Since we started up Crystal Ball Run six or so months ago, I’m not quite sure we’ve cover a more divisive personality in college football than former Florida offensive coordinator and current Kansas head man Charlie Weis. To a man, you can’t find a single person who likes him; not in the media, not in coaching circles and definitely not amongst fans. He’s a TV villain come to a college sideline, walking cane, polo shirt and all.
And when he was hired by Kansas three weeks ago, the opinion didn’t change; if anything, it only intensified. Other than the day Kim Kardashian first filed divorce papers from Kris Humphries, I can’t think of any one move that angered and riled up casual sports fans more than Weis' arrival in Lawrence.
Of the few people who actually liked the move, I was one of them.
Actually, I take that back. I loved the move. Still do. Over the years Weis has proven to be plenty divisive, but he has proven to be a lot of other things too: He’s proven the ability to identify and recruit top offensive talent. He’s proven the ability to develop that talent once it gets on campus. And most importantly, he’s proven the ability to get people talking, good and bad. Of all the reasons why I loved the hire for Kansas, the No. 1 reason was this: No other single person could get people talking about the Jayhawks football program like Weis could. Granted, it might mostly negative. But don’t people always say, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity?”
Beyond that, while Weis has pretty much been a flop in every stop he’s made since leaving Tom Brady’s side, the one thing that his name does still bring is cache, especially in the 18-22 year-old demographic. We saw it with Jimmy Clausen a few years back, and again with John Brantley this year.
Now, we’ve seen it again. That’s because on Thursday, Weis scored his first big recruiting win of his tenure at Kansas, when he convinced his former back-up quarterback at Notre Dame, Dayne Crist, to come to Lawrence for his last year of college eligibility. By next fall, Crist will already have an undergraduate degree, allowing him to enroll, and play right away at Kansas.
While Crist’s on the field exploits have left a lot to be desired, there’s no doubt his name alone gives Kansas a much needed facelift.
Before we get into that, allow me to be the first to admit one thing: Crist’s arrival guarantees nothing. Quite frankly, if there’s one person more overrated in college football than Weis right now, it could very well be the former signal-caller of the Irish.
In two years since Weis left South Bend, Crist proved little beyond an impeccable ability to get the yips at the worst possible time. Incredibly, he was benched after just one half of the Irish’s opener against South Florida in 2011, after he had three turnovers in the first 30 minutes of the season, and from there never really recovered. His final opportunity came and went against USC later in the 2011 season, when he coughed up a ball on the goal line in a play which was eventually returned by the Trojans for a touchdown. It was a 14-point swing that cost Notre Dame the win, and was a proverbial final nail in Crist’s coffin in South Bend.
So in the end, we really don’t know what to expect from Crist upon his arrival in Kansas. But again, I’m not so sure the headline is whether Crist can be a savior of the Kansas football program, or just that Crist is involved with Kansas football at all.
Giving this some perspective, can we agree that upon his arrival, Crist immediately becomes the highest profile player the program has had since Aqib Talib was an All-American in 2007? He’s certainly got more name cache than Todd Reesing, the quarterback who led Kansas to the Orange Bowl that same year.
Again, when you’re Kansas, I’m not so sure wins and losses are as significant as simply being relevant. Granted, eventually everyone's got to win games. I get that. But doesn’t the idea that we’re talking about the Jayhawks a few days before Christmas, when they aren’t getting ready to play a bowl game tell you everything you need to know?
And really, that’s the gift of Weis’ hire as the head football coach of this program. Ultimately, wins aren’t guaranteed. Neither is any more success than they had under Turner Gill (who was just fired after two seasons which he finished 5-19).
But relevance? An interesting story angle? Weis certainly brings that.
It might not mean much at Notre Dame. At Kansas though? Relevance and interest aren’t words normally thrown around, unless someone is talking about Bill Self’s hoops team. That is until Weis showed up.
Ultimately, we still don’t know if the man can coach.
But he sure can be the center of a good conversation. He and his newest quarterback again proved that today.
For all opinion, insight and analysis on college football and beyond, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.