Charlie Weis’ contract looms large over struggles

Kansas football’s two recent head coaches, former coach Turner Gill and current coach Charlie Weis, have produced four of the most financially inefficient coaching seasons in NCAA history.

The trend began in the winter of 2009 when Kansas signed Gill to the largest contract in its football program’s history at five-years for $10 million. Gill’s signing marked the beginning of four years of the most inefficient coach-spending by a university.

The cost-per-win metric, measured by dividing salary by wins, can quantify a contract’s barging-value. Coaches with a low cost-per-win are financially efficient because they tend to produce wins for a program-friendly salary.  The metric isn’t perfect—it can’t quantify winless seasons—but is a basic reference point of financial efficiency for a team’s spending.

Gill’s firing came after coaching Kansas to a 5-19 record in two seasons. Kansas paid Gill $800,000 per victory. He coached Kansas to two wins in his final year, becoming one of four coaches to receive over a million dollars per win that season.

ANDREWGRAPHIC_nNo football coach in Kansas history was paid so much to produce so little.

Enter stage, Charlie Weis.

Weis signed a 5-year contract worth $2.5 million per season in December 2011, topping KU’s previous record with Gill. It was the 21st largest salary amongst NCAA coaches at the time.

The pay reflects Weis’ high-profile body of work: three-time Super Bowl winner as offensive coordinator, head coach of Notre Dame for four years, along with one-year coordinating stints for the Kansas City Chiefs and University of Florida. His house-hold name instantly raised expectations for the program.

“Sometimes you have to pay for past accomplishments,” said Danny Parkins of 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. “You have to pay for what you hope for what will come in the future, and that happens a lot with coaches.”

Weis was the right person to elevate Kansas into the Big 12 elite, Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger said at Weis’ introductory press conference.

Weis’ two seasons at Kansas have produced similar results to Gill’s.

Weis coached Kansas to one win in his first season, setting the NCAA record for highest cost-per-win. Weis’ $2.5 million cost-per-win in 2012 equaled the average amount of money spent per-win by the major conference schools (Big 12, Big 10, Pac-10, Big East, SEC, and ACC) on their entire football programs between 2008 and 2010, according to a BizJournals.com report.

His three victories this season lowered his cost-per-win to $833,000, second highest in the nation.

Kansas owns the highest cost-per-win for the fourth straight year in the Big 12.  TCU’s Gary Patterson is second highest at $780,190 per win this season.

Baylor’s Art Briles led the conference in smallest cost-per-win at $220,578 per-win. He coached the Bears to 11 wins, winning the Big 12 and earning an invite to the Fiesta Bowl.

The Big 12 average cost-per-win is $524,878 in 2013.

Weis’ Kansas teams are 4-20 in his two seasons, earning $1.25 million-per-win. The Big 12 average is $552,557 in the same time-period.

Winning is the top priority at Kansas, other aspects of a program must be considered when determining its success, Kansas assistant athletic director Jim Marchiony said.

“A program has more aspects to it than just wins and losses,” Marchiony said. “Ultimately that’s what coaches are judged on. But there are other things as well.”

Weis’ on-field results are underwhelming, but his recruiting could change that. This season’s freshman were his first recruiting class without Gill’s imprint, and it averaged 2.93 stars, Kansas’ best since 2009, according to Rivals.com. His 2014 class is ranked last in the Big 12, but lack of open scholarships from last year’s large class brings its ranking down. Weis has until April 1, 2014, National Signing Day for recruits, to improve his recruiting class.

Marchiony said a team’s academic standing and its behavior off the field are the other things considered when evaluating a coach’s performance.

The football team set its record for highest GPA in the fall semester last year at 2.83, according to a KUSports.com report. The team jumped a half-point from Fall 2011 to Spring 2012, Weis’ first semester as head coach. Kansas led the Big 12 with 19 players on the conference’s all academic team this season.

Weis’ teams behave off the field. He’s explicitly dismissed three players for violating team rules, including a former five-star recruit. Both of his seasons have seen one player charged with a DUI, each receiving a three-game suspension. Five players have been arrested in Weis’ tenure. Missouri has 18 football player arrests in the past three years, not including its coach Gary Pinkel’s two DUIs.

Kansas isn’t getting the value other programs in the Big 12 are getting from its coaches, but it’s possible that was never the goal. Zenger said at Weis’ introductory press conference that the hire “puts Kansas on the national map,” after Gill’s program-demoralizing stint. Weis’ performance at Notre Dame didn’t warrant another chance as head coach. Becoming a household name because of that job—and three Super Bowl rings—likely did.

Better recruits are coming to Lawrence compared to the Gill-era. The team is behaving in the community and its academics are better than ever. Memorial Stadium attendance dipped 12 percent this season, but attendance across the nation has trended downward since 2010.  Perhaps Weis’ recruits performing to their potential can fix waning attendance.  Kansas fans will support a winner, evidenced by averaging 46,784 fans per home game during the 2007 Orange-Bowl winning season.

