Since Mark Mangino led Kansas to the Insight Bowl in 2008, the program’s second straight bowl and third in four years, the Jayhawks have yet to play beyond the regular season.
Starting in 2009, Mangino’s final season in Lawrence, seven coaches in the last 13 seasons have failed to get Kansas to a bowl game. Mangino, Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, Clint Bowen (interim), David Beaty, Les Miles and Lance Leipold have not been able to get to a bowl.
While it appears the Jayhawks finally have a coach that can get things moving in the right direction, it is not likely Leipold can lead them to the requisite six wins in 2022, his second season at the helm. An improved showing over last season’s 2-10? Sure. A very young KU squad finished strong and has most starters returning. However, picking up four more wins does not seem likely.
Led by the Jayhawks, here are the teams that head into 2022 with the nation’s longest bowl droughts, each at least six years.
Kansas: 13 Years
How much of an uphill climb is it for the Jayhawks to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2008, when they went to the Insight Bowl and defeated Minnesota, 42-21? Well, they have not won more than three games since 2009, the start of their drought and that of 13 straight losing seasons, also the longest such active streak in the FBS. They went 5-7 that season.…after starting 5-0.
Since that 5-0 start in ‘09, Kansas is an incredible 15-124 against FBS opponents. Not to pile it on, but KU’s Big 12 mark since defeating Iowa State on October 10, 2009 is an unthinkable, but real, 7-106. I repeat: 7-106! Remember, this program defeated No. 5 Virginia Tech to win the Orange Bowl and cap a 12-1 season in 2007.
Louisiana-Monroe: 9 Years
A 45-14 loss to Ohio in the 2012 Independence Bowl during Todd Berry’s tenure in Monroe marks the Warhawks’ lone bowl game in program history. They were bowl eligible with 6-6 marks in 2013 and 2018, but were passed over both times.
Following an 0-10 showing in Matt Viator’s final season of 2020, former Auburn and Akron coach Terry Bowden took over and had ULM in pretty good shape a year ago at 4-3, including a win over heavily favored Liberty. Alas, the Warhawks lost their final five games, three by eight points or less.
Snapping the bowl drought in 2022 will be a chore given ULM has one of the most demanding non-conference schedules in the country with games at Texas, Alabama and West Point. Bowden should have his Warhawks do well in Sun Belt play, where they avoid Appalachian State and Sun Belt newbie Marshall – but they need to improve considerably on an offense that averaged 20.9 points per game to rank 110th nationally.
Texas State: 9 Years
The Bobcats transitioned to the FBS in 2012, became postseason eligible in 2013 and have yet to make postseason plans. The Sun Belt Conference program went 6-6 in 2013 and 7-5 in 2014 and failed to receive a bowl invitation. They have since won more than three games once and that was last season’s 4-8 showing.
Coach Jake Spavital, entering his fourth season in San Marcos, has built depth and has many key players returning on both sides of scrimmage, particularly on offense. With a little luck, along with turning a couple of single-digit losses into wins, this could be a landmark season for the program.
UMass: 9 Years
The Minutemen have appeared in a pair of bowl games, though before Division I split into I-A (FBS) and I-AA (FCS) in 1978. As a member of the Yankee Conference, they lost to East Carolina in the 1964 Tangerine Bowl and defeated UC-Davis in the 1972 Boardwalk Bowl.
UMass elevated to the FBS in 2012 as a member of the MAC, became postseason eligible in 2013 and has been playing as independent since 2016. The program has struggled mightily to put wins on the board as a pair of four-win seasons (2017-18) is as good as it has gotten in Amherst.
Massachusetts native Don Brown, who enjoyed much success as an assistant and head coach at UMass when the program was a member of the FCS, has returned to guide a team that has won two of its last 30 games. He has quite a task in lifting the Minutemen to respectability, let alone bowl eligibility.
UNLV: 8 Years
Not only do the Rebels take an eight-year year bowl drought into 2022, but they have been to only two bowl games in the last 27 seasons. The closest UNLV has come to bowl eligibility during their current dry spell is a 5-7 mark under Tony Sanchez 2017.
Marcus Arroyo enters his third season in Vegas with a 2-16 record with both wins coming last season. UNLV showed many positive signs a year ago when they lost six games by single digits. It might be asking too much to pick up four more wins and become bowl eligible this season, though it would not be a huge surprise if the Rebels flirt with doing just that.
The Rebels’ last bowl was a 36-14 loss under Bobby Hauck in the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
*East Carolina: 7 Years
This entry comes with a asterisk for good reason: the Pirates went 7-5 last year and had their Military Bowl game with Boston College cancelled due to positive virus tests among BC players. Expect Mike Houston’s team to continue to trend in the right direction and finally play in a bowl game at the end of this season.
ECU was coached by Ruffin McNeill when the program last played in a bowl, a 28-20 Birmingham Bowl loss to Florida following an 8-4 regular season in 2014.
Rice: 7 Years
Rice opened last season losing to Arkansas, Houston and Texas by a combined 140-24, which left a tough hill to climb heading into conference play. Mike Bloomgren’s Owls had a shot at bowl eligibility as they went into the season’s final five weeks needing three wins to reach six. They lost four in row, including two straight in overtime, before closing the season with a win over Louisiana Tech to finish 4-8.
This season’s non-conference slate is tough once again as it includes trips to USC, another intracity date with Houston and a matchup with Louisiana. Hence, the Owls will likely have to reverse their 3-5 conference record in their final season as a CUSA member.
Rice’s most recent bowl game was a 30-6 win over Fresno State in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl under David Bailiff, who preceded Bloomgren.
Bowling Green: 6 Years
After completing last season’s non-conference slate by stunning Minnesota on the road to improve to 2-2, the Falcons needed to break even in the MAC in order to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2015 when they lost to Georgia Southern, 58-27, in the GoDaddy Bowl. Alas, they lost their first four conference games and finished 2-6 in the MAC.
Another upset will likely be needed in non-conference play this season if there is to be much hope of going at least 6-6 in Scot Loeffler’s fourth season at Bowling Green. Trips to UCLA and Mississippi State along with a visit from Marshall make for a daunting opening month, so they will likely need to turn things around big time in conference play.
For the record, Brian Ward served as interim coach in the aforementioned bowl after Dino Babers left for Syracuse.
UConn: 6 Years
A program that had a nice run in the Big East (33-19 in 2007-10) under Randy Edsall and played Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2010 season, has fallen on very hard times. In fact, since 2010, the Huskies have endured 11 straight losing seasons, the second-longest active FBS streak behind Kansas. They went 6-6 in the 2015 regular season under Bob Diaco before losing to Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl to finish under .500.
Since becoming an independent in 2020, the Huskies’ schedule has been brutal. This season includes trips to Utah State, Michigan, North Carolina State and West Point. They also host Syracuse, Fresno State, Boston College and Liberty. Hence, expect the bowl-less drought to continue in the first season under Jim Mora, Jr.