Kansas names interim football coach

By Jesse Newell
The Kansas City Star/TNS

Kansas football passing game coordinator/receivers coach Emmett Jones was promoted to KU football's interim head coach, interim athletic director Kurt Watson announced Thursday.

Jones, who enters his third year as a KU assistant, has emerged as the staff's star recruiter, most recently helping the Jayhawks land their top recruit of the last two decades in receiver Quay Davis. Jones is also well-respected as a receivers coach too, working closely with former KU offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon last season to create game plans as the team's passing coordinator.

"I am incredibly grateful to Chancellor Girod and Mr. Watson for the opportunity to lead this program during a critical time of change," Jones said in a release.

The announcement is the continuation of a busy week for KU Athletics, with football coach Les Miles and athletic director Jeff Long leaving their jobs in recent days.

It is not yet clear how long Jones will be in charge of the football team. KU chancellor Douglas Girod said Wednesday he hoped to hire a new athletic director within the next few weeks, and it's likely that person would be involved with deciding whether KU sticks with an interim coach for the 2021 season or hires someone to a permanent role.

On Wednesday night, many current and former KU football players began publicly campaigning for Jones to get the job on social media.

"As a player at KU we need a coach in office right now that know the players and have a relationship with the players!" tweeted receiver Lawrence Arnold, in reference to Jones.

"Put Jones in that spot and LETS GET TO IT!" tweeted receiver Kwamie Lassiter.

Incoming cornerback Jacobee Bryant and former receiver Daylon Charlot, among others, were also vocal in their support of Jones getting the job.

Watson said he also interviewed defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach Josh Eargle and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord for the role.

"Emmett's relationship with our football student-athletes is vital as we venture through this time of transition within our football program and athletics department," Watson said. "I am confident in his abilities to ensure this program functions at a high level in preparation for the 2021 season."

Having player support could be especially important for KU given current circumstances. Despite the team's lack of recent on-field success, the Jayhawks' coaching staff has put together consecutive highly rated recruiting classes, including one in 2021 that was rated fourth among Big 12 teams in Rivals' rankings.

The NCAA also is expected to soon vote on a one-time waiver that would allow transfers to be eligible right away this offseason, according to Athlon Sports' Bryan Fischer. That rule change could potentially hit KU harder than other programs if players are not unified, especially following the departures of Miles, Dearmon and outside linebackers coach Chidera Uzo-Diribe.

Jones doesn't have much head-coaching experience, with that limited to leading South Oak Cliff (Texas) High from 2012-14. He also spent three seasons as receivers coach under Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech from 2016-18.

"Since arriving here, I have developed a deep love of this program and university, and it is an honor to be named interim head coach," Jones said. "I will rely on our talented assistant coaches, as well as Ben Iannacchione and the strength and conditioning staff to guide our student-athletes and be there for them on and off the field."