It’s sorely tempting for me, as a lifelong K-State fan, to revel in the misery of the KU athletics department.
The problem is that it’s not really KU. It’s the whole college athletics world. KU happens to be the poster boy at the moment. You know this as well as I do.
As I first wrote this, Les Miles had been canned as the KU football coach. I knew the atheltics director, Jeff Long, would be the next to go. In both cases, they say they “mutually agreed” to part ways, but that just means that they agreed on a number, so Miles walks out the door with a $2 million check, in exchange for promising to keep his mouth shut, while Long gets a little short of that.
KU had to do this because a newspaper — USA Today — went digging around at LSU, investigating a pattern of burying complaints of improper sexual behavior in the athletics department. They dug up a case where Miles — who was the football coach there at the time, a guy who won a national championship and got his team into the title game another time — was the subject of an internal investigation that found he behaved inappropriately toward female students, including allegations that he contacted some via Facebook and text, met them off campus alone and kissed at least one of them. He denied it, but after another investigation they agreed that Miles should not be allowed to be alone with female students — and one athletics official there at the time recommended that he be fired. He wasn’t, at least not until he had a bad season on the football field.
Then he was out of the game for three seasons before KU hired him. I remember wondering why on earth he was never hired during those three years — he had been tremendously successful at Oklahoma State, and then had that run at LSU. Everywhere he went, he won. It made no sense.
Well, college athletics is a small world, and my guess is that word got around.
KU hired him because of two facts: One, its football program has been an absolute disaster since about 2009, when they got rid of Mark Mangino in a previous round of dysfunction. Second, Long is a friend of Miles, going back to their days working together at Michigan.
Either (as he claims) he didn’t know about Miles’ problems at LSU — meaning he was incompetent — or he did know and chose to go ahead anyway, which is probably worse. Either way, it’s bad, and KU couldn’t live with that perception, either way. They don’t want this guy hiring Bill Self’s replacement, in the event KU Bill rides off into the sunset someday — or in the event that the FBI chases him out of town.
Next step up the ladder: Will it mean they have to also get rid of the chancellor?Highly doubtful. The Board of Regents, which oversees state universities, doesn’t do that sort of thing.
The Miles-Long fiasco comes on the heels of several others. The cops buried for nearly a year the fact that Silvio Da Souza beat up a disabled guy outside a Lawrence bar. They essentially paid off an assistant football coach to the tune of nearly a quarter-million just to get him to not say anything bad about KU. (What could he possibly say about the football team to make it worse?) And, whether you believe KU Bill or not, it certainly appears that his top assistant was figuring out ways to pay players, more or less. Oh, and they had to pay Turner Gill and Charlie Weis and then David Beaty to NOT coach their football team. Beaty had to sue, ending up with a $2.55 million settlement, just nine months ago.
As I say, it’s tempting to revel in all this, since KU is the highfalutin’ snob outfit, compared to our virtuous country boys here at Silo Tech.
But you know as well as I do that the real issue is that all of college athletics is awash in money, and it’s all about winning, and so people bend rules and trample on them, and figure out ways to get away with it. Sure, K-State has run a clean operation for a long time. Tip of the cap to John Currie and Gene Taylor, and Bill Snyder and Chris Kleiman, and Bruce Weber. Seriously.
But when we got desperate — and make no mistake, we were desperate — we had Michael Beasley’s mother living in a townhome up by the country club with the rent paid for by a guy from his AAU club team. We paid an assistant coach more than any other in the country because he was a pipeline to that AAU team. We had a secret agreement between Riverboat Bob Krause and Ron Prince, hidden in a desk drawer, and a lawsuit over it. We had special buyout deals. We brought in Bob Huggins, who’d been fired at Cincinnati because of player arrests, NCAA rules violations, probation and a sloppy drunk-driving arrest that made national news.
Scandal, and embarrassment, and ridicule, and buyouts, and years of wheel-spinning, are always just around the corner. There’s so much money, and so much temptation, that it’s almost inevitable. It takes a strong will to resist it.
KU will hire a new football coach, after they hire a new AD, and they’ll promise to right the ship, and maybe they will. And then some day, at a college near you, we’ll go through another version of all this.