|08-28-2009, 09:55 AM|
Join Date: Feb 2001
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(Al) Bohl started it all at KU
Former Kansas athletic director Al Bohl was the center of attention with his “crushed dove” comment following his ouster from his position in Lawrence. But though Bohl may have felt done in by Jayhawk basketball coach Roy Williams, he nonetheless put in place the pieces that helped the KU football program become the nationally ranked team it is today.
Bohl thought he had a good working relationship with former KU coach Roy Williams (right), but when Williams became upset about Bohl’s firing of football coach Terry Allen, a Williams friend, Williams’ “him or me” ultimatum led to Bohl’s departure.
Increasing the organized tailgating/party aspects on Campanile Hill above Memorial Stadium was something Bohl had to fight for in his efforts to make a KU football gameday a more attractive prospect.
Would the Kansas Jayhawks be playing before near-capacity crowds as they frequently do these days had it not been for Al Bohl’s efforts in elevating the program?
By Tully Corcoran
Created August 27, 2009 at 6:02pm
Updated August 28, 2009 at 12:13am
Six years removed from his firing and the "crushed dove" speech and the tiff with Roy Williams, Al Bohl is in St. Petersburg, Fla., not working in athletics and barely working in higher education as an adjunct professor at Flagler College.
He is working on his third novel, although it's difficult to tell if anybody bought the first two. He is about as far from the penetrating spotlight of major-college athletics as he could be.
He is having the time of his life.
"Our quality of life is probably the best Sherry and I have had," he says. "We're living in St. Augustine, which is just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The weather is warm now, but from October through May, it's as good as you can get.
"And, by the way, golf is very good down here."
Six years removed from his departure as athletic director at Kansas, Al Bohl is still, in two major ways, the father of modern Kansas football, which is to say he is the father of good Kansas football, as wacky as that may sound.
Here is why:
1)He hired Mark Mangino.
2)He opened up tailgating on the hill.
Bohl's history in successful football goes back to the 1970s, when he earned his doctorate degree at Ohio State. Since then, he's been an associate AD there and the AD at Toledo, Fresno State and Kansas.
His hires include Nick Saban (Toledo), Pat Hill (Fresno State), Gary Pinkel (Toledo) and Mangino (Kansas). Combined, they are 374-230-1 with four BCS bowl appearances and a national championship.
In the winding, rolling, interjecting, enthusiastic-yet-lollygagging way Bohl speaks, he explains this.
He explains that he hired Saban at Toledo because the program just needed to win some games. He hired Pinkel at Toledo because he thought Pinkel's offense would help fill the stadium. He hired Pat Hill at Fresno State over Brian Billick because Hill knew Fresno, knew how to recruit California and was unlikely to use the job as a stepping stone.
He tells all this to tell why he hired Mangino. But first, he has to explain Terry Allen.
Bohl did not hire Allen, but he did fire him with three games left in the 2001 season. This really chapped the hide of then-basketball coach Roy Williams, who was friendly with Allen and found midseason firings generally distasteful in the first place.
Bohl says he liked Allen, too, but couldn't go on with a coach who was 20-33 in almost five seasons.
"I really believe that was the best thing for the Kansas situation," Bohl said. "In our particular case, we did need to get a jumpstart on finding out who the next coach would be, because other jobs would open up, and there is, not a pecking order, but a procedure. The sooner you get out there and start doing those things, the probabilities are you'll have a better chance of getting somebody you really wanted."
Bohl of punchlines
What happened next is what turned Bohl into a regional punchline.
Bohl, whose icy relationship with Williams was well known, was fired April 9, 2003, which happened to be the same day Williams was contacted by North Carolina. Then-KU chancellor Robert Hemenway denied Williams had given KU a "he goes or I go" ultimatum.
Bohl disagreed and summoned reporters for a now-legendary news conference in his driveway.
"I believe the Kansas basketball coach had the power to hold his athletic director in his hand like a dove, and he had the choice to either crush me with his power of influence or let me fly with my vision for a better total program," Bohl said that day. "He chose to crush me."
Those words now appear on the tombstone of Bohl's career in athletics. So it is at least a little ironic that the very thing that got Bohl fired turned into perhaps the best hire in KU football history.
Mangino's the man
Mangino (45-41) this year should eclipse Glen Mason's KU win total of 47 to become the winningest KU coach since A.R. Kennedy won his 53rd game in 1910. Mangino was the Associated Press national coach of the year in 2007, when KU won a school-record 12 games.
Bohl saw in 2001 what it took most others until 2003 or 2005 or 2007 to recognize. He wanted a coach who understood what elite football looked like.
"I wanted to find a person that will work for Kansas, not somebody that would be good at some other school or try to turn Kansas into an Oklahoma or Ohio State or some other school," said Bohl, who chose Mangino over Dennis Franchione. "Mark had tremendous experiences where he'd been at Oklahoma. Mark knew what it was like being at one of the top programs and knew what the athletes look like at an Oklahoma versus, say, a Toledo."
Bohl also wanted somebody who understood the specific challenges to winning at a place like Kansas.
"Mark had also been at Kansas State," Bohl said. "He had been one of the guys that understood how Bill Snyder built that program. Kansas State, before Bill Snyder, they were a long time trying to have a good football team. Kansas State was able to start filling the football stadium and winning some games."
But there was another component, too.
