Kansas introduces Charlie Weis

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Charlie Weis knew little about the Kansas football program when his phone rang Wednesday morning. He knew that the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl a few years ago, and that they finished 2-10 this season under Turner Gill, but that was about it.

When athletic director Sheahon Zenger began to talk to him about the job, though, Weis realized that he was hearing an opportunity too good to pass up: The chance to build a long-suffering program into a winner, and prove that his failed attempt at Notre Dame was a distant memory.

Weis was introduced as the Jayhawks' coach during a news conference Friday, about 24 hours after he accepted the job and just a couple days after he emerged as the leading candidate.

"It was too good of an opportunity," he said, "being able to go into a place that was down low and being able to see it through the rise back up top. Anyone who is goal driven in anything, whether it was a startup, taking a business and doing good -- this is what I do.

"The team was 2-10 and you're going to be the one that's directly involved with taking that team and moving it to the other end of the spectrum."

Terms of Weis' contract have not been finalized, but Zenger said it would be a five-year deal that pays Weis about $2.5 million annually, almost all of which is guaranteed.

That's a hefty price for a school that parted ways with Mark Mangino just a few years ago, and is still on the hook for about $6 million on the five-year, $10 million deal Gill had signed.

Zenger said he had a list of about a dozen names when he began his search, and he talked to "eight to 10" on the phone. When he finally came around to discussing Weis, it was only after he had spoken to numerous people in the coaching profession that could vouch for him.

"He has an incredible football mind, he is disciplined, principled and a tireless worker. We believe he is the right coach at the right time to help Kansas raise the bar and compete in the Big 12," Zenger said, adding that Weis' name recognition was "icing on the cake."

If the Jayhawks were hoping for a boost in interest, they apparently got it.

The school announced season-ticket packages on Friday to coincide with Weis' hiring, and several hundred new orders had been placed. An image of Weis already topped the athletic department website, and a bold banner proclaimed a "new era" for Kansas football.

The disciple of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichik helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowls, and also spent time with the New York Jets and New York Giants.

He was given the opportunity to take over at Notre Dame, his alma mater, and went to a pair of BCS bowl games. But things went sour not long after he agreed to a 10-year extension, and Weis was unceremoniously fired despite the hefty amount of money still on his contract.

He was the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, helping them to a surprise AFC West title, before leaving to take over as the Florida offensive coordinator.

Weis said the move to Florida was made with his family in mind.

His son, Charlie Jr., wants to get into coaching and had the opportunity to help out on the Gators' staff; he's already transferred to Kansas for the spring semester. The more pressing reason was the well-being of Weis' daughter, Hannah, who has special needs. She was able to enroll in a school that allowed her to flourish, and that weighed heavily on Weis when Kansas came along.

"For us to leave that, there had to be a special circumstance for us to be able to do that," said Weis, adding that his wife will remain in Florida with Hannah and he'll fly back and forth between Ocala and Lawrence on a regular basis. "When we could find a way to make it work as a family, that's the first time this became a possibility and a reality."

The 55-year-old Weis ambled into a packed auditorium with the use of a cane for his introductory news conference Friday. He had knee replacements in 2008 and earlier this year, and will have hip replacement in the coming weeks, all stemming from injuries sustained in a sideline mishap.

Weis said that otherwise he feels good, and that he's actually looking forward to surgery.

Until then, the priority will be assembling a coaching staff and getting out on the road to recruit. Weis said running backs coach Reggie Mitchell will be kept from the previous staff, and the rest of the assistants should be hired in the next few days.

Weis has already met with some members of the team, which returns largely intact next season, and laid out exactly what the expectations will be once spring practice rolls around.

"It's not going to be pleasant around here in the springtime. There are not many things I can promise, but I can promise that. It's not going to be pleasant," Weis said he told the team.

"He made it pretty clear to us that things are going to be tough, but I understand that," said defensive end Toben Opurum. "You can't go from 2-10 to where we want to go without hard work."

Several times Weis referenced Kansas State, which has hammered its in-state rival the past couple of years. He doesn't know longtime Wildcats coach Bill Snyder except by reputation, but he used his program to illustrate the possibilities that exist to win at Kansas.

"The University of Kansas was 2-10. The other major school, Kansas State, was 10-2. I only have on question to ask: Why?" Weis said. "I don't have that answer, but that's what I'm here for. I'm here to find out why that is and see what we're going to do to change that, and that's the bottom line."

Snyder, who once had Zenger on his coaching staff, said earlier in the day that he's looking forward to meeting Weis in the coming weeks.

"I think he'll do a wonderful job. I'm quite certain of that," he said. "His reputation has been extremely positive. I think the world of Sheahon Zenger. I know it was a very quality hire for the University of Kansas. I'm anxious to have an opportunity to see him and visit with him. I don't know him, but I certainly know of his background."