Kansas Introduces 37th Head Coach Charlie Weis

Dec. 9, 2011

  • Weis Press Conference
  • T. Hawkinson Interview
  • K. Pick Interview
  • T. Opurum Interview
  • V. Simmons Interview
  • D. Zlatnik Interview


Charlie Weis Introductory Press Conference

Mrkonic Auditorium

Dec. 9, 2011

University Chancellor Dr. Bernadette Gray-Little

Opening Statement:

“Good evening. The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society far above by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. We aspire to excellence in all aspects of KU’s missions and that aspiration extends to our athletics programs. KU expects excellence on the field of competition and in the preparation of our student-athletes to graduate and lead successful lives after college. It is for these reasons that I chose Sheahon Zenger to lead Kansas Athletics. It is also why I am so pleased now to invite him to formally introduce the next head football coach at the University of Kansas.”

Kansas Athletic Director Dr. Sheahon Zenger

Opening Statement:

“Thank you, Chancellor. Thank you for being here today. Ten days ago, I stood in this room and told the football team I was going to hit the road and find the best football coach for the University of Kansas. I set out to find the best, and I found Charlie Weis. Coach Weis has tremendous experience and success at the highest levels of the NFL and collegiate football. He has an incredible football mind. He’s disciplined, principled and a tireless worker. We believe he is the right coach at the right time to put Kansas in a position to raise the bar and compete in the Big 12 Conference. At the end of the day, I know that Coach Weis will assemble a strong staff and that together with them, the University of Kansas will attract top recruits on a national scale. We’ve had several coaching changes in recent years. The Chancellor and I didn’t feel like we needed a jump start; we believed that we needed a power surge. That power surge is Coach Weis.”

On trying to hire a head coach that will bring stability to the position:
“As I look back over 25 years in this business, the few things I know about football are: it begins with hard work, tireless hard work and attention to detail. That’s what I found first and foremost in Coach Weis – that relentless pursuit of excellence and a passion for the game and for the kids. If you talk to people who know his teams, he’s a disciplinarian, and they love him. To me, there’s a magic in that.”

On keeping the hiring process so secretive:
“I think it comes from being brought up in the state of Kansas and having a grandma who taught us that you don’t have to say everything you know. We live in a day and age where people just go out there and they talk and they talk, and they say things that hurt other people. I wanted to have the ability to meet with quality coaches from across the country at all different levels. I knew if I got out there talking too much, there would be certain individuals who wouldn’t talk to me. One of those might have been Coach Weis. At the end of the day, it pained me. Some of you guys (media) in this room know I talk to you pretty openly, but when it comes to doing something like this, it wasn’t about me. It was about them. It was about protecting people in the business who wanted to talk about the University of Kansas. At the end of the day, it was about protecting other people who are professionals in this business. I appreciate the fact that you were patient with us throughout that process. That’s what it’s really all about.”

On if discipline was an area he needed to address when looking to hire a head coach:
“Yes, and when I say that, I’m not talking about gross misconduct. I’m talk about attention to details and the little things. That’s what Coach Weis is all about.”

On if it was important to hire a big name that would grab national attention:
“I would say that was icing on the cake. In my life, that’s not something I’ve ever chased. In meeting Coach Weis, when I sat down with him, I found somebody I didn’t expect to see. That was a little humbling for me as well. I’ve enjoyed him, and I think you’ll enjoy him.”

Kansas Head Coach Charlie Weis

Opening Statement:

“Thank you very much for the warm introduction Chancellor and Dr. Zenger. I am very happy to be here at the University of Kansas. The number one thing I want to do before we open it up for ‘Q’ and ‘A’ is to give you an idea of how this materialized. Yesterday morning at seven, I got a call from coach (Will) Muschamp, saying Dr. Zenger had called, asking for permission to talk to me. Then we (Dr. Zenger and Weis) got together at about 11:45 a.m. down in Florida. That gave me an opportunity to spend time really discussing this with my wife Maura and my son Charlie. We had all morning to discuss the pros and cons of do we want to do this, do we not want to do this, why would we do this, because we are a very tight knit family. At the end of the day, we came to the unanimous decision that if the situation was right and presented itself in a unique way we would be interested.

