NCF Nation: Bob Krause

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some of Friday's more notable stories from across the conference. Enjoy them.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler provides the scoop on why Oklahoma might not necessarily be interested in re-entering the Bryce Brown Sweepstakes.
  • Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram consults with Dr. Makum Playbetter for information about Texas as the Longhorns prepare for Friday, the first day of spring practice.
  • Texas fans planning to attend the Longhorns' Sept. 12 game at Wyoming who don't already have tickets better prepare to dig deeply in their pockets to pay. Austin Ward of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune reports that some online ticket brokers are already commanding nearly $350 per ticket for the game.
  • Nebraska defensive backs John Levorson and Justin Rogers are not a part of the Cornhuskers' roster as the team prepares for the start of spring practice, Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reports. But defensive end Barry Turner, who sustained a broken leg early in the second game last season against San Jose State, will be back.
  • Record-breaking Missouri kicker Jeff Wolfert tells Elisabeth Rentschler of the Columbia Missourian that his return to the pool at this week's Big 12 diving meet is coming with some inherent challenges.
  • More respondents to a Manhattan Mercury poll view outgoing athletic director Bob Krause as a fall guy rather than a villain.
  • Kansas is hoping to start a "Gridiron Club" offering premium seating among other perks to capitalize on the Jayhawks' recent run of success, the Lawrence World-Journal's Dugan Arnett reports.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some stories that people are talking about across the Big 12 today. Enjoy them.

  • Jeffrey Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle provides the definitive story of the re-hiring of Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Among his findings include that Kansas State athletic director Bob Krause had no preconceived notion that he was going to hire Snyder before choosing to fire Ron Prince, that there was "absolutely no contact" between KSU and TCU coach Gary Patterson and that Snyder returned to coaching as a sense of obligation for his school.
  • Gerry Fraley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes about the decline and fall of Kansas' defense this season.
  • The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls wonders if Texas A&M is destined to fall into the South Division's cellar with Baylor's recent development.
  • After losing nine players to season-ending injuries this season, the Rocky Mountain News' B.G. Brooks writes that Colorado coach Dan Hawkins will reflect on the past season as the most challenging of his career.
  • The Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht takes a critical look at Gary Pinkel's whopping new contract and opines that more work will be needed to keep the Tigers at  the top of the North Division.
  • The Tulsa World's John Klein explains why Saturday's Bedlam Game is so important for the national perception of Oklahoma State.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Ron Prince era concludes Saturday at Kansas State in the stadium named for his predecessor who also happens to be one of the top rumored candidates to replace him.

Prince will take his team onto the field at Bill Snyder Family Stadium for the final time and unsure what the future holds.

Despite that uncertainty, Prince said he finishes his three-year run as the Wildcats' coach without any second thoughts about the job he has done. His passion for coaching remains strong, he says.

"I don't know what will happen for me," Prince said. "We'll see what comes to us. My focus on coaching has been making this season as good as we can for the seniors. To this point, we haven't been able to do what we wanted, but there will be time for that to come to us later."

Prince carries a 16-20 career record into Saturday's game against Iowa State. The Wildcats are mired in a five-game losing streak after finishing last season on a four-game losing skid that kept them out of bowl contention after a 5-3 start.

His coaching tenure has been marked with a few notable highs. Prince upset highly ranked Texas teams in 2006 and 2007, using the victory in his first season to springboard into the Texas Bowl.

But defensive struggles in the last two seasons have undone his plans for the program. KSU yielded an average of 49.5 points per game in a four-game losing streak that ended last season.

The Wildcats have been blistered by opposing offenses again this season, ranking among the bottom 10 teams nationally in scoring defense (tied for 110th), rushing defense (114th) and total defense (114th). Opponents have ripped KSU for an average of 51.8 points per game over the last four games as it has gashed for at least 500 yards of total offense by opponents seven times in a disappointing 4-7 campaign this season.

Those struggles led KSU athletic director Bob Krause to pull the plug on Prince's tenure on Nov. 5. The Wildcats have responded by losing the last two games that Prince has coached since his fate was determined. His three-season tenure will end up being the second-shortest for any coach in Big 12 history, trailing only the two-season term given to Dave Roberts by Baylor in 1997-98.

