When Charlie Weis was fired from his position as head coach of the University of Kansas football team in September, fans and media alike immediately began searching for another grandiose name which could better the football program.
Ohio State offensive coordinator Ed Warriner, former Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck, and — most notably — 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh have all been thrown around as names to become the head of Kansas football. But countless supporters of Kansas football seem to brush over the man who has been with this team for over two decades. That’s interim head coach Clint Bowen.
Athletic director Sheahon Zenger couldn’t possibly find a more homegrown candidate for the job. Lawrence pumps through this guy’s blood. Raised just outside Lawrence in Perry, Kan., Bowen led Lawrence High School to state championships in track and football, where his dad was a high school All-American.
Bowen led Kansas to a win over Brigham Young in the 1992 Aloha Bowl before posting 114 tackles in his junior season. In 1996, he came onto the Kansas staff as a graduate assistant, and — save for a few one-year stints at a few schools across the nation — he has worked his way up to the top from there.
On November 8, Kansas defeated Iowa State, 34-14 to notch Bowen’s first win as head coach of the team, the homegrown product was doused in Gatorade, and the players chanted, “Bowen! Bowen!” on the sideline.
That momentum, for a brief time, felt like the height of Bowen’s campaign. That was until Bowen out-did himself in the next week by putting powerhouse Texas Christian on upset alert, and leading for much of the first three quarters. Though his team eventually fell, Kansas fans felt oddly at peace with a loss at this caliber at Memorial Stadium.
For once, Kansas has found itself a gem. Not a gem that has won a Super Bowl ring (see: Weis, Charlie), or one that comes from higher places (see: Mangino, Mark). No, this is a gem that has been underground and dirtied for years — for decades, even.
It’s something new for Zenger to experiment with: the homegrown, low-profile coach getting his first shot. It’s an experiment that Kansas fans are pleading for after they’ve seen a complete change of energy in the Kansas football program this season.
And Bowen himself has experimented plenty this year. When he saw quarterback Montell Cozart fail to execute, he didn’t hesitate to send the sophomore — who Weis had toted so heavily in the preseason — to the sidelines. Michael Cummings was the experiment, and it was a major success.
Promoting wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau to the primary play-caller role didn’t hurt either, as he has added plenty of liveliness to an offense that was nearly non-existent before he stepped in. In fact, this entire Kansas team seemed dead before Weis was shown the door. Bowen has not only brought changes to the field, but he’s also brought an energy that Weis never could.
Bowen is not an exciting hire for this Kansas team, but there’s no doubt — especially after the results from the Jayhawks over the last several weeks — that it will be awfully hard for Zenger to pick against him.