“Then we started the interview process, which was a grueling day. We went through a good five hours going back and forth on the pros and cons of the job and why I would do it or why I wouldn’t do it. I should give you a little personal background on why it became more grueling. You see the fourth member of our family is our daughter Hannah. She is 16 years old and is globally, mentally delayed and has special needs. Hannah really struggles with moves, so anytime there is really change, it is not a good thing for her. Hannah was the main reason why we ended up leaving the Kansas City Chiefs a year ago, trying to find a better niche for her. So she could flourish, thrive and be happy. When we went to take the job at the University of Florida, we actually found for the first time in our lives, that Hannah was truly happy. We found a school down in Ocala, Fla. called Hillcrest, which is a public school with nothing but kids with special needs, and we have never seen Hannah happier. She talks more, she is singing and she is asking to go to school. She wants to go to school and that is a first. It has never happened before, so for us to leave that there had to be a special circumstance for us to be able to. So Maura and I came to the realization that moving Hannah was not the way to go. Hannah was going to have to stay in Florida; therefore Maura was going to have to stay in Florida. After I offered to give her endless private flights from Ocala to Lawrence, that was what flipped the switch. When we could actually find a way to make it work as a family, that was the first time that this became a possibility, and a reality.

“Once we came to that conclusion and we went back and forth with Dr. Zenger, really I looked at Kansas and said, ‘Okay why are you taking a job at the University of Kansas?’ So I will ask one rhetorical question here that really should make sense to all of us. The University of Kansas this year was 2-10. The other major school in the state is Kansas State, who was 10-2. I only have one question to ask: why? Why is the University of Kansas 2-10 and why is Kansas State 10-2? I don’t have that answer, but that is what I am here for. I am here to figure out why that is and see what we are going to do to change that. That is really the bottom line because I don’t have a magic wand I am going to wave and then all of a sudden we are 10-2. All I know is that we are the University of Kansas and that is not acceptable in any way, shape or form. I think it is very important to not look back, sit there and be condescending and demeaning to the players from last year or the coaches. That does not do anyone any good. My job right now is to figure out what the issues are and how we are going to go about fixing them.

“So really there are two things I have to do, right here from the start. I need to assemble the best staff I can while making sure we pound the pavement recruiting. We also need to make sure these kids finish their exams that they have coming up this week as well and see if we can’t get this all done, hire a strength coach and get everything set and ready to go by the middle of January. (By then), we would kind of have everything in place because the first we are going to have to do is put these players through a grueling off-season to change their mentality. It is not going to be pleasant around here in the spring time. There are not many things I can promise, but I can promise you that. I have already told them to enjoy your Christmas holidays and have fun because when you get to the middle of January, it is not going to be very pleasant. I think that they have had a very clear understanding as I posed the same question to those guys that I asked you right now; how are we going to start closing that gap, flipping that switch and getting that 2-10 team and 10-2 on different planes. That is why I am here.

“I am not the greatest coach in the world; I am just an old ball coach. I was groomed under Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick and the way I figure it is, they are both going to the hall of fame, so why should I try and reinvent the wheel. Why not copy cat what they do? I am not the smartest person in the world, but I am not the dumbest either. I know that to this day I have never seen anyone that is any better of a master psychologist of a football team and organization than Bill Parcells. He would know every single person in this room. He would know what buttons to press with every single individual, to try and get them to a different level than they thought they were capable of being at. Whereas Belichick is a totally different person. His two greatest strengths are his insight into the game and his foresight. He is well above any coach I have ever seen in just the study of the game, while at the same time he is always thinking down the road. That is what separates his organization (New England Patriots) from most. So with those two men as coaches and as mentors and valuable experiences that I have been able to share both on the professional level and on the college level, I have learned a lot. I have made a lot of mistakes, but I have learned how to show humility but I have never lost my passion and drive to win. I want to win, I am a bad loser. I am sometimes a bad winner according to my family, but I am certainly a bad loser. I would expect anyone else to be the same way.

“With that in mind, I am very thankful for this opportunity and the best part for the Weis family now is seeing the end of the rainbow. We are going to be here at the University of Kansas until I am done coaching and then I am going to be here with my wife and my daughter, while my son tries the trials and tribulations of coaching. I have said this to both the chancellor and Dr. Zenger, that utopia is me walking away from here a bunch of years from now, when you are getting rid of one Charlie Weis and you will be getting one a lot cheaper.”

On if he has a staff ready to go:

“I have a good percentage of them. What you have to do in today’s day-and-age is conduct background checks, in the more states that the coaches have lived in, the longer that process takes. Sometimes coaches live in multiple states, so we’re currently going through background checks. In addition, I am going to talk to the entire staff here on Sunday because I believe that is the proper protocol. I know I’m at least keeping Reggie Mitchell. I don’t know how many others, in addition will stay on, but I’ve already talked to him (Mitchell) and he’s on board. He’s already had enough of me and I’ve only been here a few hours. We’ll talk to everyone here first and then over the next couple days nail down at least 80 to 90 percent of the staff.”

