LAWRENCE — The David Beaty era is ending at Kansas, the beleaguered football team’s head coach fired nine games into his fourth year in a decision effective at the end of the season.
So begins the program’s fourth hunt in the last decade for a gridiron resurrection artist.
First-year athletic director Jeff Long on Sunday afternoon parted ways with Beaty, whose Jayhawks are 3-6 overall and 1-5 in Big 12 play. As part of a two-year contract extension Beaty signed ahead of the 2017 campaign, the former coach will receive a $3 million buyout from the university.
Beaty will finish out the final three games of the 2018 campaign before stepping aside.
“After a thorough evaluation of the program, I believe that new leadership is necessary for our football team to move forward and compete at the highest level of the Big 12 Conference,” Long said in a statement announcing the decision. “I know that Coach Beaty cares deeply about his players, and I respect that. The student-athletes on this team have continued to play hard – and I am confident they will do that for the rest of the season.”
KU has fired four head football coaches (Mark Mangino, Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and Beaty) and parted ways with two athletic directors (Lew Perkins and Sheahon Zenger) since 2008, the Jayhawks’ last season with a winning record. The team has bottomed out in the nine-plus seasons since, going 23-94 while this season averaging an announced attendance of just 20,265 per contest.
After inheriting a dire situation from Weis — Beaty revealed this summer that his predecessor left him with just 39 true scholarship players upon his arrival in December 2014, a number that only grew to 54 in Year 1 after departures and a 24-player signing class — there were floor-level expectations for the former Texas A&M wide receivers coach who in his job interview “grabbed the (search) committee members in a way” Zenger said he’d never seen before in comments made after the hiring.
Nevertheless, Beaty found himself unable to clear the lowest of bars for a litany of reasons, with wins and losses likely at the top of the list.
Saturday’s hapless 27-3 home defeat to Iowa State — held in front of a sparse crowd of 15,543, mostly Cyclone fans — dropped Beaty’s overall record to 6-39 and his conference mark to 2-31.
“Dividends are reflected in wins. We have to win football games,” Beaty said at Big 12 football media days in July 2017. “That’s a requirement for programs to survive in this day and age.”
Beaty was also 1-19 away from David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and, perhaps most damningly, 2-2 against FCS-level opponents, including a 26-23 overtime home defeat to Nicholls State in this year’s season opener.
It’s possible Beaty’s fate was sealed at that very moment, with the Sept. 1 tilt identified as when “we will really start to know the progress of the program” by Long at the athletic director’s July 11 introductory news conference. Of the football program, Long also notably said at that presser: “It’s time to break the cycle.”
Win-loss record aside, there were other factors that likely played roles in Long’s decision to terminate Beaty.
The coach was never able to identify a full-season starting quarterback, juggling football’s all-important position among the likes of Montell Cozart, Ryan Willis, Carter Stanley, Peyton Bender and Miles Kendrick. The Jayhawks rank ninth in the Big 12 in passing offense (209.5 yards per game) and have finished no higher than eighth in any of the previous three seasons under Beaty, a disciple of the “Air Raid” scheme.
Beaty twice took over offensive play calling duties, most recently after firing second-year offensive coordinator Doug Meacham on Oct. 10. The Jayhawks, who averaged 27.7 points in this season’s first five games under Meacham’s guidance, have averaged 15.3 points in the three contests since.
While the uncertainty of his future with the program likely played a large role in how Class of 2019 recruits viewed the Jayhawks, Beaty’s staff was nevertheless had been able to secure just one oral commitment — Cole Mueller, a two-star running back out of Wentzville, Mo. — as of Sunday’s firing. Meanwhile, the program in recent months lost commitments from four-star quarterback Lance LeGendre (New Orleans) and three-star tight end Clay Cundiff (Wichita).
In his final answer at Saturday’s postgame news conference, Beaty rerouted an unrelated question back toward shouldering blame for the defeat, a common theme in that session. While Beaty was specifically discussing his offensive play calling in that contest, his final seven public words before Sunday’s firing appeared fitting.
“I should have done a better job,” Beaty acknowledged.
KU will next play rival Kansas State in an 11 a.m. Saturday contest at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan. Beaty’s final game at the helm will be a Nov. 23 home contest against Texas.
“The search for a new head coach will begin immediately,” said Long, who later tweeted KU’s search “will find an experienced (head coach) that is a proven program builder and strong recruiter” and “is an established leader of men, both on and off the field.”
Long is scheduled to hold a 6 p.m. Sunday news conference in Lawrence.