'); date_ob.setTime(date_ob.getTime()+43200000); dc.cookie='he=llo; path=/; expires='+ date_ob.toGMTString(); } // -->
Kansas State won the press conference Monday when it introduced Ron Prince, the offensive coordinator at Virginia, as the Wildcats' new head football coach.
He's young (36), well-spoken, familiar with the area (raised 20 miles away in Junction City) and apparently a man with a plan.
"I started thinking about this job," Prince said, "when I was about 3 or 4."
And, yes, he's black, which I'm sorry to say is still an issue in the year 2005.
Because Prince is only the fourth African-American head coach among 119 Division I-A schools, his hiring will be hailed simply for that reason. Some day, I pray, we'll judge hires by the person, not the color.
Prince, who was born in Omaha and, according to news reports, adopted at an early age, said his race shouldn't matter.
"The only color I hope will be talked about in this program," he said, "is purple."
Now, the question is whether K-State can win any football games with Prince, who has never been a college head coach.
Before we go any farther, here are six reasons why lack of college head coaching experience isn't in itself a problem:
Tom Osborne, Barry Switzer, Bud Wilkinson, Roy Williams, Bob Stoops, Bill Snyder. All of them developed Top 15 programs in their first jobs at the top.
What breeds uneasiness among K-Staters today is that the names in the paragraph above had built at least some national notice in their field as assistants.
Prince might have sparked a record for Google searches among sportswriters and fans asking, "Who?" Five years as an assistant at Virginia after several stops at smaller schools not known for football creates doubt.
As widespread as Bill Snyder's coaching connections are, Prince's hiring isn't just outside the box. It's more outside the solar system.
Internet gossipers claimed that Snyder was unhappy with the hire. He squashed those rumors by personally introducing Prince on Monday, praising him highly and adding: "I'm here at his disposal."
Prince said he wants to have "dialogue continually" with Snyder.
On a Big 12 bowl teleconference Monday, few league coaches admitted knowing much of anything about Prince.
Colorado's Gary Barnett said he interviewed Prince for an offensive line job three or four years ago, calling him impressive but a little young at the time. Texas Tech assistant Ruffin McNeill recruited Prince to play at Appalachian State. McNeill now has an offer from Prince to be KSU's defensive coordinator.
Snyder was a bit of a mystery hire in 1989. Seventeen college head coaches turned down KSU before Snyder, who was offensive coordinator at Iowa, said yes.
On Monday, Kansas State President Jon Wefald recalled the late-in-the-game interview that brought Snyder to Manhattan. Then, Wefald used words such as hope and serendipity in describing how Prince jumped to the front of the hiring picture, over Jim Leavitt, Gary Patterson, Brent Venables and Chuck Long.
"When you hire someone," Wefald said, "it's not science. It's an art."
So will Prince succeed?
Did all the coaches with K-State ties shy away because they would rather be the guy who follows the guy who followed Snyder?
Is the school turning its back on 17 years of football equity built by Snyder?
Who knows? That's why this is such an intriguing and dangerous hire - for Kansas State and the other teams in the Big 12 North.
Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom
Copyright ©2005 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or distributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.