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Bob Lutz: Kansas football going nowhere fast as Beaty cashes big checks

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Bob Lutz
November 20, 2017 - 11:28 am

Just when you thought the Kansas football season could not get worse, it got worse.

Not in getting beaten by Oklahoma on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The losses are inconsequential now. They are stacked up to the heavens. Kansas football fans – there are still a few of you, right? – have become numb to the torture of defeat.

No, this lowest of lows involves a group of three captains refusing to shake the hand of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield at mid-field during the pre-game coin toss.

The explanation is as confounding as the refusal.

KU defender Joe Dineen, who along with defensive teammates Dorance Armstrong and Daniel Wise did not extend a hand toward Mayfield, said the three Jayhawks veterans had talked about going with the pre-game snub in the moments leading up to the game.

They thought it would inspire teammates.

“Obviously, it wasn’t meant to be super disrespectful to them,” Dineen said. “It was really just us trying to get our guys motivated and let Oklahoma know that we were there to play.”

Defending the KU players’ actions might go something like this: Hey, we’re terrible. We know we’re terrible. Oklahoma knows we’re terrible. But maybe we’ll be less terrible if we refuse to shake Mayfield’s hand. Maybe we’ll get under his skin and he’ll become rattled and play badly.

“He’s a talker, and we knew that going in,” Dineen told reporters. “Our goal was just to try to get him rattled a little bit, get him maybe out of his comfort zone.”

Mayfield, the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, didn’t exactly tear Kansas apart. He wasn’t his typical self. And later in the game, after several questionable hits by the KU defense including one by Hassan Defense that nearly took off Mayfield’s head, he went low ground with an obscene gesture toward to KU bench and some unfortunate banter with a few Kansas fans.

Mayfield, undoubtedly, is easily rattled. Kansas did get under his thick skin.

And lost, 41-3.

Mayfield was pedestrian, by Mayfield’s standards. He completed 20 of 30 attempts for 257 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Kansas managed a field goal against an OU defense that hasn’t exactly thrown up any steel curtains this season.

The beat goes on for KU and it’s dull, methodical, irritating.

The season thankfully ends with a road game against Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Jayhawks will drop to 1-11, finding a middle ground between the 2-10 and 0-12 records of David Beaty’s first two seasons as coach.

Beaty has succeeded only in making Jayhawks fans long for the days of Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, the two coaches who preceded him. They were bad, all right, but Beaty has taken Kansas to a new level of bad.

KU’s opponents have outscored the Jayhawks by 257 points in their 11 losses. Thank goodness for winless UTEP, which has lost its 11 games by 279 points.

In eight Big 12 games, Kansas has lost by an average of 31 points.

The season has been a disaster and Beaty, who seems to be a likeable guy, is in way over his head. There are no signs – none whatsoever – that anything about KU football is improving or headed in the right direction.

So, what now?

After the 2016 season, Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger  gave Beaty with a big, fat contract extension. He doubled Beaty’s salary, to $1.6 million, and threw in a bunch of enticing caveats. The new deal runs through 2021. Which, if you’re counting, would be four more seasons.

And earlier this year, Zenger announced an ambitious plan to raise $350 million for KU’s football facilities.

This is like announcing an extravagant perfume collection for skunks.

Which leads me to the difficult conclusion that it’s probably time for Beaty and Zenger to go and for KU chancellor Douglas Girod to get his first shot at cleaning up the Kansas football mess. And what a mess it is – Kansas is 15-81 since 2010 and the preferred homecoming guest of every team in the Big 12.

The Jayhawks can’t simply rely on Bill Self and the basketball team to make everything right. There is almost certain to be more conference realignment talk in the coming years and if we’ve learned anything from previous shuffling, it’s that football matters most.

KU doesn’t want to find itself in the Mountain West or American Athletic Conference someday, so fixing football – and thus increasing its value to the Big 12 or any other Power 5 conference – is a must.

The Jayhawks are one of five Power 5 teams without a conference win this season, joining Illinois, Oregon State, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

But basketball season is here and KU fans can again turn a blind eye toward the football team. The Jayhawks are chasing a 14th consecutive Big 12 basketball title and postseason acclaim.

The football quandary cannot be ignored, though. Beaty has a $3 million buyout, another contractual gem bestowed upon him by Zenger, and KU has gotten into the habit of paying its former football coaches more than the current coach.

So, what to do?

There is no sign Beaty is making anything better. There is no sign the current athletic director can fix the football program. And there are no (dollar) signs KU boosters are rushing to the betting window to contribute to an aggressive and ill-timed capital campaign.

All bets, it seems, are off.

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