DALLAS — Charlie Weis moved through the audience, slowly and comfortably, a small Jayhawk pin adorning his pressed suit in the location that politicians reserve for an American flag.
It was Tuesday morning, shortly before noon, and Weis, the first-year Kansas coach, had just left the stage at Big 12 Media Days after a 20-minute news conference at the Westin Galleria, his formal introduction to the Big 12 Conference.
In the corner of the ballroom stood Chuck Neinas, the former interim commissioner who had helped save the Big 12 in its darkest hour and the unofficial godfather of the two-day event.
Good job, Charlie, Neinas said, extending his hand.
And with that, Weis was in the club, his appearance receiving a stamp of approval from perhaps the most respected member of the audience.
Media Days are generally a time for optimism and hope a time to sell the program. And on Tuesday, Weis sold KU football in the only way he knows how: Raw and unfiltered honesty, delivered with a smile.
The bottom line, Weis said of last years KU team, is theres too many games theyre getting the crap kicked out of them. And theyre the ones that Im concerned with first.
When you have a half-dozen games where youre losing by 30 or more, I mean thats the one Im worried about.
In the span of 20 minutes, Weis was peppered with questions that followed one general theme: Why the heck did you choose to be the next coach at Kansas?
And for 20 minutes, Weis delivered his stump speech to a new audience. He believes in Kansas, he says. Kansas State and Missouri have been successful and KU was in the Orange Bowl just a few years ago so why not us?
It wasnt like it was 20 years ago now, Weis said. It was a short time frame ago that that football program was playing in bowl games and winning.
This was just the beginning. When a reporter brought up the Penn State situation and the fact players in that program can freely transfer to another school Weis did not hide the fact that hes already inspected the Penn State roster.
Yes, he said, before adding that it was important to be respectful to the staff at Penn State.
Later, when asked if taking the KU job signaled that he was desperate to be a head coach again, Weis offered a quick retort.
I was offered other jobs for a lot more money, he said, just so you know that.
In many ways, this was Weis Big 12 coming-out party, a new voice of KU football, one thats helped re-energize the program. But its also still July, and Weis was quick to mention that the Jayhawks have yet to play a game.
If we go stink it up against South Dakota State (in the opener), all that momentum that you gained, youll watch it evaporate it in a hurry, Weis said.
Still, Weis has given KU and its fan base a reason to have expectations even if those expectations are hard to parse.
Senior quarterback Dayne Crist, who once played for Weis at Notre Dame, calls Weis the most honest person hes ever met.
Regardless of football or no football, Crist said. Hes 100 percent honest all the time. He tells you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not.
Senior offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson says theres a feeling of accountability now. The players believe in the new staff, believe that theyll put them in the right places to succeed so they better work hard and hold up their end of the bargain.
With a guy like coach Weis coming in, its just added a lot more excitement to the program, Hawkinson said. I feel like that kind of led to some motivation for some guys, to be like, OK, we got the coaches in place. Theyre gonna get us in good position to win some games.
Still, Hawkinson says you cant know everything about a team until the pads come on and the heat of fall camps turns up. Its still year one, and expectations are tough to pin down. KU was still picked last in the Big 12 Conference. And the Jayhawks still havent defeated a current member of the Big 12 since beating Iowa State on Oct. 10, 2009.
KU is still 5-19 over the last two seasons. And when youve hit rock bottom, anything a little higher feels like a success. But is it?
Its the answer Weis will have to sort through in the coming months, when the games begin and the results begin pouring in.
Remember now, Weis says. My expectations are way higher than yours are. But if they werent, then they hired the wrong coach.
Because listen, I could look at it like this: So if we go out and win four, thats double what we won last year right? Thats pretty good. I could just play to that right now. And most of the fans would consider that, OK, were moving in the right direction.
Now what coach in their right mind would say, God, if we only could just win four this year!
So, yes, the odds and raw numbers may signal that KU is rolling toward another losing season. But Weis cant believe that. This team will play with a chip on its shoulder, he says, and, heck, they should have a psychological advantage in every game.
As he often says: What team is going to be up to play Kansas?
But he also must concede that this is year one in a long-term rebuilding project. And even at Media Days, a little realism might come to the surface.
Now that might be the way it turns out, he says of the prospect of four wins. But whos ever gonna think like that?