New AD Travis Goff encouraging KU football players to voice their opinion

Matt Galloway
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas' new athletic director Travis Goff speaks to Jayhawk football players during the team's practice Thursday in Lawrence.

LAWRENCE — Kansas’ new athletic director spent a chunk of his first week on the job getting familiar with the Jayhawk football program, a process that remains ongoing.

And while the public isn’t yet aware of Travis Goff’s biggest takeaways from those meetings and spring practice sessions, the same isn’t true when it comes to interim head coach Emmett Jones’ initial thoughts on his new boss.

“You want my true impressions of him? Clean-cut, sharp and crazy about the University of Kansas,” Jones said Saturday. “That’s my true impression.”

Sounds like a winning combination.

Hired last Monday as the new head of the Jayhawk athletic department, Goff met with Jones and his assistant coaches and toured the team’s facilities on Tuesday, his first official day on the job. Goff on Thursday met with players at the team's practice and, according to quarterback Jalon Daniels, told them he has their back in this period of uncertainty for the program — Jones replaced Les Miles, who on March 8 accepted a buyout of the final three years of his contract amid resurfaced allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct from his time at LSU.

“He’s here for us,” said Daniels, speaking on his initial impressions of Goff. “I mean, he wants us to voice our opinion to him for him to make the best decision for us as a team.”

What, exactly, that decision will be remains up in the air.

Goff gave no indication at his introductory news conference Wednesday as to whether he intends to hire a full-time replacement for Miles in the coming weeks or instead opt to give Jones the opportunity to coach out the upcoming campaign. Should Goff take the latter route, KU would get both a chance to evaluate Jones to a greater extent and, if Goff chooses to go in another direction, select the next head coach from what would almost certainly be a more expansive pool of candidates.

Asked whether Goff has detailed his plans for the football program’s immediate future, Jones stated the athletic director’s message to the Jayhawk coaching staff essentially mirrored what he told the media on Wednesday.

“Shoot, I just focus on this team, I just focus on these guys, these coaches and I just move forward one day at a time,” Jones said. “Everything else will work itself out. So long as we take care of these facilities, take care of these guys, it will work itself out.”

A number of key departures in the program’s recruiting department ahead of Miles’ exit has complicated matters, with it in question as to whether KU would make those hires before having a permanent head coach in place. A dynamic recruiter in his own right, Jones indicated that, with or without replacements for those positions in place, success can still be achieved in the Class of 2022 and beyond.

“Some people need all those guys in that room; some don’t. We get out there at it. That’ll never stop,” Jones said. “Matter of fact, when I leave out of this room right here I’m getting on the phone, I’m getting on the phone with certain receivers, I’m getting on the phone with certain 'backers. That never stops."

Jones labeled recruiting the "No. 1 objective" for the coaching staff and the group's "No. 1 topic every day" in its staff meetings.

"If that’s in you, if you’re a natural recruiter, then you’re natural with it," Jones said. "Yes, the information (recruiting staff members) give you is fine, but if that’s in your DNA as a coach, you know how to approach that with assistants or without assistants.”

Jones said he likes the way Goff is tackling the questions surrounding the football program and theorized that if he were in the athletic director’s shoes he “would take the same approach.” Jones insisted his mind isn’t on what role he’ll hold when the team opens its season on Sept. 4 against South Dakota but rather focused solely on getting his team ready for that that moment, whether it’s through strides on the practice field, in the weight room or in film study.

With an eye toward putting on “a good show in the spring game,” Jones is quick to relay a mantra he’s repeated often in front of his players: Get at least 1% better every day.

“It’s one day at a time, but we know what the goal is,” Jones said. “The goal is to be ready to play Game 1. That’s all we’re focusing on. One-and-0 every day, that’s the mindset.”

If Goff made a good first impression on Jones, the same appears true for how the interim head coach has come off to a group of players with a core that rallied behind Jones' candidacy for that role.

Lawrence Arnold, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound wide receiver coming off his freshman season with the Jayhawks, said everyone can feel Jones' presence when he walks in a room.

“You feel a real love, a real tough love, you know,” Arnold said. “Coach Jones brings everything that a player wants from a coach — the love, the energy, the enthusiasm just to be better."

While Arnold stressed he’s “a player ... just here to make plays” and not a decision-maker, he did acknowledge he’d be “thankful” if Jones got the opportunity to lead the team for at least the entirety of the upcoming season.

“Coach Jones has a bond with the players that is unbelievable,” Arnold said. “Not every coach has that type of bond with players. The whole facility, really everybody, loves Coach Jones.”

Kansas football interim head coach Emmett Jones and the Jayhawks will hold their spring game on May 1 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.