In the contract David Beaty signed in 2015 to coach Kansas football with a base salary of $800,000, there was a $25,000 incentive for every conference win. He has yet to collect one of those bonuses, and by the time the season ends, there’s a good chance that reality won’t change.
Going winless in the conference, two seasons into his five-year contract, might be enough to excite the Kansas faithful to beg for terminating his contract. This isn’t Texas; no one’s begging for an immediate release. There’s a sense of patience, one which Kansas decision makers need to maintain not just for the next year, but ideally through the end of the contract.
Even though Kansas hasn’t won a conference game since 2014, Beaty has at least made several games competitive. Just look at the TCU contest coming down to a last-second field goal; the previous year against the Frogs was another single-possession game. Even the two three-possession losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State seemed semi-competitive until midway through the third quarter. The only indefensible outing was against Baylor, a national top-10 team.
It’s clear that Beaty’s schemes are clicking with this team. Just look at how far the defense has come this season.
Last year it ranked outside the top 100 in just about every defensive category. Now the Jayhawks’ defense ranks inside the top 10 in some statistics, namely tackles for loss, logging 57 this season led by sophomore Dorance Armstrong’s 10. Armstrong is a testament to the talent that Beaty has been able to attract.
Another example is leading receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez, who transferred from Texas A&M just to continue playing for Beaty. Running backs Ke’aun Kinner and Taylor Martin have both had their fair share of success in two seasons in Lawrence, Kansas.
The greater point: The limited degree of prosperity Kansas has experienced the past few seasons primarily stems from the players Beaty has hand picked despite getting the scraps bigger programs have let go. Essentially, he’s playing only three quarters of these players; only a select few freshmen are playing this season.
Several players such as safety Fish Smithson carried over from the Charlie Weis era, but for the most part, a severe lack of depth is keeping back Beaty from succeeding. Just look at the Oklahoma State game last Saturday.
At one point, it looked like the Jayhawks would pull the miraculous upset, having brought the game to 24-20 with under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. They were constantly getting after Mason Rudolph in the pocket, ending the day with six sacks. The offense was rather opportunistic, having scored immediately after an early OSU turnover in the first quarter to set the tone.
That tone becomes muted before the fourth quarter even starts, as KU loses ground — it happened against Oklahoma State, and it happens on a consistent basis. It needs to be seen just how a true Beaty roster will work, not just one with bits and pieces of a terrible era. If those years under Weis are any indication — his record stood at 6-22 before being released midway through Year Three — Beaty could be pushed out the door sometime next year.
This is a process with Beaty. If it’s cut short, the experimentation starts all over with another coach, setting up this conversation in another couple years.
That’s not what a program in Kansas’s position should want.