The obvious choice for Kansas in hiring their next football schedule has to be Mike Leach. The bad news for Jayhawk faithful is that Leach isn't a sure-fire get for KU as he is being pursued by Washington State with presumably Arizona State and UCLA also in the mix. If Leach isn't hired, it would surely deflate an already sunken Kansas football fan base.
That is not to say in the long run it wouldn't turn out to be for the best though. No one was doing backflips I would guess when Bill Snyder was hired at K-State or Mark Mangino was brought on at Kansas. Even though Mangino's exit was less than stellar he did lead KU to a BCS bowl victory and right now that is looking next to impossible for KU.
"What is the point of this rambling?" you may be asking. Well in my opinion if Leach falls through, then the backup plan for Sheahon Zenger and the Kansas athletic department is to go back to the well and hire another former K-State assistant coach and possibly one who also worked at Oklahoma as well much like Mangino. He may not take the job but my first call after Leach would be to former K-State assistant and South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt. His name has been mentioned, but it seems to be that he's not a top candidate and this is somewhat confusing.
While the baggage that Leavitt has in his past is seemingly more damaging that Leach, it is partly hypocritical to say okay to Leach but deny Leavitt. The positive points with Leavitt are obvious as he is familiar with the area having worked under Snyder at K-State in the '90s when the Wildcats were an up-and-coming program.
From there he took over a South Florida program that was literally starting from the ground floor as the team was newly formed. In his time at USF he made the football program a consistent winner and led them to their first bowl victory in 2006. The Kansas football program may not just be starting out but it might be the equivalent of it with only one conference win in the last two seasons under former coach Turner Gill.
In addition to knowing the Big 12 area from his time at K-State, Leavitt also knows how to get talent from all areas. Much like Bill Snyder has done over the years, Leavitt has shown an ability to dip in and get talent from the junior college ranks with former South Florida football player Jason-Pierre Paul as an example. Another example is RB Michael Hayes who is currently at the University of Houston and is helping lead the Cougars to a BCS bowl game, Hayes was a former commit to Leavitt at South Florida after having attended Blinn Community College. It is well known that Snyder and K-State mine the junior college ranks for talent, and this should be a strategy employed by the next Kansas coach as well.
The other candidate who should definitely be looked at in high detail would be Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables. As most everyone knows he is a native Kansan who has worked under Bill Snyder at KSU and Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. He too helped in the rebuild at K-State, so he has first hand knowledge of what it takes to build a program as well as maintain an up and running one also.
His name has been thrown out for numerous head coaching positions over the years, but he has remained at Oklahoma even though numerous other Oklahoma assistants have moved on such as Mike Stoops and Mark Mangino. The simple fact that he has not moved on to a head coaching position does make one question if Venables is head coaching material or simply a strong coordinator.
One conspiracy theory on why Venables might especially be interested in the Kansas job is the ever existing rumors of a rift between Venables and his alma mater Kansas State. While trying to get the exact story is next to impossible, most K-State fans have heard the stories of Venables not leaving Manhattan on the best terms and not having the possibility of being the next person to replace Bill Snyder when he steps down. Maybe Venables would like the opportunity to take down Snyder and K-State on a yearly basis.
In no way does Zenger hiring a former K-State assistant like Leavitt or Venables mean success, but at least it does have a track record as Mangino showed during his time. He was able to get some key in-state recruits like Jake Sharp and Darrell Stuckey who were key contributors during the Jayhawks glory seasons. The next head coach will have to be able to do the same as the State of Kansas has produced of late quite a few solid Division One players, both Leavitt and Venables should have contacts to be able and do that.
Would Kansas fans be supportive of hiring another former Wildcat assistant if they miss out on Leach? Probably not at first but that all changes if the coach starts winning games.