018 at 10:22 pm.

Jayhawks pick Miles to turn program around

The hire at least has great appeal. By taking over the Kansas program, Les Miles became the only football coach in the Big 12 to have guided a team to a national championship.

That, of course, was some time ago, with LSU in 2007. Nonetheless, first-year athletic director Jeff Long made a monumental change he said “will enable us to break the cycle and return a winning tradition.”

Long may want to lighten up on any references to tradition. A recent 10-year swoon has only added to the disappointment marked by just one winning decade of football since the end of World War I.

This decade, however, has been by far the worst, with Kansas sitting 18-89 since 2010. David Beaty ends his four-year term as coach, sitting 6-41 with the Jayhawks (3-8, 1-7) assured of another last-place finish in the Big 12 entering their last regular-season game Friday at home against Texas (8-3, 6-2).

In Miles, who is 65, Kansas not only gets a proven winner with experience coaching in the Big 12 at Oklahoma State but also a proven recruiter with a foothold in two states (Louisiana and Texas) where the Jayhawks have made slight inroads under Beaty.

Moreover, Miles will stir enthusiasm for a fan base starved for success since Mark Mangino guided the Jayhawks to bowl bids in four of his eight seasons, including an Orange Bowl victory to cap an 12-1 run in 2007.

Kansas began a recent football upgrade last year, which included a lead gift of $50 million from benefactor David Booth. In spite of construction on a new indoor facility, the project has mostly stalled as fans waited for something positive before adding to the $350 million donation goal.

The Jayhawks’ last winning season was in 2008, when they reached the Bowl.

“This place has a specialness to it,” said Miles, “that frankly needs to be brought out.”

Typically, that quality has been reserved for basketball, where Kansas is consistently ranked among the nation’s top teams and crowds routinely sell out Allen Fieldhouse.

Miles, however, watched an impressive offensive display by the Jayhawks in a 55-40 loss at Oklahoma on Nov. 17 and was convinced he will inherit some playmakers. In particular, freshman running back Pooka Williams is a potential star in the making. He rushed for 252 yards and two touchdowns against the Sooners, while adding a touchdown pass.

“This to me, this place is a recruiting class or two away from being a very special football team,” said Miles, who went 114-34 at LSU after a 28-21 mark helping with a turnaround for Oklahoma State as its coach from 2001-04.

“So I watched that Oklahoma game and that Oklahoma game in the first half, that Kansas team was wearing them out. And after they got into the second half, the Kansas team got tired. So we have to bolster some very quality backups.”

Williams headlines a list of returnees that include safeties Bryce Torneden and Mike Lee, running back Khalil Herbert and offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji. The cupboard could fill quickly if Miles recruits anywhere close to the level that saw him send 69 LSU players into the NFL Draft, including 13 first-round picks.

Miles agreed to a $1.5 million settlement with LSU, which allowed Kansas to make its five-year offer worth $2.775 million annually before incentives.