By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The beauty of these football conference media days such as the one the Big 12 just went through is that in the midst of all the unmitigated propaganda and out-and-out lies there often comes one ray of sunshine that makes it all worthwhile.
Seldom does it come from the successful coaches, who are trying disguise which of their three high school All-American quarterbacks has won the starting job or where his top recruit stands in terms of qualifying to play for the season.
Instead, it comes from a coach whose job probably is very much in jeopardy, whose talent level is lower than his fullback’s grade-point average and who, to be honest, can’t put himself into a worse situation no matter what he says.
In other words, you gotta love Charlie Weis.
True, the Kansas coach is in possession of a Super Bowl ring from New England, one that he actually earned rather than purchasing it on Ebay, although another 1-11 season that included zero Big 12 victories like last year and he may wind up selling it there.
Now there was much news coming out of Big 12 Media Day, from the unveiling of a new logo to the revelation that highlights from other games will be shown in stadia around the conference, probably during what could be an endless string of timeouts as officials try to decide if a hit qualified as targeting under a new rule.
But it was Weis who stole the show as he spoke from his heart as he explained how he approaches recruiting against the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and instate rival Kansas State from the depths at which his program resides.
“We’re 1-11 and picked by everybody to finish last in the league, and that’s justifiable,” Weis said during his media session. “If I were you, I’d pick us in the same spot. We’ve given you no evidence or no reason to be picked anywhere other than that.”
Having admitted that, what can he possibly say to a recruit looking at his program?
“Everyone wants to play. There’s no one that wants to not play,” he began. “I said, ‘Have you looked at that pile of crap out there? Have you taken a look at that? So if you don’t think you can play here, where do you think you can play?’ It’s a pretty simple approach. And that’s not a sales pitch. That’s practical. You’ve seen it, right? Unfortunately, so have I.”
Pile of crap?
Honest, that is what Weis says he tells his recruits, knowing full well they know the record, know his team ranked 113th nationally in total defense and 115th in scoring offense.
He figures the first step is to be honest and then he has to improve … and do it quickly for no university is going to let you repeat such a performance.
But how do you recruit to improve quickly when quite frankly, high school kids aren’t looking to play in the midst of a “pile of crap”?
Weis went out and brought in 18 junior college kids, kids looking for a chance to excel, kids like Weis who may not have a lot of time left to impress.
Weis explained why he was saying what he was saying a while later.
“My honesty works both ways (in recruiting),” Weis said. “Sarcasm is part of who I am. I’m not trying to be funny when I use it; it’s just part of who you are.
“When I say these things it’s not to show how witty I can be. I’m going to be sarcastic five years from now. Hey, news flash: I’m gonna be sarcastic in five years. When kids know you’re going to treat them honest, they’re going to respect you.”
One such player is a transfer quarterback, Jake Heaps from BYU. While Kansas ran the ball well a year ago and had the Big 12’s leading rusher – which may be like being West Virginia’s best 3-point shooter last basketball season – the Jayhawks were atrocious throwing it.
Weis gambled with Heaps, who was the nation’s top QB recruit in 2010, had a record-breaking freshman season, then fell apart in 2011 and sat after transferring last year.
He let the quarterback know what he was getting into, let him see it for himself up close and personal, and now he is giving him that last chance to be part of building it back up while saving Weis’ job and career.
“I think when I left BYU, my confidence was at an all-time low. I mean, how do you not have that?” Heaps said. “You totally expect one thing, and it ends up turning another way. But Coach Weis loved me for me, loved the kid that came from Skyline High School that was passionate about football. Every day that I’ve been here has been a process to get back to that point.
“He’s always had faith in me,” Heaps said.
In truth, he really didn’t have much choice, but that’s neither here nor there.
He is, above all else, straightforward and honest.
“That’s what we love as players; we love how candid he is,” Heaps told the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. “We know exactly where we stand with him. We don’t have to worry about him sugarcoating it and him playing mind games with us. It’s all about honesty. And it pushes you to get better. At least you know where you stand.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.