It’s a good thing the University of Kansas is an institution of higher learning.
Education was the optimal word for the debut season of David Beaty as the CEO of Kansas football.
Players, coaches and the Jayhawks fan base spent a good portion of the 2015 season learning (and defining) what this new version of Kansas football was going to look like. As a first-year head coach on the collegiate level, Beaty was learning just as much as anyone else.
“Even though you’ve done it at a high school level for a long period of time, there are some things about the college game that are easier and some things that are tougher. Managing your responsibilities while still being directly involved takes a balance,” said Beaty, who spent time as a head coach at Irving (Texas) MacArthur and North Dallas High School prior to his time in the collegiate coaching ranks. “You have to do a good job of being able to say no to some things so you can focus on trying to improve performance on the football field.”
Thus, Beaty tabled his plans to call offensive plays in Year 1, choosing to focus on rebuilding what he characterized as "fractured" relationships surrounding the program. The time he would have spent focusing on the offense was spent on fans, recruits, Kansas high school coaches and other key relationships that needed mending.
“I had to be unselfish, I had to step back,” he said. “I realized how important it was going to be to get engaged with our fan base, Kansas high school coaches, individual recruits.”
That long-term approach was taken from top to bottom throughout the program. In fact, the Jayhawks scrapped the idea of having a scout team solely devoted to preparing the starters for each game, instead running two teams on two different fields to maximize the practice reps and development of the young players on the roster.
“We were developing our guys throughout the season,” Beaty said. “They weren’t getting scout team reps, they were getting actual reps so they can be ready for the future.”
The focus on the future could transform a winless season that could be looked upon as a devastating start into a proud representation of Beaty’s vision for the future as the Jayhawks head coach heads into Year 2.
“One of the things I’m proud of is the foundation we did lay,” Beaty said. “Foundations work and it’s not always fun. Even though our record was what it was, our foundation is something we’re proud of. We did not sell out, so to speak, for a win or two. We basically stayed the course and we were in some games as we went down the stretch.”
Now Beaty gets to return to his roots, taking over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Rob Likens. The last time Beaty took over an offense -- before the 2010 season at Rice -- Beaty led an offense that averaged 2.26 points per drive (compared to 1.34 points per drive in 2009) and 5.27 yards per play (compared to 4.23 yards per play in 2009).
He’s confident the Jayhawks’ new-look attack could have a similar jump in success after Kansas managed 1.01 points per drive and 4.43 yards per play with a young, inexperienced offense a year ago.
“It will look a lot different,” Beaty said. “When you take something over, your philosophy comes through. As I stepped away, it’s hard to ask a guy to do something they don’t know. We will look different in terms of how we attack offensive football.”
Year 1 was about laying a quality foundation so Beaty could build upon it in Year 2. His ability to feel confident in taking over the play-calling duties and managing the requirements of being a head coach at the same time is a clear step forward. Now it’s time to turn the hard foundation-building work into on-field improvement in the fall.
“I’m an offensive guy, I’ve always loved offensive football,” Beaty said. “That (head coaching duties) took me away from it. Now I’ve cleared the way to get back involved and do what I really love and I think I can really help our football team.”