It's hard to believe that just a week ago the primary conversation in Lawrence about Jayhawks football involved Kansas' upcoming game against the Cornhuskers.
Beginning on Monday with Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins's bizarrely timed launching of an investigation into allegations Mark Mangino has been treating his players inappropriately, the situation has steadily progressed from bad to worse to terrible. Some former players have rushed to Mangino's defense, and others, including many who transferred from the program, have used the opportunity to air their own complaints against KU's coach.
The Kansas City Star's windy and know-it-all columnist, Jason Whitlock, probably tired from kicking the dead horse that is the Kansas City Chiefs' season, jumped onto the controversy by publishing back-to-back articles endearingly titled "Weight Issues Are Root of Mangino's Problems" and "Mangino Is an Abusive Bully."
Not looking to be outdone by another Star columnist, J. Brady McCullough put in his claim to a Pulitzer by going Woodward and Bernstein and broke the news today that, 20 years ago in a small Pennsylvania town, Mangino was widely disliked by students' parents.
Mangino himself, choosing not to stay above the fray, went on a local sports radio show and attacked the parents of his players and former players who had spoken out against him. Clearly upset by the allegations, Mangino did manage to get in some good points during his rant, including that under his leadership the football program had set records for team GPA and graduated high percentages of players.
He also rattled off an impressive list of players who support him and who, under his tutelage, succeeded at KU, including Nick Reid, Brandon McAnderson, and Charles Gordon, among others.
Regardless of who is right or wrong in this fracas, it is clear that the situation is a mess and that the blame for it rests solely on the shoulders of the Jayhawks' indomitable athletic director. If Perkins wanted to fire Mangino for the team's losing streak or the charges of misconduct, he should have just come out and done it. Mangino's buyout is only $600,000, a sum insignificant to the amount of damage the athletic department's reputation is taking on a now-hourly basis.
Furthermore, Perkins should have had the foresight to put a muzzle order on Mangino concerning the matter until a resolution had been reached. What is playing out now is a sensationalist, overhyped trial tried in newspapers and on talk radio with little regard for levelheadedness or the long-term impacts this may all have on KU's football program.
Things have gotten so bad at this point that I am thinking Perkins would probably best be able to resolve the situation if he and the feuding parties all booked a show on Jerry Springer, letting Jerry mediate the controversy to the hoots and hollers of a studio audience. I would personally love to see Mangino and Whitlock, both hefty gentleman, get into a fight after one or the other "dissed" someone.
What is really sad is that one of the only voices of reason in this entire affair has been that of senior wide receiver Kerry Meier, who attributed the controversy to the five-game losing streak and told McCullough that Mangino has "taken this program to new and great heights that I don't think anybody ever imagined.
"And if they're looking to bring somebody in to change this program around again, it's gonna be a tough, tough challenge to find somebody to do that."
Well said, Kerry. And I'm sorry this all had to happen during your and the other seniors' last season at KU after such a great four-year run.