It’s rare that a first-time AD walks into his new job with such a clear objective: fix the football program.
Yes, there is an ongoing NCAA investigation hanging over the Jayhawks’ basketball program, but the KU administration took that matter effectively out of new AD Travis Goff’s hands by awarding Bill Self a lifetime contract days before Goff’s hiring. The basketball program will take care of itself one way or the other, thereby clearing Goff’s to-do list, where fixing Jayhawk football will be items 1, 1A, 2, 3 and 4.
Goff’s task is at once incredibly daunting and imminently attainable. It’s daunting because Kansas is the worst Power 5 football program by a mile with a host of problems and turning the program into a consistent winner will be incredibly difficult, and it’s attainable because, well, Kansas is the worst Power 5 football program by a mile and any amount of improvement will be considered a success.
Riding an ongoing streak of 11 straight 9-or-more loss seasons (not to mention an active 13-game losing skid), Kansas is as down as any Power 5 football program since Northwestern went 3-62-1 from 1976-81.
And that’s a good place to start, since Northwestern eventually stabilized under Gary Barnett, Randy Walker and Pat Fitzgerald, and Goff happens to arrive fresh off nine seasons of observation over Fitzgerald’s shoulder. In nine years as Northwestern’s deputy AD for development and, later, its deputy AD, Goff watched Fitzgerald lead the Wildcats to six winning seasons, three 10-win campaigns, two Big Ten West titles, and a No. 10 final AP ranking in 2020.
The flip side of that stability is Goff never worked on a football coaching search while at Northwestern. The only searches Goff had a hand in came at Tulane, where he was the associate AD for external relations from 2007-12, when the Green Wave hired Bob Toledo and Curtis Johnson.
Still, Goff wouldn’t have gotten the job if he didn’t come prepared to run point on the umpteenth attempt to reboot Jayhawk football in the last decade, and on Wednesday that meant not getting pinned down toward any candidate or strategy in his first scrum with the media.
“What’s important and what I’m really trying to be focused on in these days ahead is what will be applicable here at the University of Kansas. And that’s where I need to listen, absorb before charting that path forward,” he told the Lawrence Journal-World, while also saying he intends to be “open-minded” with “a few different plans” in mind.
Many will read the “open-minded” word choice as a nod toward the triple option and, indeed, FootballScoop reported Monday that Tulane’s Willie Fritz and Army’s Jeff Monken remain at the forefront of the search. Both coaches have enjoyed considerable success running triple option offenses, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’d run a full-blown triple-option offense in Lawrence.
Goff met with interim head coach Emmett Jones on Tuesday and said it will be a priority to soak in as much face-time with Jayhawk players and coaches as possible, while also avoiding pinning himself to a timeline to install the next full-time head coach. Each day Kansas does not have a new head coach is an opportunity for Jones to sell himself as a long-term option for the position, especially, as FootballScoop reported, if KU cannot strike a deal with any of its top targets.