You've seen pictures of him. You've seen parodies of him. But, in the end, he was the national coach of the year of the upstart, Orange Bowl champion Kansas Jayhawks. However, can lightning strike twice for this man-beast?
So, what is next for this former "oft-ridiculed" coach? Will he bring Kansas football back to national prominence (as if it ever was)?
Or, are they destined to remain in the basement of the Big 12 north? (Note: The Big 12 North is slowly, yet surely, climbing from the basement of the Big 12 conference...aka Big 12 North = child, Big 12 South = parent)
Let's look at what the Jayhawks have done since winning a BCS bowl for the first time in its history (okay... laugh now, as the BCS has only been around for what, seveb years?).
Well, what can you say about the draft/recruiting class of the Jayhawks? Again, Mangino looks to have gotten a few starters (Crawford and D'Cunha) as well as some "mystery" 3 star talent that, let's face it, Mangino has a way of developing. (See Aqib Talib, Anthony Collins, and a LONG list of others).
He has been compared to the Billy Beanes of the world in finding talent from cities such as Waxahoochie and Tallequah, Wichita Falls and McPherson. He's gotten Kansas to be looked at first now by some potential prime-time talent instead of having to feed off of leftovers from the rest of the Big 12 schools (aka Texas, Oklahoma). So, here's to you, Mr. Mangino, a nice frosty brew as you've got the Crimson and the Blue finally looked up at in means of talent, rather than eating scraps.
With prosperous times come perilous times. But, look at it this way, at least other teams are looking at Kansas' talent, especially in the coaching ranks. Gone is Coach Bill Young, to teach at the fledgling University of Miami (not of Ohio) and show them how to play defense again at that once good school. What does that mean for the Mighty Manginos? Well, not much, as the assistant defensive head coach, who has been around for a bit, will step up to fill the gap. I don't believe any major scheme changes are going to take place this year, so the same rock-solid defense that was there before should still be there. And there are some new coaches up and coming in the ranks, but let's face it, Mangino is still there, and he's pure genius (not the Val Kilmer kind though).
However, the biggest blow is in recruiting. They lost a top recruiter in the Texas area as he left to join the Bo Pellini staff at Nebraska (bring it on!). While losing a recruiter that knows an area is bad, losing that person to a fellow conference school stinks even more.
The Buffet Closes
Okay, so, in wrapping up these buffet of knowledge I have bestowed upon each of you fellow avid readers, a list. Yes, what kind of sports afficionado would I be if I didn't offer up some sort of list. This one, however, is a safe one, as my hiatus from writing needs to let me knock some rust off before I parlay in the much more controversial lists that I have envisioned. *pondering as I bring out a crystal ball for my reading*
The Big 12 North Standings (circa 12/1/08)
Why? Because they have the talent and can finally make a splash by facing some of the big boys of the Big 12 South. They lost some great players to the NFL (or will, I should say) and to graduation, but they are bringing in some impact players that should make a difference rather soon in their careers. And, let's face it, I'm a bit prejudiced. But, let's look at their schedule. South Florida is the only non-conference game that will be a challenge, but, with USF, it's either going to be a close game, or a blowout for KU, as USF is a hot/cold team (from history view point). Going to Norman will be tough, especially with the Sooners primed for a good year after their miserable showing in the Fiesta bowl, so Stoops will have them ready to play. The Longhorns come to Lawrence in November, but remember what happened last time they were here? Vince Young escaped with his life and the win, but Kansas SHOULD have won that game. And of course, the Border Battle on 11/29 in Kansas City. KU gets revenge. Final record: 9-3 or 10-2 (Big 12 North champs, possible BCS again)
Why? They have an easier schedule this year. They play Texas. That's it. The Big 12 North has 2 teams that are top tier at the moment (Kansas, Missouri) and some upstarts that will be good in a few years (Nebraska, K-State). Other than that, the Black and Gold play: Nevada, Buffalo, Baylor, and the rest of the northern conference. However, they lose, somehow, to Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas, and finish behind the Jayhawks at 9-3.
3. Kansas State
Why? They've got the talent. They finally have a coach that cares about their program since Coach Snyder. Coach Prince will bring them back to prominence... just not this year. They make a bowl game, probably mid-tier like the Alamo Bowl, but they've got a ways to go.
Why? Bo Pellini. That's it. This team goes from a disaster (who would have thought they went from contending with USC early in 2007 for a showdown to total mediocrity so quickly) to a respectable stature once more. Yes, Coach Pellini has a ways to go to bring the talent back to Nebraska-of-ole standards, but it'll get there in 2-3 years.
Why? They're hurting for talent. Yes, they have a few P-T-P'ers (prime time players, for those of you that don't live/breath/eat Dick Vitale) but they'll still make it back to 6-6, or 5-7. Either way, they'll be sitting home during the bowl season. They just need talent (but hey, don't we all?!?)
6. Iowa State
Why? They recruit against the Big 10 (see Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin). They'll never win against them. I'm sure they're slogan might be "At least we got a football stadium!" Let's face it, as long as the Cyclones have to shop the same market as these nationally prominent programs, they'll always lose. But hey, at least Cyclone fans can say "remember Seneca Wallace?"
And, I'm out.