The situation is laid out right from the start. “You’re taking over a program that’s won as many games in the last five years as TCU won last year, which is 12, you’ve lost 19 straight to ranked teams, you’ve got seven returning starters, give or take, you’ve got about 75 scholarships,” ESPN writer/podcast host Ivan Maisel says to new Kansas head coach David Beaty. With that situation ahead of you while walking into your first FBS head coaching job, what’s the first step you make? If you come home from the beach to discover your house torn down to its foundation, what’s the first call you make?
“I started with our staff. The nine right men was the most important thing,” Beaty said. “And people have asked me, ‘Well, what was this biggest challenge?’ There was a ton of really, really good football coaches that want to come to Lawrence, Kansas. My challenge was to try to choose the right nine, because we had a lot to choose from, and a lot of those guys were my buddies that I didn’t get to bring and that was hard because you want to give them an opportunity. But my job was to bring the right nine.
“Rob Likens is going to be running our offense. He came to us from Cal, they were fifth in the country in passing last year. They know how to get the ball down the field, they know how to run the ball, which is something I truly believe in. Clint Bowen’s staying right there with us, he’s one of my best friends. We brought Kenny Perry from TCU, who is one of my best friends. But I didn’t hire those guys because they were my best friends, I hired them because they’re some of the best in the country and they’re good men, and they’re great people that are going to give our guys good examples of what success looks like and what being a man means. Because we believe winning is a byproduct of being a good man all day, every day, from the time you wake up to the time you to go bed, and then winning is a byproduct of that,” Beaty concluded. And then he took a breath.
Maisel then asked Beaty, the former head coach at North Dallas and Irving MacArthur high schools in the Dallas area, how he separated friend from assistant.
“The one advantage that I’ve had? This is not the first staff I’ve put together, albeit the other two were at the high school level. I had two jobs in Texas and I hired 15 guys at each one of those places. The first job, I learned from that because some people can make that adjustment, and some people take advantage of it,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about friendship. Friendship can be apart of it, but it’s about the best men for the job, and it’s about them understanding their role and not what they get to do because they’re your buddy. I had a lot of friends that wanted to come here, but they might not be just the right fit. But the ones that we chose because they are great men, they happen to be great friends.
“The thing I’ve learned from Kevin (Sumlin), is that you’ve got to hire good people. You’ve got to hire them for their minds; you’re purchasing their minds and you’re purchasing their talents. You’ve got to trust them enough to let them do their job,” Beaty continued. “He was a great example of that. He let me do my job, and as a result I didn’t want to let him down – and as a result he gets to go do the things he’s doing. They just built a $453 million stadium. It’s hard to do that and still be able to run the offense, the defense and the special teams together.”
Beaty then shared a fascinating story of how he learned the spread offense, which is equal parts “Where are they now?” and a lesson on paying it forward. As a former high school football coach in the Dallas-Fort Worth area himself, newly minted West Virginia linebackers coach Todd Graham was assigned by his new boss, Rich Rodriguez, to recruit DFW. That led to Beaty, a first-time head coach at a struggling North Dallas program, to plead Graham to teach him the ins and outs of Rodriguez’s revolutionary and, at the time, little-known spread attack.
“The first guy that gave me a chance to work in college football was a guy named Todd Graham,” Beaty said. “I met Todd Graham when I was the head coach at North Dallas High School. That was a tough job. That was a really tough job. He came by one day and we literally sat there for about 30 minutes and I said, ‘Hey Todd, I’ve got $200 in my bank account. I’ll give you every bit of that if you’ll sit here with me for two hours and teach me what you learned from Rich Rodriguez.’ (Graham) was the first to bring that spread offense down to Texas. He was a Texas high school coach at Allen and I was at Garland, we played against one another. He spent three days with me, and that friendship spawned from there. That’s what you do. He spent three days with the guy at arguably one of the most challenged programs in the state of Texas when he should have been at Garland or Allen or one of those other places. He spent it with me, and that’s what makes those guys unique and special. That’s where I learned it and fell in love with it.”
The visit paid off for both men. Graham spent five seasons coaching linebackers at West Virginia before landing his first college head coaching gig at Rice prior to the 2006 season, where he handed Beaty his first college coaching job as the Owls’ passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach.