New Kansas football coach Charlie Weis is a charming, engaging public speaker, but he had many Jayhawks fans appeased before he took the microphone during an appearance at Larry Bud’s on Thursday.
Eager to put a tumultuous two-year run with former coach Turner Gill behind them, the 200 or so fans who saw Weis speak Thursday were laughing at every one of his jokes and applauding his coaching philsophies.
Taking over a team that finished 2-10 last year and 0-9 in the Big 12 under Gill, Weis was careful not to promise an immediate turnaround. But the detail with which he described his strategies to help the Jayhawks improve in off-field aspects seemed to satisfy the audience.
"I think this crowd is a tribute to how unjaded they are," said KU alum Mark Jabara, who attended the event. "They are very, very positive (about) the future. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, they’re still positive."
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Athletic director Sheahon Zenger introduced Weis and drew an unplanned laugh when he stated that KU had to improve "in the weight room, in the classroom, on defense and on offense."
Weis addressed personnel in a question and answer session following his speech, but devoted most of his time to discussing his plans to build a team that is strong physically and in character.
As self-appointed academic liasion, Weis said he spends two hours every Monday poring over each player’s standing with the school, and dealing with major problems with the players themselves.
"After one offense we usually don’t see them again," Weis said. "Either they don’t have another problem or they do and I get rid of them."
Weis also vowed to not allow his players to become overmatched against the superior athletes in the conference. He brought strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple from Florida, where Weis was offensive coordinator last year, and Weis said Holsopple’s intimidating presence is already having an effect.
"He’s a maniac," Weis said. "The players are scared to death of him. Perfect. Just the way it’s supposed to be."
Jabara said he didn’t have preconceived notions about what Weis would say, but like many in attendance he was ready to be won over and that Weis did so by convincing fans that he was dedicated to fixing the program.
"We were very impressed with his structure of talking about the team in general, and then talking about the personnel," Jabara said. "That showed me that he knows what he’s doing."
Weis got a laugh when he jokingly declared that if he gets KU from two wins to four, "they should double my salary."
He understands that fans are excited about a new voice, but he has a reply to those who feel he can be the savior before ever stepping on the sidelines.
"I’m a cult hero without playing a game," Weis said. "(People say) ‘Yeah, coach Weis, we’re glad to have you.’ Tell me that in December. That’s the standard answer I give every time."
A group of Notre Dame fans sat near Weis during the coach’s speech and one, Pat Woodward, asked a question. Weis, the coach at Notre Dame from 2005-09 was hesitant to take it, but Woodward said he was there to offer support.
Woodward and fellow Irish alum Jim Loeffler said Weis has learned to be more affable in front of fans.
"He’s more charming now than he was five years ago," Loeffler said.