KSU players say they have been impressed with the way that Prince has handled his fate after his dismissal was announced.

"He's been exactly the same coach as he was before," KSU tight end Brett Alstatt said. "He's handled this with a lot of class and shown us the right way to handle adversity. He's going to finish this the way he started things. And if we pay attention to those kinds of things I think we can all learn from how he's been the last few weeks."

Kicker Brooks Rossman said that Prince's influence will remain strong with him as he finishes his career.

"He's not only our coach on the field, but also a father figure to a lot of the guys on the team," Rossman said. "I feel like I became a better man by coming through his program. He's definitely taught us how to handle negative things with the utmost class. He's definitely a role model I will aspire to be like."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Less than 36 hours and counting to tomorrow's South Division showdown in Norman. Here are some links to get you ready, along with some other tidbits from around the Big 12.

  • Steve Wieberg of USA Today visited Mike Leach's cluttered Lubbock office and heard all about how "The Wizard" helped recruit Graham Harrell to Texas Tech.
  • The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff wonders if Kansas State will be able to follow through on athletic director Bob Krause's intention of hiring an established coach before the regular season ends.
  • Tommy Hicks of the Mobile Register wonders if the coach-in-waiting concept, employed by Texas earlier this week to hire Will Muschamp, is really such a good idea.
  • Developing wide receiver Detron Lewis is providing a nice complement to Michael Crabtree in Texas Tech's deep stable of playmaking receivers, Brandon George of the Dallas Morning New reports. And Richard Oliver of the San Antonio Express-News provides the definitive interview of Michael Crabtree Sr., who tells how and why his son has developed into the Big 12's biggest game-breaker.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel breaks down the matchup between Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, one that could decide who wins the Heisman Trophy.
  • Texas A&M defensive end Michael Bennett told the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle's Brent Zwerneman that he has been besieged by e-mails from irate Texas fans since his controversial hit on Colt McCoy two seasons ago. "They sent me dirty e-mails," Bennett said. "They still send me dirty e-mails saying, 'Don't hit Colt this year.'" Bennett told Zwerneman that A&M's physical play has gotten into McCoy's head. "I think he just gets a little spooked sometimes, I don't know," Bennett said.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some links to help stoke the hype for Oklahoma-Texas Tech -- still more than five days away.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The prime topic of conversation this morning across the Big 12 was the abrupt dismissal of Kansas State coach Ron Prince after a coaching tenure of less than three seasons.  

Jeffrey Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle broke the story Wednesday afternoon. The Wildcats' 52-21 loss to Kansas last week, he writes, played a significant role in his ouster.

Another factor was Prince's inability to be a factor in a North Division that is perceived to be at its weakest level ever. Two different North teams -- Nebraska and Missouri -- represented the division in the championship game in Prince's tenure. Cross-state rival Kansas is tied for the lead with Missouri heading into the this week's games.

"The reality is, if you coach in this business long enough, you understand this is a business where you're hired to win championships and to graduate your players," Prince said. "We had moments where we were very good and showed promise.

"We just were unable to win the North. That's ultimately what the expectations are for us and our ambition was coming here, and we were unable to achieve that."

And juicy rumors about the potential return of Bill Snyder after three seasons away from football held for the most speculation.

Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star writes that the return of Snyder to the sidelines of Bill Snyder Family Stadium makes sense. He says that Snyder, 69, is rejuvenated after his three-season sabbatical. He's 13 years younger that Joe Paterno and 10 years younger than Bobby Bowden and could be itching for a return to the spotlight, Whitlock wrote.

Veteran Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz wrote that the strange timing of the dismissal by Kansas State athletic director Bob Krause made him dubious about the move, even if it was the right one. 

"Bob Krause has a plan. My immediate reaction, upon hearing that news, was to hide and cover myself with pillows and blankets," Lutz wrote.

Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman told Martin earlier this week that he would like to play all four seasons for the Wildcats and not turn pro early. That dismissal, Martin wrote, could change Freeman's mind about returning.  

The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff breaks down the likely list of replacements for Prince, whose two-plus year tenure is second-shortest in Big 12 history behind only Dave Roberts of Baylor.

Kerkhoff mentions potential replacements like Tommy Bowden, Phil Fulmer, Dennis Franchione, Tom Amstutz and Tyrone Willingham as potential hires, considering Krause's stated intention of hiring a head coach with experience to the job before the end of the season.

Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital Journal writes that Prince's legacy will include higher graduation rates, a bowl trip in his first season and two victories over top-10 Texas teams in his first two seasons.

"We're proud of going to a bowl game in our first season, which only four coaches have done in Big 12 history, inheriting a team with a losing record," said Prince, who is 16-18 at K-State. "That 7-5 record occurred despite being predicted preseason last place in the North.

"And finally, we understand how our 34-game record fits into the greater K-State history and how it matches up among our closest Big 12 peers in their early years."

But Meek also wrote about how pressure from fans and Kansas State boosters have complicated fund-raising efforts for the school's $70 million facilities expansion.

Omaha World-Herald Big 12 beat writer Lee Barfknecht wrote of how Prince's arrogance turned off many high-school and junior-college coaches in the area. He also said that Prince struggled with in-game transitions as evidenced by his 0-17 record in games when his team was trailing at the half.

Prince brought lofty expectations to the program and keeps them in place even as he's leaving the Kansas State program.

"Our objective is to go out, with the few days remaining, continue our preparation toward Missouri, go 6-6 and become bowl eligible," Prince said.

Whether the Wildcats would take that bowl trip and whether Prince would be coaching the team remains to be seen. But he's still focused on that goal as he finishes his tenure with the school.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The dismissal of Kansas State coach Ron Prince wasn't a surprise. But how quickly athletic director Bob Krause wants to hire his replacement certainly is.

 
 Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images
 Ron Prince's 16-18 career record included a bowl game in his first season.

Krause said Wednesday that he'd like to have a replacement in place for Prince by the time the regular season ends. And he added that he expects his coach to have head coaching experience, too.

By making that pronouncement, Krause appears to be locking himself into hiring somebody currently out of football or an NFL assistant coach.

Prince was given only about 2 3/4 seasons to turn the program around. And in the end, an explosive offense and productive special teams was undone by some struggling defensive performances.

Look at how the Wildcats have ended the last two seasons under Prince for an idea how bad that defense got to be.

Kansas State was in prime bowl discussion with a 5-3 record before losing their last four games. They allowed an average of 49.5 points in those four games, including a mind-boggling 702 yards of offense in a humbling 73-31 loss to Nebraska.

That led Prince to consider a quick fix with 19 junior-college transfers heading into this season. That group looked good during a 3-1 start against a weak schedule of nonconference teams.

But their lack of production caught up to them once Big 12 play began. The Wildcats have allowed at least 50 points in three of their five conference games. They have been gashed for 5.1 yards per carry on defense, allowing 22 rushing touchdowns and 10 in the past two games.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Ron Prince told me earlier this week he had no doubts he would be receiving a contract extension. But I wonder if he realized it would happen as quickly as it did.

Prince's new, five-year deal is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2008 and will extend through the end of the 2012 season. It will boost his yearly package to about $1.1 million per season and provide the potential to earn an additional $950,000 per year if he achieves some performance-based achievements.

"I am very appreciative of the commitment that the university has shown to our organization," Prince said. "The administration has proven its long-term commitment to us as a program as evident in the current facility expansion and other projects that are essential for sustained success.

"We feel that we are on schedule with our plan of building a fast, tough, strong and disciplined program and are looking forward to this season and many seasons to come."

Prince took his team to a bowl game in his first season with the Wildcats. They beat Texas in each of his first two seasons in a pair of statement victories.

His program is in good shape in the classroom, where it had a record number of players picked to the conference's honor roll. His APR score is going up and 39 players have earned their degrees in his first two seasons.

Those factors were impressive enough to convince athletic director Bob Krause for the extension.

