Future of Kansas Jayhawks' Football Program In Danger Zone

Denny K.Correspondent IDecember 2, 2009

LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 18:  Mark Mangino  of the Kansas Jayhawks stands on the field during the game against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 18, 2006 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas.  Kansas won 39-20.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The end of the road for Mark Mangino, the 2007 Orange Bowl Champion and eight-year veteran Kansas football coach, appears to be close to the end. Or not. 

Under internal university investigation for alleged mistreatment of players, Mangino and his allies have circled their wagons under constant fire from elements of the media and a seemingly vindictive athletic director for over two weeks. As of right now, he is still clinging to his job.

Interestingly, the last successful coach at Kansas, Glen Mason, was also accused of mistreatment of players in the 1990s as his star waned and pressure mounted for him to exit Lawrence. Infer from that what you will.

Rumor in Lawrence has it that the delay in the decision is because the university is negotiating Mangino's buyout, but this is pure speculation. Who really knows? One thing for sure is that Mangino is not the type to go out quietly into the night. 

For what it's worth, today the Kansas City Star "broke" another story of a player from seven years ago who said Mangino mistreated him by making him run "bear crawls" on a hot day on artificial turf. This story is the first the newspaper has printed concerning actual allegations of late; instead, they've chosen to publish editorials which have variously accused Mark Mangino of being too fat to coach and likening his defenders and supporters to O.J. Simpson's girlfriends after the murder of Nicole Smith. Really. Don't believe me? Look it up in the Star.

If only Mark Mangino looked more like Brad Pitt, it is safe to say that our local soap opera that is so hotly debated on Kansas City sports radio and in local newspaper editorials could make waves nationwide. As for now, it's taken a serious back seat to other coaching drama at more traditional powers, like Notre Dame and, well . . . Notre Dame.

Kansas’ assistant football coaches hit the recruiting trail Monday, the first day of the vital postseason contact period, making visits to players who have already given oral commitments to Mark Mangino's program. Unfortunately for the Kansas assistant coaches in what must be an incredibly awkward situation, they had little information to share with the players who had been hoping to play for Mangino and his staff about his and their future at the university. No doubt, the prospective players were wondering, much like The Clash, "should I stay or should I go?"

It appears that at least one, a rare four star recruit for Kansas, was already in talks with LSU. Not good.

The real problem with all this lingering drama is exactly this. It undercuts the current coaching staff's recruiting efforts, which had some success, and handicaps any future coaching staff's recruiting efforts by giving them such a late start in the game. 

Kansas football, even in the best of years like 2007, does not and will not have the margin of error that the Oklahomas and Nebraskas of the Big 12 have with their roster depth.

As Mark Mangino demonstrated, schools like Kansas can only succeed with a program in place that builds up two and three star recruits into disciplined team players over the course of years. They cannot win and compete on talent alone year in and year out. If one aspect of the team, like this year's offensive line, has not been developed properly on schedule, the results can be disastrous. Seven game losing streak disastrous, that is.

The goal of Kansas football, which Mark Mangino achieved for a few seasons, should be to become the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big 12. That is, not Texas or Oklahoma which would be simply unrealistic, but a Top 50% program that once every four years or so makes a surprise run at the top tier of the league.

However, this is only possible with program stability and quality recruiting. Don't let the accolades for Mack Brown and his recruiting at Texas confuse you. It is much harder to successfully recruit to a program like Kansas than it is Texas. 

Successful recruiting at Kansas requires time and research, uncovering diamonds in the rough and character guys by getting out and scouring the leftovers and unturned stones of the top programs in the region and country. This is a difficult task and it takes time, relationships and connections. All of that is now in peril.

The current drama with Mark Mangino is making an already difficult task potentially near impossible. If action is not taken swiftly with regards to Mangino, either a vote of confidence or his firing, the Kansas Jayhawks football program is in serious jeopardy of being set back years.

If Kansas does not take steps soon, the next coach, or maybe even a damaged Mark Mangino, will find their talent cupboards bare and the team behind the rest of the Big 12 in the all-important recruiting arms race. Just like old times before Mark Mangino came to Lawrence.