Saturday, December 12, 2009

Farewell to the Fat Man

This post has taken me so long to write it's completely untimely, but I feel like it would be downright neglectful of me to not comment on the major shakeup and shakedown of The Fatman that went on here in Lawrence during the last few weeks. In case you've been secluded from the sports world and have no idea what I'm talking about, our football coach resigned under intense scrutiny and pressure last Thursday. Apparently the internal investigation into some of the accusations of misconduct from players and former players didn't go so well for him, although even if it had, after having his name dragged through the mud, he probably would have chosen to leave anyway.

You know how people say there are two sides to that coin? Well this coin has so many sides it's like a polyhedron, which I guess means it's not really a coin at all. There are just so many twists to the story I don't even know where to begin.

If you're not up on the details of all that went down, you can check out the full LJ World article here, but in a nutshell, a player came forward to say that coach poked him in the chest a few weeks ago. This sounded ridiculously and absurdly whiny at first. As Chad pointed out, he's never had a football coach who didn't scream, yell, cuss and grab his players--he even had a coach who regularly kicked his players in the rear with cowboy boots. But after this one kid came forward, the allegations grew. Players current and past started accusing our coach of inappropriate coaching tactics--not just yelling and screaming, but taking very personal attacks on their families and other private issues. The wheels of the Fat Man's program came off after that--and quickly!

Here are my personal thoughts and feelings on the whole situation (because I know inquiring minds want to know), in no particular order and in no coherent fashion:

1. Coach has some major issues that need to be addressed. He has anger management issues and weight/eating issues (I know you're shocked by this revelation). In a very interesting article from a KC sports reporter, these two issues are totally related and perhaps one in the same--think a particular character from Austin Powers (and make sure you do not watch that entire clip if you're easily offended--start at the 50 second mark!). Regardless, the man needs some serious help.

2. The weight problem has definitely gotten worse over the years, as you can see from pictures of the fat man which span his time at KU. While there could certainly be some metabolic issues going on here, I'm pretty sure the guy has an overeating problem. I heard from a friend of a friend the other day that coach has been known to order two entrees at fundraising events. At restaurants. In public. That's disgusting.

3. KU fans have laughed at our coach's appearance for the last 8 years because deep down inside we were all horrified. Fans embraced his girth because there wasn't really anything else we could do. I mean half the KU football t-shirts at Joe College downtown were making fun of his size! We all played it off as funny even though we were actually completely disgusted. We fully expected that he would eventually drop dead of a heart attack on the sidelines while we were all watching!

4. Although I'm obviously not a fan of his appearance nor some of his behaviors, I (and many other KU fans) do give him credit where credit is due. He is the reason for the turnaround of our football program and we are very thankful for those great years and the Orange Bowl win. He must have done something right as a coach, although I'm totally unclear about how he could walk into a high schooler's home and talk to him and his parents about coming to the disciplined program at Kansas. Discipline? Really? I'm not sure he knows what that means.

5. While he clearly was doing some right during those winning seasons, part of me is wondering now if he just knew how to surround himself with good offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators. I'm thinking maybe his winning ways fell to pieces when he couldn't keep his coordinators around for more than a couple of seasons because of his horrible treatment of his staff and players (and everyone else within a 10 mile radius). This insightful article reported that one former staffer lasted for only two games before quitting. Coach chastised him in front of the whole team during halftime of his second game, and he resigned immediately after returning to Lawrence. It kind of makes me think he has a habit of blaming others for his failures. Clearly, he's not much into his own personal responsibility.

6. Despite my criticism, I really don't fault him for being a tough coach and screaming at his players. Had this whole investigation been just about the poking incident, I would have thought it was just a witch hunt. But there's just so much more to it. Some of the things he's been quoted as saying to his players (commenting on alcoholic fathers and brothers who've been shot in gang incidents) have totally crossed the line, in my opinion. One of the former players was quoted in the UDK as saying that Coach's way of motivating people was by "demotivating" them. How sad that he felt like he had to demoralize his players to be effective.

7. If the Fat Man had just been a really tough and borderline inappropriate coach who had one bad year after winning Coach of the Year two years ago, he probably wouldn't and shouldn't have been pressured out of his job. However, when you couple that behavior with so many incidents of bad behavior off the field, you don't leave yourself much room for error. I mean seriously, the man should have been watching his every step after this debacle with the parking attendant a couple of years ago. After reading that story (you'll have to download the PDF and then scroll down to the typed version), you'll never again feel sorry for our coach for being railroaded out of here. He can be almost as tough as he wants on the field, but it's absolutely unacceptable for him to treat people that way off the field. The administration should have taken major disciplinary action against him after that incident and forced him to seek psychiatric help. Instead, the athletics department hired a student for him whose sole job was to move his car when he parked illegally. Seriously.

8. Our athletics director (whom I've been known to refer to as the Orc) has obviously known about the Fat Man's anger problem since he arrived here (since the first public outburst happened the first year he was coach), and chose to do nothing serious about it because our team was successful and winning. It makes our A.D. and chancellor look like we don't really care about the means to an end, which is kind of disturbing. Disturbing, yes; surprising, no. The Orc is pretty much known for making money and building programs at the expense of anything and everything in his way.

9. On the other hand, had the A.D. actually taken any action against the Fat Man during the height of his football success (which is actually when the parking incident happened), the fans would have been calling for the Orc's head. Although I initially didn't like the way our A.D. was handling this situation--leaking it to the press instead of just handling it internally--after reading and pondering this article (also cited above), I think I better understand why he did it this way. Had he never aired all of Coach's dirty laundry, he never would have gotten the fans and friends of the football program to buy into a coaching change.

10. As you may have guessed, I'm thankful that the Fat Man is moving on. Obviously, after the entire world was made aware of his anger issues and coaching "style," he wasn't going to be able to recruit effectively at all, so his success here was pretty much finished. Even if this whole poking incident hadn't caused the anger issue to rear its ugly head though, I (along with many other KU fans) would have been calling for the Coach's job. He made so many questionable coaching moves and decisions this year that I think cost us wins on the field. From punting/kicking choices (kicking it out of the end zone against Texas Tech) to quarterback choices (playing an injured QB but refusing to admit he was injured) to running back choices (continually trying to run my boy Jake up the middle), there have been issues all year long. To put the icing on the cake, he came up with some atrocious play-calling during our last possession against Missouri. A win in that one game could have salvaged the season, made us bowl eligible, and given our incredible seniors something to be proud of at the end of their careers. I completely blame the Fat Man for not just running the clock out, since everyone in the entire world knew that's exactly what he needed to do. In my mind, that major mistake in the biggest game of the year was cause enough for his dismissal. Clearly, he'd lost whatever coaching edge/expertise he had back when he won the Orange Bowl.

So that's my two (or ten) cents. If anyone is actually still reading, thanks for listening to me rant! Clearly I'm passionate about my KU football, and I'm also hopeful for a new and better coach that will take us to the next level!


Anonymous said...

It is just a terrible for him to leave this way without being honest about himself. I can't imagine how he has lived as long as he has.I hope and pray for a new good coach. But I also hope and pray that the recent firing will give him time to work on his own issues in the many cracking corners of his life,starting with himself.

cw said...

I don't see so good... is that Kirk Herbstreit offering this excellent analysis?

Good post. Very, very thorough.

The Faulkners said...

I read the whole posting!!! You know I'm not a fan of KU football but you had seriously great insight and I definitely learned some things. :)