Kansas might never match the financial efficiency of other universities with its Weis contract. This season’s cost-per-win decrease from $2.5 million to $833,000 is a start. Weis’ contract has bargain-bin potential, proven by Briles’ outstanding results with similar pay.  Weis is fulfilling his auxiliary duties, but needs to start fulfilling his on-field duties.  If Kansas football continues improving, Weis could become a bargain hire. Without improvement, memories of Turner Gill will haunt fans and the athletic department’s book-keepers.

Winning season creates revamped fanbase in Kansas City

Since the Kansas City Chiefs kicked off their season on Sept. 8 in Jacksonville, the team has soared as one of the dominant teams in the NFL this season. The Chiefs started off with a 9-0 record and were the last team to drop a game in 2013.

Game attendance, merchandise and interest in the team are up from a year ago when the Chiefs mustered only two wins. With the 9-0 start to the season, the team now stands with a 10-3 record, tying third for best record in the NFL.

“Now that they are winning, like any sport, the fans have come back,” said Danny Parkins, an afternoon radio host for 610 Sports. “They’ve come back and they are voicing their pleasure again by wearing red throughout town.”

On Oct. 13 against the Oakland Raiders, fans broke the Guinness World Record at the time for the loudest stadium in the world. The Chiefs improved to 6-0 following a win that day.

Arrowhead Stadium averages 75,354 fans per game, which is approximately 7,000 more fans than last year’s reported average attendance per home game. The Chiefs announced that the meeting between the Chiefs and Broncos in Kansas City on Dec. 1, with first place in the AFC on the line, was sold out.

On Nov. 18, 2012, Stubhub was selling Chiefs tickets for as low as $5.99. The Chiefs went into that game with a 1-8 record.

According to the Kansas City Business Journal in July, the average ticket price for face value at Arrowhead Stadium was $124. The Chiefs ranked 26th in the NFL in wins from 2008 to 2012.

Since then, ticket prices have skyrocketed for Chiefs games due to the team’s 9-0 run.

Forbes reported last month that tickets for the Chiefs and Broncos match at Arrowhead were the most expensive among all games played in Week 13. Tickets for this game were the most expensive at Arrowhead Stadium within the past three years.

Outside of Arrowhead Stadium, Chiefs fans have packed sports bars on game days. Fans begin to arrive an hour before a game to make sure they can get a seat and catch all the action.

“I’m making more tips than last season,” joked Sam Beck, who’s worked at Texas Roadhouse for two years. “People even ask me during the week if we get packed or ask how early they should come.”

With three games left to go, the Chiefs, currently at 10-3, can win up to 13 games. If the Chiefs win out the rest of the regular season, they will shatter the NFL record for biggest turnaround in NFL history.

This season already passed the six-game improvement the Chiefs had in 2010 for biggest turnaround in franchise history. The Chiefs have already improved by eight games in 2013, quintupling their win total from last year.

With three games left to go and a very likely postseason game in January, Chiefs fans will have reasons to continue cheering for at least one more month.

“It’s a very proud sports town,” Parkins said. “People here represent their teams and they just represent them more when they are winning.”

Kansas ends season on low note

The Kansas Jayhawks’ hapless season came to an end on November 30 when the Kansas State Wildcats marched into Lawrence to blowout the Jayhawks, 31-10. Kansas concluded the season with a 3-9 record and one conference win.

 

Although Kansas improved by two games from the previous year and shattered its 27-game conference losing streak, Kansas coach Charlie Weis has made very limited progress in his two years with the program.

 

In fact, previous head coach Turner Gill managed to win five games in two years compared to Weis’ four wins in 2012 and 2013.

 

Going into his third season with Kansas, Weis is going to rely on veterans to pull through during the 2014 season.

 

“We have a lot of older guys coming back,” Weis said. “They have been here for a couple of years under me. When you have players who have been under the system for a couple of years, that usually bodes well in your next uptake in performance.”

 

Weis said that the team still has a lot of room to grow, but sees potential with the team as well.

 

Even players leaving the program see the Jayhawks moving in the right direction.

 

“Things didn’t work out our way,” said senior safety Dexter Linton. “But I definitely felt a positive vibe, especially with the team. It starts with the team and everything else will fall in to place.”

 

The biggest question surrounding Kansas is at the quarterback spot. Freshman Montell Cozart received significant playing time in the second half of the season, but there is uncertainty in his future.

 

Cozart started in the team’s season finale, but was pulled after three drives after struggling to move the ball after three drives. Weis inserted redshirt junior Jake Heaps and played him for a majority of the game, only to put Cozart back in late in the fourth quarter during the blowout.

 

“If Montell is going to go forward as the lead guy, we’re going to have to be more efficient in the passing game,” Weis said.

 

Weis confirmed over the weekend that Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan will replace Tim Grunhard as the offensive line coach and will also serve as the team’s offensive coordinator.

 

Reagan returns to Kansas after serving as an offensive coordinator for Rice, helping the Owls capture the Conference USA championship this past weekend. Reagan was with the Jayhawks as an offensive assistant from 2005-09.