On if he sees any similarities between Notre Dame and Kansas:

“The one valuable thing for me, since Notre Dame was my first go-round and the different transition for me was that I was going from being only an NFL guy to college. I had a lot of things to learn in the transition and the differences between the NFL and college and how to hire a college staff, which were mostly guys I had never met before. Now, because I’ve worked at both levels the resources available to me as far as people that I didn’t have before. I also have knowledge that I didn’t have last time, which makes things a lot easier going forward.”

On the differences between the NFL and college:

“The first thing is the time is totally different. The NFL time and college time is totally different. You only get players in college for 20 hours a week. The whole approach in college, they have classes till mid-afternoon, so you really have from early in the morning to mid-afternoon to do all of your due diligence as far as what you want to do. Whereas in the pros, you are with the guys from early in the morning till dinner time. Obviously, you can do more in the pros because you have the players for all those hours, but the flipside of it is that it isn’t that good of a family environment in the pros. That doesn’t mean families aren’t important to the coaches, but it doesn’t allow any time for families. That’s part of the job being involved in college athletics, it’s family-friendly. If you are a family guy, you want it to be more family-friendly. That’s probably the thing I enjoy the most about being around college. Now, you’re dealing with 18 to 23-year old kids. They do a lot of stupid things, but that’s what college is all about. Every one of us that went to college, the number one thing we did was grow up. You made good or bad decisions and you grow up. My wife and I have talked many times about betting on kids to be successful versus betting on grown men. Okay, they are apples and oranges. They aren’t the same. What is the same, is your work ethic is the same. You work the same, you work just as hard and you care just as much. Winning and losing is the same. All those things are the same. The only thing is you are dealing with a different mentality and psychology in college than you are in the pros.”

On why he chose to become a head coach again:

“It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Being able to go into a place that was down low and being able to see it back up and rise to the top. Anyone who is goal-driven in anything, whether it was starting up a business that was doing bad and turning it into something good. It’s no different. It’s what I do. You have an opportunity, the team is 2-10 and you are going to be the one directly involved with all the decisions to take that team from 2-10 and move it to the other side of the spectrum. That’s really the main reason.”

On how soon after Notre Dame he knew he wanted to coach again:

“I really wasn’t concerned with being a head coach to be honest with you. I wasn’t concerned one bit. I wasn’t concerned with being a head coach on Wednesday morning at 6:59. I was the offensive coordinator at Florida and you know something, I couldn’t have been happier. I would have liked to win more games. I was getting ready for the Gator Bowl. I couldn’t have been happier. I love Will Muschamp (Florida head football coach). I love Jeremy Foley (Florida Athletic Director). I love the people from the University of Florida. I have nothing but good things to say. How many times do you get to leave a place, feeling good about a place? Usually you walk out feeling bad, but I couldn’t say enough nice things about that place. But, Dr. Zenger called and I thought it was something worth listening to. It was a very compelling presentation. It was a grilling Q&A and we went back and forth. At the end of the day, we saw things eye-to-eye. Their vision and my vision coincided.”

On what he took away from his time at Notre Dame:

“Let’s start with staff, I hired a bunch of good coaches, but never really got it right. Whether it was chemistry on offense or going through multiple coordinators on defense. Too many coaches point the blame at all the other guys on the team instead of taking the blame themselves. If I had got it right I would still be there and still be the head coach. After a couple of mediocre seasons they decided to move on. You can understand that as a football coach, that’s part of the business. I think chemistry on the coaching staff is a critical factor and sometimes very much underrated. I could give you a conga line of some of the top coaches that want in here, but the question is are they going to fit? Are they going to work together? Can they work with me? Can they work with each other? I think that’s the thing I probably learned the most. Chemistry in a coaching staff is a critical factor.”

On if he believes he can hire a defensive coordinator that can handle it all himself:

“You would like to try and do that as much as you can. What you would like to do is get involved early in the week and study the opponent’s personnel and say ‘hey, this is where I see them vulnerable.’ Ideally, that’s what you would like to get to. A couple of candidates I have for defensive coordinator and if one of them comes to fruition, you will see what I’m talking about. In the beginning, I would like to let somebody run the defense and let me run the offense and train somebody else to run the offense, so in time I can turn the offense over when I feel everything is running smooth.”

On if he knew much about Kansas football before Wednesday morning:

“I knew that they were 2-10 and Kansas State was 10-2. Okay, but have I been here before? I’ve worked out pros here. I’ve worked out guys here for the pro draft. I sat in the back row for the KU-Kansas State basketball game last year, thank you very much. I’ve been promised my seats will be better tomorrow.”

On what he takes from coaches like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichek:

“Well, first of all college is a little bit different, the fact of the 20-hour work week. Both Parcells and Belichek believed that each week was a separate entity. You might have one game plan one week and the next week the game plan might be totally different. You might be playing 3-4 this week and next week it might be all 4-man fronts every snap. It was whatever it took to win that game. Well, in college when you only have them for 20 hours you have to bank both in the springtime and in the summer. You have to bank on some constants that you can pull out as resources that you can use throughout the whole season. So, you can’t really compare apples to oranges because they are both totally different.”

On the Big 12 conference:

“Well, obviously a state of flux. For me, it’s not going to be a problem coming in because all the teams are going to be new to me. Having West Virginia and TCU in here, that’s just who we play. No matter who is here, those nine games you have to play are all going to be new to me. It doesn’t make a big difference to me. I just know that this is a very competitive conference that has had nothing but good teams come out of it for many years. It’s not just this year or last year. The thing is, we want to be one of them. We want to be one of those teams where you go, ‘wow what happened to Kansas?'”

On the roster he has inherited right now at KU:

“I think the big question with me on the roster, is there aren’t a lot of seniors on the roster. Therefore, there aren’t a lot of spots for recruits. Naturally, what will happen is attrition when a new coach comes in. What you have to figure out is what that number will be, so you can recruit the appropriate number of people. I’m still trying to get a better beat on what that number is. I don’t want to undersign. I don’t want to go out there and sign 15 guys if I can sign 25 guys. I also don’t want to take people just for numbers. You want to take guys that fit what you need.”

On the connection he had with Dr. Zenger:

“I think that to know that Kansas wasn’t satisfied being a basketball-only school. The whole country knows about KU basketball and Bill Self. What do they know about Kansas football, other than every once in awhile they win? Everyone remembers the Orange Bowl from a few years ago. Naturally, they don’t know too much. I think from the Chancellor right on down, that wasn’t good enough. They would like all sports, not just basketball, to thrive and be successful on and off the field. That’s what they were looking for, and that’s what I believe in, so we were on the same page.”

On what type of coach he’s looking for as a defensive coordinator:
“Especially with the evolving spread offenses that you’re seeing, you need defenses that are going to get after the offense. You have to get after them. You can’t sit there and play passively in today’s college game. If you do, you’re going to be in for a long, hard day or night. I think you need somebody with a lot of energy that is able to understand how to play the whole field. If you can’t play the whole field in today’s game in college, you have a big problem.”

On what he would say to the naysayers who said he couldn’t do it at Notre Dame:
“My initial response would be when I went to Notre Dame, we won immediately the first couple of years. Then we got to year three where we played a bunch of young pups. That’s not an excuse, just reality. We played a bunch of young pups, got our butt kicked and got a little bit better. The next year we got a little bit better. The next year we got a little bit better. In a five-year cycle, you felt that you had finally got to the point where you could win on a regular basis. Now, five years obviously wasn’t quick enough for them, so I was set to go. At the same time, every single player graduated from college. In five years, you could count the problems we had off the field on one hand. To me, my idea of doing things the right way are a little different than other people’s. I think you have an ethical responsibility as the head coach to worry about all of those things. As a fan, you want graduation. That’s important. You want the kids not to get in trouble. That’s important, but you want to win games the most. That’s the life of a fan. That’s not the life of a head coach. The life of a head coach is that those other things are just as important. Do you want to win every game? What head coach doesn’t want to win every game? But I think it’s important not to be a sellout and not to give in. That’s the mentality I had when I was there, so you move on. This opportunity presents itself. I told the guys today a little funny anecdote I’m going to give you. I told the guys today that we’ve also hired a new academic liaison between the academic support and the football team. They all looked at me. I said, ‘You want to know the good news?’ That’s also me.”

On if he felt he should have had more time at Notre Dame:
“That’s really a moot point. This is not (the time) to talk about that. That’s the way my career went, and then you moved on. I don’t look back. I always look forward. I never look back. I’m just saying that’s what happened. Today, here I am at the University of Kansas. I promise you Chancellor (Bernadette Gray-Little) isn’t going to go for kids not doing the right things academically. She’s not going to go for a litany of police offenses with your kids, so you have other responsibilities. It’s kind of like being a dad. You have multiple responsibilities. One of them is to get the program to be a winning football team as quickly as you possibly can, but you have other things you have to do. You can’t sell out on those other things. That’s my conviction. If you’re not looking for those things, then I’m not the right guy for your job. To me, those things are going to be important.”

On if he expects any roster changes:
“Any time a new coach comes in, I would say the natural attrition is 10 to 15 players. There are 10 to 15 players that usually (leave). This is everywhere. When people say, ‘So-and-so came in, and 12 guys transferred,’ every other coach when they go in the same thing happens. The same thing happened my first year at Notre Dame. I went to Notre Dame, and I think 13 guys left in the first year. Some of them, I was very happy they left. I don’t know who was happier in some cases, them or me. At the end of the day, you’re recruited by one guy, and a different guy comes in. The fit isn’t there anymore, and you move on and go somewhere else. I don’t think it will be because they are anti-(Charlie Weis). It’s just because a change took place that doesn’t feel comfortable.”

On if he has ever felt like he was at a job he would keep until he retired:
“The only place that I felt I could retire at was Florida because it’s really a wonderful living experience. If you’ve been living in the northeast or the Midwest your whole life, which I have been, to wake up yesterday and it’s 77 degrees and sunny in December. It’s kind of a unique experience. We’ve been living in cold weather with snow forever. It’s a little bit different. You get soft in a hurry. You get used to that warm weather in a hurry, but I think this just presented such a unique opportunity, I would have been foolish to not come on board. Our family, we all vote together. Hannah cares not to vote. Hannah wants to have her own little life and lets us do the voting. It was unanimous. We all thought this would be good for the Weis system.”

Senior Wide Receiver Kale Pick

On his reaction to Charlie Weis being hired:

“I was excited, he has a great resume, he’s coached a lot of great players and he has had a lot of success at the collegiate and NFL levels. The players are really excited to learn from what he brings to the table.”

On the intensity he will bring:

“It was something that I was expecting; we have to have a great and effective offseason this year, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m glad Coach Weis thinks that way, and I’m glad that we will have a tough offseason.”

On the players’ attitude through the coaching change:

“All of us are ready to pull our sleeves up and we are ready to go to work. We want to win as badly as anyone else; we’re ready for the offseason, we’re ready to come back in January and be ready to go to work.”

On having a nationally recognized coach:

“It feels kind of funny; I remember when he got hired at Notre Dame and that was big news. I remember when he went to the (Kansas City) Chiefs; I was excited about that because I’m a Chiefs’ fan. Now he is at Kansas, and we are really lucky to have him here.”

Senior Offensive Lineman Duane Zlatnik

On his reaction to Charlie Weis being hired:
“I am really excited because he is a pretty big name coming in here. I think everybody is pretty excited about the change, we’re ready to move on and start work for next season.”

On what it means to have a nationally recognized coach:
“I think it’s good for the program and everyone in it, it will get us some publicity. I think it’s good for the University and everybody involved.”

Senior Defensive End Toben Opurum

On the day’s events:
“I think today he just wanted us to get to know him a bit and really set the bar for what he wants and what he expects from us. Things are going to change a bit around here, for the better.”

On his impression of Coach Weis:
“It is kind of what I expected, I have known Coach Weis for a while and he has the same attitude from when I met him a couple years back. We have a clear understanding of what it is that he wants. Things aren’t going to be easy, but with the situation that we are in, going 2-10, it is not going to be easy to come out of. We are all going to be ready to work and get back on the other side.”

On what he thought of Weis when he was recruited by him:
“He is the same guy I met a couple of years ago. He is straight-forward and honest, that is just the type of guy he is. He has a lot of credibility for that. We know what he wants and it is not going to be easy to get there.”

On if he was keeping track of the coaching search:
“Some guys were more than others. We all have the internet; we all read things that people say, but you try not to get too involved in it. I had my eyes on it a bit just to see what was going on. I saw his name pop up and Dr. Zenger thinks he is a good fit. We will see in years to come.”

Sophomore Defensive Back Victor Simmons

On the mindset of the team:
“There is always certain things that get certain guys going, so I am sure there are guys out there that are motivated and there are guys out there that are a little iffy. Everyone will come around eventually and we will see how this all works out.”

On how he feels being a younger player:
“I am just here to learn from the older players, because they have been through this before. I am just going to take advice from them and see how we can cope with this situation.”

On possible turnover of the team:
“There is of course a few guys that are shying away from the situation, but we are going to see who sticks around and who decides to leave. We are going to move on.”

On the process of getting a new coach:
“It is a little bit stressful, not having a coach, but I couldn’t think of anyone else that I would rather see here. He is a great coach. If you say his name, everyone knows who he is, so we are going to see what he can do here.”