Mark Mangino, two wins shy of being the winningest football coach in school history, has resigned his position as head football coach at the University of Kansas after reaching a financial settlement with the university. Athletic director Lew Perkins met with Kansas players and assistant coaches at the Jayhawks’ football complex to break the news. Mangino is not believed to have been present.
We can only imagine what the emotions and tension must have been at that meeting between the players and coaches and Perkins.
Along with the scrutiny brought by the investigation, which began after Mangino allegedly grabbed, yelled at and poked senior linebacker Arist Wright, the Jayhawks this season endured a bitter seven-game losing streak after starting the season 5-0. Regardless of which factor played a larger role in his resignation, either the losing streak or the investigation, Mangino was forced out from Kansas today.
Mark Mangino is going to leave behind him an undeniable legacy in Kansas football history. For the most part there were more highs than lows under Mangino the last eight years in Lawrence. Against great odds Mangino took the Kansas Jayhawks to four bowl games, including back to back bowls, nothing the traditional Big 12 cellar dweller had ever accomplished before. Most impressively, in the era of the Big 12 Mangino took the Jayhawks to the 2008 Orange Bowl and won it against Virginia Tech capping a school best 12-1 season.
Mangino built a football program from scrap in his own image- and for this he was widely loved by Jayhawks fans. His teams took on his personality. They were plucky, focused, disciplined and resilient. Mangino's players would often repeat in interviews one of his favorite expressions, no matter what happens you just have to "keep sawing wood." Many of the players, some now in the NFL, that bought into Mangino's system made emotional defenses for him the last few weeks.
The divorce between Kansas and Mangino was messy, to say the least.
It was always known in Lawrence that athletic director Lew Perkins and Mark Mangino did not get along. Their mutual dislike, or coldness, became blatantly apparent this season first with the much publicized feuding between the football and basketball teams and then later with the allegations of mistreatment. Lew Perkins did not hire Mangino and this fact was always apparent. Mangino was not Perkins' guy and therefore he was expendable.
One thing is clear now though, the next football coach Lew Perkins brings in will be his guy. Rumors are circulating that Turner Gill, Jim Harbaugh, Art Briles, Larry Fedora, Randy Edsall and Phil Fulmer all may be canidates. Whoever the eventual hire will be, Lew Perkins should know that his future at Kansas is tied with the success of the next Kansas football coach. If that coach bombs in three or four years, he and Perkins may very well be standing in the unemployment line together. Perkins has no big hire under his belt at Kansas yet. He did not hire either Mangino or the basketball National Championship winner Bill Self. The stakes for Perkins are high.
On top of all this, Perkins recently began a controversial project to build a 3,000 seat luxury club-level addition to the Jayhawks' Memorial Stadium. Priced at $34 million, so far Perkins has only been able to raise $3.5 million towards the project, a figure that is only slightly more than the 10 percent necessary to begin work. If Perkins misses on this hire, or if the new coach struggles in his first few years, its hard to see fans and donors supporting Perkins with money to build luxury boxes to watch a bad team play.
As the coaching search now goes forward, it is interesting and ironic to note that Mark Mangino has made the Kansas football job more attractive than it was before he took it. In doing this he has placed great expectations upon the next coach who lands in Lawrence. Kansas isn't Texas or Nebraska or even Missouri, but Mangino won the Orange Bowl so why shouldn't the next guy be able to replicate his success? Sounds like pressure to me.
In 1996 the Baylor Bears fired Chuck Reedy after he had found success similar to that of Mark Mangino during his time there. For the athletic director, it simply was not good enough so he was let go. What happened to Baylor's football program after that firing should be any Kansas Jayhawk fan's worst nightmare. Reedy had taken Baylor to the Alamo Bowl, but after he left Baylor never went to a bowl again and posted a winning percentage from 1996 to 2009 in Big 12 play that was decidely under twenty percent. That is ugly. And what is worse, it is a possible future for Kansas.
The new Kansas football coach is going to have to face a Big 12 North division that took major steps forward in 2009. Under Bo Pelini, Nebraska looks like it is close to reclaiming its national power status. At Missouri, Gary Pinkel has built a consistent year to year bowl team and title contender that also happens to have one of the more talented young quarterbacks under center in Blaine Gabbert. Kansas State, which seemed to be a mess when Ron Prince was coach, has now been resurrected under the remarkable coaching genius of Bill Snyder and should be expected to be a division title contender. Finally, even Iowa State appears to have a bright future after making a bowl game in Paul Rhodes' first season in 2009 and returning lots of talent for 2010. And this is just mentioning the teams from the Big 12 North, and not the traditionally stronger teams of the South division like Oklahoma and Texas who Kansas will have to play too.
If Kansas' football program is going to have a chance, Lew Perkins needs to act quickly to find a coach that can win at Kansas. This is not an easy task, but it is possible as Mark Mangino showed. Thanks to the drawn out and controversial firing of Mark Mangino by Perkins, the next coach is going to have an even harder time of it. Many fans and alumni are not happy that Mangino is no longer leading Kansas and if the next coach stumbles out of the gate things could get ugly fast in Lawrence.