One game. It took one game for Jeff Long to issue the dreaded statement of confidence in the Kansas football program, led by fourth-year head coach David Beaty.
Forty-eight hours after Kansas lost to Nicholls, their second loss to an FCS team in four years under Beaty — and they now have more FCS losses than FBS wins under Beaty — Long, in his first months as athletics director, responded to requests for comment on the state of the football program and Beaty's job security.
"We all expected a different outcome Saturday but I continue to support our student-athletes and coaches and ask all Jayhawks to do the same,” Long said. “Our evaluation of the program is ongoing without a predetermined timeline.”
A response was the decent thing, though a statement of confidence often foreshadows a coaching change, and given Beaty's 3-34 mark in three-plus years and repeated in-game blunders, it's highly likely Long (who replaced Sheahon Zenger, a man fired only because their football team sucked) will hire a new head coach for 2019.
Bret Bielema, Les Miles, Lane Kiffin, Willie Fritz, and to a lesser extent Jason Candle, Neal Brown and Mike Leach have all been mentioned as possible replacements for Beaty. What about other realistic candidates?
Here some potential under-the-radar candidates for the Kansas job.
Current Position: Associate Head Coach – Oklahoma
Ruffin McNeill was rolling at his alma mater East Carolina — 26-13 from 2012-14, second 10-win season in program history — but a five-win 2015 season cost him the job. It was a widely unpopular move met with anger from current and former players that's grown louder as his successor Scottie Montgomery struggles.
McNeill, 59, has been everywhere (12 job changes in 33 season), including the Big 12, where he was a Texas Tech assistant from 2000-09 and is currently an Oklahoma assistant (since 2017).
He's a defensive coach but he'd probably hire an offensive staff to run a pass-first system similar to ones during his time at Texas Tech, ECU and now Oklahoma.
Current Position: Head Coach – Kennesaw State
First, if Jeff Long goes the FCS route, North Dakota State's Chris Klieman is the crème de la crème. However, Klieman can do better, and, unless he's desperate for a Power Five job (unlikely) would be foolish to downgrade from Fargo to Lawrence.
Second, if Jeff Long can't get Willie Fritz, might he consider another triple-option coach like Brian Bohannon? The former Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech assistant literally built the Kennesaw State program and led them to a 12-win season and the FCS quarterfinals in 2017.
It'd be a bold hire and one met with "Who the hell is Brian Bohannon?" reactions from 99 percent of Kansas fans.
Current Position: Head Coach – Army
Let's stay the triple-option train and consider Jeff Monken, Fritz's predecessor at Georgia Southern and the former boss of Brian Bohannon.
“We run [the ball],” Monken said last December, “That’s what we do. We don’t have to pass.”
Given the Jayhawks' personnel, inability to recruit high-level athletes for Beaty's air raid system and struggles throwing the ball, a run-heavy option offense makes a lot of sense.
Monken has spent 11 of last 17 years coaching at service academies and holds one of the most unique sports jobs in the world. Would he give it up for a massive rebuild that could take years?
Current Position: Head Coach – Wyoming
Craig Bohl can do better — a lot, lot, lot better. Because of that, I almost left him off the list. He's listed because he's coaching stud who's done a remarkable job at Wyoming, gets half the national attention he deserves and, unfortunately, at 60 years old, might be running low on attractive Power Five options
Bohl is a former Nebraska assistant who won three straight FCS titles at North Dakota State before taking the Wyoming job in 2014. His résumé speaks for itself and would be a home-run hire.
Current Position: Head Coach – UNLV
Tony Sanchez is the wild card.
Does anyone understand what he's doing at UNLV? Am I screaming into a phone booth?
I've discussed the possibility of Sanchez being a candidate at Texas Tech if Kliff Kingsbury is fired, and while Sanchez is overwhelmingly happy in Vegas and isn't done with his rebuild, the Power Five offers will come.
And to beat a dead horse: If Sanchez has another strong year, he can do better than Kansas.