[Editor's Note: This story has been updated with information provided by the Kansas athletic department]
By Jim Weber
Depending on who you ask, Kansas head coach Charlie Weis is the most disliked head man in college football.
In the seven years since Weis took the head coaching job at his alma mater of Notre Dame, he has done a good job of pissing off almost everyone he’s come across. There have been brushes with the media, foul-mouthed outbursts caught on TV, alleged poor behavior when dealing with Irish boosters and members of the athletic department and a cheap shot lobbed at former USC head coach Pete Carroll, to name some of his indiscretions in South Bend.
And since arriving in Lawrence last December, Weis has continued his blunders. First, there was the transfer debacle with former QB Brock Berglund. Weis delayed releasing Berglund from his scholarship and then relented only once he publicly ripped Berglund for how he went about his transfer and established an iron fist.
Just last week, Weis took aim at the Kansas student newspaper over a cover that read “Road Kill Ahead” with the Jayhawks about to take on Kansas State. Apparently Weis is of the belief that a student newspaper should be publicists for his program instead of an independent news source. Weis’ gripe was petty and stupid – meaning it was typical Charlie Weis. As predicted, K-State crushed KU, 56-16.
Following the loss, Weis committed his latest flub: Snubbing his upperclassmen by holding practice without seniors and having them work out on their own.
“If you are going to develop a team that’s at the bottom of the league, development is key to becoming competitive. I think the team needs to understand that there is only so much developing you can do with the seniors.”
The athletic department clarified the situation by saying that seniors and underclassmen who play on Saturday normally don’t participate in Sunday’s practice. The only difference this week was that all non-seniors were involved in Sunday’s practice because of how poorly the team played. Weis is even quoted on the KU athletics site saying that the underclassmen were the ones who “came up on the short end of the stick” because of the double duty.
However, that first quote sure makes it sound like Weis has just given up on the seniors.
First of all, I call B.S. on saying the seniors are a lost cause. Jim Harbaugh took over a Stanford team that went 1-11 in 2006 and upset No. 1 USC on the road in ’07, 24-23, despite being 41-point underdogs. That win was the foundation for what Harbaugh eventually turned into an Orange Bowl-winning team. Secondly, Kansas actually played K-State close in the first half on Saturday and could easily have been tied at 21-all at halftime, so all hope is not lost for KU.
That being said, no one would argue if Weis decided to play more underclassmen in the remaining games to get them prepared for next season. But publicly saying “there is only so much developing you can do with the seniors” and then having them lift weights instead of practice with everyone else?
From an outsiders’ perspective, it looks like Weis basically ostracized them and pinned the blame on them for the team’s failures. These are players that have spent the last three-plus years dedicating their lives to the Kansas football program.
How would you feel if you are fifth-year QB Dayne Crist, the former Notre Dame player who transferred to Lawrence to have one more shot as a starting college quarterback under his old coach? Yes, Crist has played terribly so far this season. And if Weis wants to bench him, I’d completely understand. But to have a kid transfer for you and work his butt off to be your starting quarterback and then do this is unfair.
Oh yeah, Crist also happens to be a captain along with fellow seniors in LT Tanner Hawkinson and LB Toben Opurum. How can they be expected to lead – or want to lead – after something like this? While Weis portrayed it as punishing the underclassmen, it sure looks and smells like he was punishing the upperclassmen. Any senior worth being on the team would have wanted to practice with everyone else instead of lift weights.
In all sports, you are supposed to win and lose together. Instead, Weis has seemingly turned his back on the seniors and captains he should be counting on to set the tone and work ethic for younger players.
Kansas is hosting Oklahoma State on Saturday, a game KU was already supposed to lose big. Things could get even uglier after this stunt Weis pulled that can’t help team unity.
Who knows what shenanigans Weis will pull afterward.