Kansas never found a spark under Charlie Weis

Charlie Weis stood before Kansas fans at a preseason pep rally last month and made his plea. He probably helped seal his fate, too.

“I’m only asking for September,” he told the fan base. “You give me September, and I’ll give you a reason to come in October and November.”

He got more specific than that, according to the Lawrence Journal-World: “Go to those three games at home, watch the one game on the road and then you make the decision on where the direction of the football team is going. It’s as simple as that. Because I think you’re going to be greatly surprised.”

His boss, athletic director Sheahon Zenger, made the decision for him. Weis, fired on Sunday after a 23-0 loss to Texas, preached a five-year plan but never produced the momentum needed to get through three.

Four games in is early, yes, but Kansas had every right to do this now. His preseason plea in Corinth Square on Aug. 22 was a perfect example of the empty promises of the Weis era, a 28-game tenure in which Kansas’ trajectory never improved.

There was just never a spark in the two years and nearly 10 months that Weis ran the program. No signs of momentum no matter what Weis said or tried. The roster is probably marginally better. Maybe the recruiting is, too. But the results aren’t.

The road losing streak Weis inherited remains intact. The Jayhawks have lost 25 straight away from home. They followed every win under Weis with a loss. They beat just three FBS teams in his tenure and lost 19 of 20 against Power 5 schools.

The lone exception, a 31-19 victory over a four-win West Virginia team last November, was billed as a potential turnaround moment. Fans celebrated their first conference victory since 2010 by dumping KU’s goalposts in Potter Lake. Who could blame them?

The next game, at Iowa State, offered a chance to really start something. Snap the road slide, win two in a row, change the narrative. Kansas lost 34-0. A week later, a 31-10 loss to Kansas State finished the year.

The September wins Weis bet his fan support on? Kansas nearly blew a 27-point lead in its opener, a 34-28 win over Southeast Missouri, and then played Central Michigan to a 10-10 draw through three quarters before pulling away in the fourth.

A 41-3 loss to Duke highlighted by a 245-yard rushing effort from the Blue Devils' Shaun Wilson, a freshman back who wasn’t listed on the depth chart, hurt far more than those wins helped. On Saturday, Kansas’ offense crossed midfield eight times but averaged 1.7 yards on its 34 plays in Texas territory.

There was never any “decided schematic advantage” under Weis, nor was there ever a breakout quarterback. Weis tried to find sparks in recruiting. He lured two high-profile QB transfers to Lawrence -- Notre Dame’s Dayne Crist and BYU’s Jake Heaps -- and both flopped. Crist went 1-6 as a starter. Heaps was 2-7 and transferred again, to Miami, after losing his job.

The most coveted recruit of the Weis era, junior college defensive tackle Marquel Combs, transferred after being benched for the first three games of his KU career. The roster today has a few promising pieces and one clear All-Big 12 player, senior linebacker Ben Heeney, but was clearly misjudged by Weis as being ready to compete and win in Big 12 play.

The blueprint that Weis sold back in December 2011 -- of restoring Kansas’ temporary status as a “perennial winning program” by the end of his five years -- was given more than 1,000 days. Now it’s been rightfully scrapped and KU now needs its fourth head coach since Mark Mangino’s exit in 2009.

It’s sad to say, but it’s true: Kansas was probably wise to start the search now, because it’s not inconceivable KU will compete with SMU for similar candidates. And don't forget, Kansas could've had Gus Malzahn in 2011.

Kansas can win in the Big 12. We’ve seen it before. The remarkable revival at Baylor is perfect proof that, with the right guy and the right plan, this program can escape the basement.

What these Jayhawks -- and the 36,000 fans who showed up Saturday -- desperately need is a coach who can build that momentum again. After these past few years, they need and deserve a reason for excitement. They need a reason to care about October and November again.