It has been over a week since the Kansas athletic director, Lew Perkins, began an investigation into Mark Mangino's alleged inappropriate treatment of college football players. Reporting and leaks on the alleged incidents behind the investigation have set off a firestorm of opinions from talking heads around the country about what is acceptable and non acceptable behavior by coaches.
A notable absence in the public discussion of the situation involving Mark Mangino up to this point has been the assessment of former coaches who worked closely with him in past jobs. Mark Mangino, like most BCS conference coaches, has an employment history that dates back years working with some of the biggest names in college football.
ESPN's Todd McShay and newspaper columnists have made much of the revelations that, 20 years ago, Mark Mangino was disliked by parents of his players at a small high school and that a couple of years ago he "verbally abused" student parking lot attendants and referees at a local Lawrence high school football game.
Isn't it suspicious though that this extensive media coverage and scrutiny has failed to uncover more stories of misconduct at earlier jobs to support the view of an abusive coach out-of-control. The number of stories of misconduct at KU are thin enough, Mangino's detractors could certainly use the help.
Any good investigator would tell you that if you want to establish a pattern of coaching misconduct, you should look first to Mangino's eight year history at KU and then to the other universities he coached at, including Oklahoma and Kansas State. I would not be surprised if right now, in fact, that is exactly what the lawyers at KU are telling Lew Perkins if he is considering firing Mangino "for cause."
Blair Kerkhoff has posted on his blog today comments from coaches Mangino worked with before he took the job at KU and none support the view that Mangino was "abusive" towards his players in anyway.
The Oklahoma coach and BCS National Champion winner, Bob Stoops, said there were no incidents with Mangino when he served on his staff during the 2002 season. “He was very close with them, appreciated them, did everything that was appropriate,” Stoops said of Mangino's relationship with players.
Legendary Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who Mangino worked under the longest, when asked if there were any incidents said: "That didn't happen to my knowledge," and "not a whole lot slips under the radar from that respect. He handled the players well."
Dependably amusing, honest and to the point, Texas Tech's head coach Mike Leach when asked said Mangino "is in the middle of witch hunt," and ridiculed the entire investigation instigated by the KU athletic director, Lew Perkins.
Leach summarized the matter as follows: "The mean man told some player something they didn't want to hear. Well, there's a mean man in Lubbock who tells players what they don't want to hear. That's just part of it."
So, Bob Stoops, Bill Snyder, Mike Leach, Mack Brown (who also praised Mangino after the game on Saturday) and a number of other coaches have stepped forward to come to his defense. What does this mean for KU's investigation?
If Mangino is eventually fired for the alleged misconduct, it appears that the university and the football program will lose a lot of respect in the eyes of some of the biggest names in Big 12 football.
That would not be a good development for a traditional cellar dweller that is trying to maintain its relevancy on the conference and national stage. Asides from the obvious reluctance, future coaching candidates may have to work under the athletic director Lew Perkins, worse yet arguably, it would give other Big 12 coaches ammunition against KU on the recruiting trail.
We can only imagine the conversations in recruits' living rooms that might go something like this "Do you really want to commit the next four years of your life to a university that fired an Orange Bowl Champion just because he and the athletic director did not get along?"
It certainly is a sad possibility to ponder if you are a Kansas Jayhawk's football fan.
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