The reason behind the Monday meeting between the entire Kansas Jayhawks football team and athletic director Lew Perkins has been finally revealed.
The day before the Colorado game on Oct. 17 (yes, over a month ago) Kansas football coach Mark Mangino allegedly poked senior linebacker Arist Wright in the chest during practice, invoking Perkins to begin a full departmental review of Mark Mangino's treatment of student-athletes.
Rumors are also circulating that Lew Perkins, much like an investigator for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, is soliciting concerns and complaints from former players' parents about Mark Mangino.
With a game against Texas looming on Saturday and after five straight defeats, beginning with Colorado, the Kansas football program appears dangerously near the precipice. As much as a losing streak can put strains on a football team, it cannot be understated how much a semi-public athletic department investigation (filled with media leaks) into a coach's conduct can cut the legs out from under a coaching staff.
We can only imagine the damage this is doing to Mark Mangino and Kansas's reputation on the all-important recruiting trail.
Meanwhile, since the news broke a litany of the usual suspects in the area have been calling for Mangino's head. In today's Kansas City Star , Jason Whitlock, who devotes a high percentage of his columns to advocating the firing of this or that local sports figure, argues that Mangino is simply to fat and mean to continue as Kansas's coach.
Whitlock, who apparently is gifted with the ability of psychiatric diagnosis from afar, writes that Mangino is a deeply unhappy person because of his weight and that "every problem" Mangino has had at Kansas can be "blamed on his weight."
Interestingly, Whitlock believes that all overly obese people are similarly pathologically unhappy and consequently mean to the people in their lives. I, for one, would like to see Whitlock explain his views to Oprah.
This is a sad chapter in Kansas Jayhawks history. I have a hard time understanding the need for this investigation now, other than that it is intended to publicly humiliate Mangino and give Perkins' cause to fire him.
Oh yes, have you heard, under Mangino's contract, which runs to 2012, if Mangino is fired with cause, the school will not have to buy him out. If I was legal counsel for the university though, I would advise Perkins to proceed cautiously.
The complaints against Mangino, that he poked a player in the chest, that he is mean and that two years ago he was fined by the Big 12 for complaining about calls, could very well be viewed by a jury as not substantial enough to let KU off the hook. Especially considering the state of college football today, with all sorts of confrontational coaching styles being celebrated across the land. Including at KU, prior to this season.
When asked why he thought his behavior was being investigated, Mangino responded that he he did not think anyone would be complaining if the Jayhawks were 5-1 in the Big 12 instead of 1-5. He is exactly right.
Not to mention the basic fact that no matter the coach, there will always be fans, players, and parents who are rubbed the wrong way and become alienated from coaches and schools. I am sure you could even find former players who hate such lovable personalities as Lou Holtz if you looked hard enough.
Different players respond to different coaches in different ways. Someone who may thrive under a Pete Carroll may struggle under a Mark Mangino, Bobby Knight or Bill Parcells, and vice-versa. College football and the education of young men will be better off if a diversity of coaching styles, including confrontational ones, is allowed to continue to exist.
Lew Perkins should think twice before he fires Mark Mangino. Before this week Mangino, the 2007 Coach of the Year, had brought a degree of success and stability to one of the Big 12's traditional football cellar dwellers.
It takes a real optimist and possibly someone who is delusional, to believe that a new coach could replicate Mangino's success. 2009 has been a tough year for the Jayhawks, but they are not the only team in the Big 12 to fail to live up to expectations.
You don't see Oklahoma's athletic director investigating Bob Stoop's personality. And frankly, Mangino has done as much for KU as Stoops has for OU. Winning the Orange Bowl for Kansas is comparable to winning the National Championship for Oklahoma.
Lew Perkins should be careful what he wishes for.