LAWRENCE — In hearing Joe Dineen talk, it could have been just another week in his Kansas football career.
At Tuesday's weekly football news conference, the senior linebacker fielded questions about the huge upcoming playoff game for his undefeated high school alma mater, Free State, which is led by his younger brother, Jax. He clarified his heat-of-the-moment comments about the poor attendance in last Saturday's home loss to Iowa State.
And just as he's done for the previous three years, Dineen talked about what a victory this week over in-state rival Kansas State this Saturday in Manhattan would mean to him — one that's eluded him throughout his Jayhawk career.
Yep, everything seemed like business as usual.
Only it's not. Just two days ago, Kansas athletic director Jeff Long fired head football coach David Beaty.
But on Tuesday, the difference was minimal. And that's exactly how Dineen and Beaty expect it to be.
"It was obviously disappointing," Dineen said of Beaty's firing, which came Sunday after the Jayhawks dropped a 27-3 home decision to Iowa State last Saturday to fall to 3-6 overall and 1-5 in Big 12 play. "But Coach Beaty came in soon after and set the tone for the remaining three weeks. It won't change much, especially for us seniors. We're going to stay the course and get ready for K-State, Oklahoma and Texas. Whatever happens afterwards happens. For these next three weeks we're going to focus on football."
That focus starts with Saturday's 11 a.m. contest against a Kansas State team sharing the Big 12 cellar with the Jayhawks. Both programs are in a state of turmoil with Kansas State coming off a 14-13 loss to TCU — a Horned Frog team Kansas beat two weeks ago in Lawrence for its lone conference victory.
That victory, it appeared, might be enough to save Beaty's job for another season. Instead, the woeful performance against Iowa State led Long to make the move on Sunday. After informing Beaty, Long met with the Jayhawk players, a move Dineen said he fully appreciated.
Even more so, Dineen and fellow senior Daniel Wise said Long's decision to allow Beaty the opportunity to finish out the season was just as appreciated.
"We're just glad we get to play these last three games for him," Wise said. "Obviously, that's not our focus right now. We'd love to have him for the next couple years, but that's not the case. I'd say we were appreciative of them letting him finish the season out. It's kind of an awkward place to throw a new coach in the last three games, but we're going to play these last three weeks for each other and for the coach and see what happens."
Beaty was all business at the weekly briefing. He lamented the shortcoming his team suffered against Iowa State, most notably twice coming up empty offensively on first-and-goal situations in the second half. And he looked ahead to this week's meeting with K-State, lauding the job Wildcat coach Bill Snyder has done and expecting K-State to perform to its high standards in Saturday's contest.
But he also took time to reflect on some of the things the program had accomplished during his four-year tenure. Not so much to shine the spotlight on the job he's done, but to assure his players received credit for the things they've accomplished.
Among the noteworthy achievements Beaty noted were:
• Kansas players have earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors five times this season. That's the most of any KU team since the Jayhawks' inception into the Big 12.
• Ten Big 12 players of the week over four seasons, the most during a four-year span since the Mark Mangino era.
• One unanimous All-Big 12 selection (Dorrance Armstrong) and 23 All-Big 12 selections
• Dineen leading the nation in solo tackles since the start of the 2017 season.
• Dineen becoming the school's career tackles for loss leader with Wise right behind.
• Steven Sims closing in on become the school's all-time leader in receptions.
• And perhaps most importantly to Beaty, 62 players through 2017 graduating with 20 receiving post-graduate degrees. Beaty said 95 percent of KU's seniors have graduated during his reign with the program posting the highest graduation rate on record and highest in a three-year period in school history.
When he met with his players following his termination, Beaty said he knows his team will see it through to the end.
"I looked at them, they looked at me and we were like, 'It happens. It's life. I'm still here and I'm excited I'm still here. And you're still going to be here. You didn't come here for me, you came here for KU, Kansas football. All those things you wanted are still out in front of you,'" Beaty said. "I didn't have to say much else. They've been very, very professional and very good. Sunday was a little more emotional for them and us as well; we're family. It was tough for a few minutes, but after that we talked about how it's football and how it's toughness and simply have a job to do. I just expressed how excited I was to still be with them.
"I'm proud of the guys. They simply will not let anything become a distraction for them. The focus at hand is what it is, to go up to Manhattan and bring back a win and take back that (Governor's Cup). That's something you have to go earn, you have to do it, and I can tell our guys are ready to go do that."
One might expect the weekend's events to be a serious distraction for the Jayhawks, but Wise said the business-as-usual approach applied to Beaty's situation as well.
"There's been speculations all year, but that's not been our focus. Our focus has been on the games," he said. "Throughout my years and this season, there's been a lot of talk or hearsay on Twitter or stuff going on you might not like. It's not at all a distraction. The main thing we're focused on is winning games and that's what we're still focused on."
Likewise, Wise said the Jayhawks aren't going into the final stretch of the season with extra motivation to "Win for Beaty."
"He does not want our focus to be there," Wise said. "Our focus is to win the last three."
Dineen agreed, particularly when addressing this week's contest with Kansas State.
"I really don't think any extra motivation needs to be there," he said. "We all know how big this rivalry is. And for us seniors, it will be our last opportunity to go and beat them. I don't think there's any hangover or anything like that. I feel like we're ready to go and play football.
"Honestly, it would make my five years here completely worth it. Growing up here, the K-State rivalry is a little more personal. It would be pretty awesome to beat those guys."
Beaty said Monday's practice was spirited and expected the rest of the week to follow the same pattern. Whether it stemmed from the troops rallying for their deposed leader or simply getting juiced to play their rival, Beaty said his program has channeled all of its energy the way he expected it to.
"I see those guys together, rallying around our staff, bonding with the task at hand," Beaty said. "(The firing) just happens to be the week we are playing K-State. I don't know that many people would see that as a positive, but we're seeing it as a mega-positive. They know me. There's not going to be distractions, sitting here moaning and griping. We're going to continue to work forward and get the job done on the task at hand.
"These seniors deserve to go out with a big win against a rival that they haven't experienced. They've experienced some things they're awfully proud of, but to be able to win this game I don't know if there would be a better way to honor those seniors. They've bled, they've sweat and given everything they have to this place."