Thoughts on ManginoNovember 21st, 2009 by Lee Eldridge
Mark Mangino became the head football coach of the Kansas Jayhawks in 2002, taking over for the fired Terry Allen. Allen always seemed like a really good guy. He just wasn’t a good enough recruiter or coach to have success at this level.
Mangino: The Coach
As head coach of the Jayhawks, Mangino has compiled a record of 50-46. He has taken the Jayhawks to bowl games three of the last four years, winning all three. He has brought national acclaim to a struggling program. A program with little tradition. He won numerous coach of the year honors following the 2007 season after leading his team to a 12-1 record and a win in the 2008 Orange Bowl. He has made game day fun in Lawrence. Memorial Stadium is full for virtually every home game. This means that the football program is generating a lot of revenue for the university.
Many critics have pointed out that if you take away the fabulous 2007 season, then his overall record is only 38-45. This seems like a silly point to me. If you take away his first season instead, where he went 2-10 with players recruited by Allen’s staff, his record becomes 48-36.
This year the team has either underachieved, or they just don’t have enough talent. Maybe a little of both. I suspect that lack of talent on the offensive line has limited the offense greatly. And a lack of skilled linebackers has killed the defense. The Jayhawks will finish with either a 5-7 or at best a 6-6 record after they fall to the Longhorns tonight. A disappointing season after beginning with high expectations.
But it would be unfair to say that Mangino has not been a positive influence on KU football. The football program has enjoyed a lot of success under Mangino.
Mangino: The Man
This is where things get a bit more interesting. Stories have floated around Lawrence for years. Mangino is just not a very nice man. He’s verbally abusive to his players, his staff, and just about anybody who gets in his way, including the KU parking police.
There have been reports of possible physical abuse. But it sounds like the physical abuse is tantamount to poking a player in the chest. I think Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant would roll over in their graves upon hearing that poking a young man in the chest would be considered physical abuse. Maybe there’s still more to learn, but I’ll be surprised if there are any significant stories to be told that have not already been revealed about physical abuse within the program.
But what I find distasteful in these stories, if they’re true, is the personal nature of his verbal attacks. It appears that Mangino has made numerous comments to his players over the years that cross the line of simple human decency. There’s no justification for statements to a young man about going back home so he can get shot with his “homies”. These statements cross the line.
What makes this difficult for KU at this point is that this is nothing new. Kansas has been putting up with this behavior from Mangino for years. And truthfully, while for me it crosses the line, it doesn’t cross the line by very much. Many successful coaches are hard on their players. It’s part of how they motivate them. But I assume that most of them do not resort to such personal attacks to attempt to motivate their players.
Lew Perkins: A Decision to be Made
When Perkins extended Mangino’s contract a couple years ago, it’s clear that KU was well aware of Mangino’s shortcomings. There’s plenty of room in the contract to consider Mangino’s behavior as “just cause” to terminate his contract. (Here’s some interesting information from KUSports.com on Mangino’s contract.) I’ve also heard that KU has a relatively small buyout in the contract. Lew is a smart man. I can only assume that he’s already got a short list of head coaching candidates, and that he has people quietly speaking with a few of these candidates already. I can’t imagine letting Mangino go without a plan in place to replace him.
At this point, Mangino certainly appears to be a lame duck. I expect him to finish out the season, but this appears to be the end for Mangino in Lawrence. This national attention will hurt Mangino’s ability to recruit. Other coaches will use this against him. Fans and alumni might put up with a bully while they’re winning. But it’s harder to justify keeping one around when they’re losing. Perkins made a great hire with Bill Self replacing Roy Williams. Here’s hoping he makes another great choice for our football program.