The Kansas coaching search finally ended with the hiring of Charlie Weis and while it definitely is grabbing headlines it is also being met with mixed reactions on a national and local level.
We will probably never know if Weis was Sheahon Zenger's first choice or second or third or even fourth choice but in the past few weeks we have heard many different coaches name associated with the position. It does make one wonder how Weis stacks up against some of the names that had been floated out there.
The first choice that was on everyone's mind when the position came open was obviously Mike Leach, who went on to take the Washington State job. From strictly a college coaching perspective Weis does not really stand on the same level as Leach who led a Texas Tech program to multiple bowl games and numerous winning seasons while competing in the Big 12 South Division. Most people agree that Leach would have been the best candidate by far to take over the KU program especially with Texas ties and knowing the landscape of the Big 12.
Another name that had cropped up in recent days as a possibility for the position is new North Carolina head man Larry Fedora who had been at Southern Mississippi. Once again if you are only going to compare Weis college coaching resume up against Fedora it would appear on paper that Fedora would have been a better head coaching candidate for Kansas. While Fedora and Weis have a somewhat similar head coaching record when it comes to wins and losses what would seem to separate the two is once again the ties that Fedora would have in the ever important state of Texas. Fedora is a former head coach at the high school level in Texas and has also worked at Baylor University so no doubt he should have been able to at least have a foot in the door at many places. While Weis can definitely get into the homes of all the recruits in Texas simply based on his name recognition he will have to work hard on the recruiting scene to gain the trust of high school coaches.
Some reports as of late regarding the KU coaching search were of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. This is where it gets tricky trying to compare the Weis hiring against what things might have been with Malzahn as he has no college head coaching experience. With the hiring of Weis, KU officials should have some comfort in knowing that he has guided a football program before as a head coach even if he was let go at his previous university. We all know that Malzahn is known as an offensive genius but on the same token so is Charlie Weis so maybe from a Kansas perspective they figured they could acquire someone with a similar skill set in Weis but with more experience. We will have to simply wait and see if Malzahn ever gets a head coaching job and how he does before we can make a fully educated statement on whether KU should have taken a risk and gone with the more unproven commodity.
Maybe the coach though that Kansas fans will most want to follow here in the next few years to compare against Weis is Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren. He hails from Shawnee, KS and coached briefly at Shawnee Mission NW before jumping into the college ranks. From 2002-2005, Doeren served as the linebackers coach at KU before moving on to Wisconsin and eventually his current position in Dekalb. He has only been a head coach at Northern Illinois for one season but he did lead the Huskies to the MAC Championship. Because of this success combined with his local ties many thought Doeren should be a frontrunner for the KU head job. The basic thought was the Jayhawks should try to find someone who would likely want to stay at the school for many years and not just be looking for a stepping stone. Once again though if KU would have went out and hired Doeren they would have been taking a leap of faith on a coach without years of head coaching experience in general and no head coaching experience on the BCS level. Also the hiring of Doeren would not have generated nearly as much buzz and excitement among the fanbase and national media as Weis has. It may not be all that surprising though that if Weis flames out after a few years in Lawrence and Doeren continues on a successful path to hear his name come up again in coaching rumors.
A few other names has been mentioned such as June Jones and Phil Fulmer but neither appeared to ever be a serious candidate for the job. This is in fact quite surprising as both of these men have experienced far more success on the college level than Weis has.
As with any coaching hire it will take a few years to truly know if KU made the right decision or if they should have looked elsewhere when they had the chance.