A top coach has better things to do than lead KU.

Class Ceiling 

A top coach has better things to do than lead KU.

Al Bohl, the University of Kansas' rookie athletic director, has declared that the successor to football coach Terry Allen ("Dead Meat," August 16) will be the best person for the job -- regardless of name or pedigree. "Someone may say you've got to have a proven guy," says Bohl, before invoking the name of the University of Oklahoma's improbably successful coach. "Well what if the next Bob Stoops comes around? Are you saying we don't take Bob Stoops? We need to go and find the right person for Kansas and have that person come and be our head football coach."

Here's a promising name for Bohl's interview list: 34-year-old Kelly Donohoe, the former Kansas quarterback and current head football coach at Blue Springs High School. Donohoe wins far more games than most coaches in these parts, and he is one of the best young coaches in the country despite having no college coaching experience. What he has instead are a talent for organization and an ability to motivate teams to play beyond all expectations. (But how hard can that be in Lawrence?)

After four years as a Blue Springs South assistant, Donohoe took over the top job at Raytown South in 1997. Ray South had won only four games in the previous three years, but Donohoe's Cardinals went 9-3, 9-1 and 7-3 during the next three seasons.

Then Blue Springs hired him away to one of the plum jobs in high school football. "I was so attached to some of those Ray South kids that I didn't want to leave," says Donohoe. "I asked Tim [Crone, Blue Springs' athletic director] if there was anyway I could coach one more year at Ray South and then take over the Blue Springs job. Well, of course he said 'no.'"

At Blue Springs, the hometown newspaper predicted that his 2000 Wildcats would win only three games. Instead, Donohoe's team won every game except two nail-biters against that year's undefeated state champion, Rockhurst. This season, his club is undefeated and ranked number one in the city after eliminating Rockhurst Monday night in state quarterfinals 31-16.

But can a young coach jump from high school to the Big 12 and expect success? "No," is Donohoe's no-nonsense response. "I think it would be very hard. And I'm one of those guys who is the eternal optimist. But having been there and seen what you go through as a college coach, you need years in a major college program before you can understand all the little intricacies to make it run right."

Does that mean he's not interested in pursuing a career in coaching beyond the high school level? "I get approached by a lot of people who ask me that just because I've had a lot of success," says Donohoe. He and his wife, Jennifer, have a six-year-old daughter, Taylor, and a two-year-old son, Chase. "I'm not saying I'll never be interested in doing that, but when I look back at my years as a college player and a graduate assistant, I don't know if I could ever do that to my kids and my wife. If you are going to be a successful college coach, you will not see your family for at least six months of the year, ... and I just don't know if I could ever do that to my family.

"If you're just in coaching for ego, then you go for it. If that was what drove me every day, then maybe I would look at the Kansas job," says Donohoe. "One thing I've kind of thought I'd really like to do is hang around long enough to coach my son."

So Kansas' loss is Chase's gain.

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