"Mark was an offensive coordinator," Bohl said. "We all know in Division I football, you've got to have a really good defense. But as you try to get the people excited about coming to the stadium, it's those offensive guys and what they do that I think really causes a little more of the atmosphere that people like."
This is where Bohl starts his excited winding.
"You can't tell me Jayhawk fans haven't loved watching that quarterback the last two years," he says, his pitch rising. "Whether they win or lose the game, boy, that guy, you don't know -- they can be down a touchdown or two and that guy might throw to ... What's the players name that used to be a quarterback that's now a wide receiver?"
"That guy catches everything," Bohl continues. "Point is, that on defense, you can have someone playing good defense and people will appreciate it, but I don't know what it is. It's like basketball. People love to watch you shoot the 3. People love watching that quarterback."
The cash cow
This is where it all came together for Bohl. He wanted good football, and he wanted people to pay for it.
"Having looked at other schools, the population base was there that, my gosh, if we could get football going, we're gonna be able to generate more revenue," he said. "We were less than an hour from Kansas City. Wichita wasn't really that far. Part of what I thought about, in all honesty, was the Ohio State model. People forget -- you have to go back a long time -- but they didn't always fill up their football stadium. People would drive from Canton, Ohio, Toledo, Ohio, Cincinnati, Cleveland to Columbus, Ohio, to watch Ohio State play. And that's how they ended up filling up their stadium. It wasn't just the people in Columbus.
"Kansas State had already been doing a lot of what I just described. Manhattan's not that big. They're not gonna fill up their stadium with people within a half hour of Manhattan. They have to get the engineer, the farmer, the attorney from down in Chanute or somewhere to drive to Manhattan."
To make that happen, he had to make it fun. This meant tailgating on campus. This meant a fight. With administration, with police, with just about everybody.
"I can't tell you how many meetings I had trying to make sure the police and everybody else buy into that we would have responsible tailgating," Bohl said. "A lot of the boosters would tell me stories about how they would be out in the parking lot and some person would come up to them and want to give them a ticket. We were able to get that modified and I believe that was a start in making people feel good.
"There was a core level of 10,000-15,000 people that were coming to Kansas football games whether they were winning or losing, and they could have a good time. Now, all of the sudden when they invite some of their friends to come to their tailgating party, it's a great time and they get to go watch some college football."
Battle with basketball
But there were also internal battles, and not just over tailgating. During Bohl's time at KU, and maybe everybody else's time at KU, basketball ruled. Everybody else drooled.
"There was tension," Bohl said. "A lot of this stuff, I don't know if hidden is the right word, but there's not people running up and telling you all of those things. But each month I was there, I realized that tension."
One of the manifestations of this tension, Bohl said, was when KU would host football recruits during basketball season.
"And we needed the facilities cleaned to the utmost because those recruits were all coming in, but we'd have problems where, because it was a home basketball game, some of the stuff didn't get done," Bohl said. "I can remember Mark just being frustrated at -- they'd have to go out and empty some trash cans and stuff."
There were also issues in the weight room that all of KU's teams shared at the time.
"Not so much who got to use it," Bohl said, "but how some of the players were treated versus other players and what was expected."
This was part of the impetus to build the football program its own facilities, a project whose gestation began under Bohl.
"The works for that were put into motion while I was there," Bohl said. "You're trying to recruit to the players that'll beat Texas or Oklahoma. Take that great wide receiver Mark Mangino wants to get to come to Kansas. Maybe he's not going to visit Oklahoma, but maybe he visits Oklahoma State and he sees their facilities, and you're trying to get that person to choose Kansas over Oklahoma State. That's why in athletics facilities have become very, very important."
KU completed the $31 million facility in 2008, which came between an Orange Bowl win and an Insight Bowl win, the first back-to-back bowl appearances in school history.
In Allen's final season, KU's average home attendance was 39,492. In 2008, it was 50,407 in a stadium that supposedly only holds 50,071.
It's not Oklahoma or Ohio State, but Kansas football is winning and it is selling.
Bohl looks back on his time at KU with some mixed feelings. He says he and his wife, Sherry, a KU grad, watch Kansas games any chance they get, but he hasn't been back in the area, doesn't keep in touch with many people from Kansas and has no designs on a return to athletics.
"It's hard to explain to people," he said. "I ran that treadmill for a long time in athletics."
Instead, from afar he proudly watches his vision of Kansas football realize itself.
"I don' regret I wasn't there to see all those things come about," Bohl said. "It just didn't work out that way."
Tully Corcoran can be reached at (785) 295-5652 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
|08-28-2009, 10:53 AM||#3|
Get a life!
Join Date: Aug 2000
Casino cash: $6103
Terry Allen was f*&#*$ing awful.
Roy had too much power.
Bohl is gone.
KU is becoming a legit 2-sport school.
Life is good.
I'm mean because you're stupid.
|08-28-2009, 10:56 AM||#4|
Like I woke up in Wonderland..
Join Date: Oct 2005
Casino cash: $8110
he did hire the fat man, afterall.
|08-28-2009, 12:01 PM||#5|
Join Date: Feb 2001
Casino cash: $8684
You can't buy happiness. But you can buy beer. And that's pretty much the same thing.
|08-28-2009, 12:10 PM||#6|
Tossed Salad & Scrambled Eggs
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: ATX & OPKS
Casino cash: $8853VARSITY
I am surprised! And here I was thinking the KU football program only began in 2007!