Even with the Wildcats' late defensive collapse last season, it would be hard to imagine Prince being jettisoned after only two or three years.

The contract extension shows the school has some faith in him. But it won't make his building job any easier this season.

A young defense, the inconsistent play of quarterback Josh Freeman and the lack of established skill-position players on offense will make it a big challenge for Prince. He will be tested to reach last season's 5-7 record.

He's added 19 players to help bridge a talent gap that was apparent late last season. And he's building for next season when Chase Daniel will be gone from Missouri, Freeman will be a senior and the junior-college class will have another year of experience.

And while the contract extension is a sign of stability, it's not a universal one.

If Prince should struggle this season, he could soon follow in the footsteps of Big 12 predecessors John Mackovic and Bill Callahan, who were both fired less than a year after receiving lengthy contract extensions.

Mackovic and Callahan both had won division titles in the previous season before their extensions. Mackovic even won the Big 12 title with Texas in 1996.

Prince hasn't come close to doing either. But he convinced school officials that his program is moving forward, despite a 12-13 record after two seasons.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 Kansas State Athletics
 Ron Prince's Wildcats withered down the stretch last year, giving up at least 500 yards in three of their final six games.

Ron Prince didn't inherit the easiest situation for his first head-coaching position.

Coming to Kansas State brought him to a program familiar with BCS bowls and conference championships. And it also brought him to a place where his predecessor, Bill Snyder, remains a certifiable coaching legend -- even down to having the stadium named after him -- and is still a formidable presence around the program.

Prince has tried to establish his own coaching identity in Snyder's shadow. After two seasons, it hasn't been easy.

The Wildcats tied for second in his first season coaching there in 2006, notching big wins at Colorado and over Texas to fuel a trip to the Texas Bowl. But their 37-10 loss to Rutgers in that game snuffed any real momentum he could claim coming out of the postseason action.

Last year, KSU played strongly at Auburn in their opener, manhandled Texas in their conference opener and were sitting in strong bowl contention with a 5-3 record.

But a late-season defensive slump saw them torched for 198 points in four losses to finish the season. It was the most points that KSU had ever allowed in a four-game period. The defense was blistered for at least 500 yards in three of their final six games.

Those late defeats have placed Prince and his program in the cross hairs heading into the 2008 season.

To shore up his program, he picked up 19 junior-college transfers with most of them targeted to provide immediate defensive help. But most of them didn't arrive in time for spring practice, meaning they will learn as they go while preparing for the upcoming season.

The Wildcats return only 12 starters from last season. They will face a killer schedule that includes Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Oklahoma from the South Division. Quarterback Josh Freeman, Prince's most ballyhooed recruit, has been mistake-prone during his first two seasons as a starter.

Two other factors are in place that weigh against Prince. He's coaching at KSU while archrival Kansas is undergoing a football renaissance under Mark Mangino. Prince is 0-2 against the Jayhawks, including a home loss last year that was KSU's first to the Jayhawks in Manhattan since 1989.

It's not hard for KSU fans to think back to the success that Snyder once had against the Jayhawks. After losing three of his first four games to Kansas, Snyder ran off an 11-game winning streak and won 13 of his last 14 games against Kansas.

The hiring of university administrator Bob Krause as KSU's new athletic director earlier this year could be viewed as a negative for Prince's long-term security, considering that Krause didn't originally hire him.

Krause has acknowledged that he's working on a contract extension for Prince and could have one soon. Prince is currently paid $760,000 per season, making him the Big 12's lowest-paid coach.

But those deals don't always mean much. Just ask former Texas coach John Mackovic or former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan, who were both let go less than a year after they signed similar extensions.

The Wildcats dropped a game against Fresno State and replaced it with a contest against FCS program Montana State for the upcoming season. The move should make it easier to reach six wins and qualify for a bowl trip.

And Prince is clearly pointing for next season. Freeman will be a senior and the defense should be settled with more experience from the junior-college class.

That team could be his best. But it remains to be seen whether Prince will be around to make his own lasting imprint on the KSU program.

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