Jim Harbaugh the Top Choice to Replace Mangino at Kansas

Denny K.Correspondent IDecember 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 14:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Stanford Cardinal signals during the game with the USC Trojans on November 14, 2009 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  Stanford won 55-21.   (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Mark Mangino is gone. 

No explanation for this has been given by Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins.  We know that there was an internal investigation into alleged verbal abusive by Mangino and that its findings will never be made public.  We know that Mangino and Perkins were never friendly with one another and we know that Mangino lost his last seven games at Kansas.  Outside of that, we know nothing.

No doubt, Mangino's exit from Kansas and his feuding with the athletic director will live on in Lawrence lore much like the similarly bizzare and equally contentious exit of Roy Williams.

For now, though, Kansas fans are speculating about who will be the next coach at Kansas.  This is the way it should be.

Numerous names have been tossed around as potential candidates: Jim Harbaugh, Phillip Fulmer, Skip Holtz, Randy Edsall, Kevin Sumlin, Larry Fedora, Tommy Tuberville, Nolan Cromwell and even, incredibly, Super Bowl Champion Brian Billick.

Would any of them actually agree to come to Kansas?  Maybe.  We will have to see.  It is not unlikely that Kansas will get told "no" more than one time.  Kansas' great advantage though is that it is likely willing to pay over the $2 million mark to compensate for taking over a troubled Big 12 North program.

Sources today in different media outlets are reporting that Jim Harbaugh is the clear front runner for the Kansas job.  Does this actually make sense and is it possible?  I think so.

Harbaugh is a successful, exciting, media savvy, and telegenic young coach.  In his last two jobs he has quickly turned around troubled football programs.  He is famous from his college and NFL careers with the Michigan Wolverines, Chicago Bears, and Indianapolis Colts and would generate enormous excitement among the Jayhawks fan base. 

No doubt, the marketing division of the athletic department would love to be able to plaster the smiling mugs of Jim Harbaugh and Bill Self all over university publications and advertisements.

At first thought, Harbaugh coming to Kansas seems unlikely.  I'm sure, as we all have been told, it is never a good career decision to make a "lateral" move.  Is Kansas a job that is really better than Stanford?  Its hard to say, but it is certainly true that many people will argue that Kansas is the lesser of the two jobs.

That said, Harbaugh does have connections to Kansas through his wife and much more importantly, Kansas would be able to double Harbaugh's salary.  Could Harbaugh turn down two to three million?  It's a thought worth pondering.  The old saying goes though that "money talks," and it might very likely have the last word in that decision-making process for Harbaugh.

Many are saying that Harbaugh will not take the Kansas job because he is holding out for Michigan.  While I do think it is possible that Harbaugh would say "no" to Kansas to hold out for an upper tier college or NFL job, I don't see Michigan in Harbaugh's future.  Harbaugh, known for his straight-shooter style, famously told off Michigan's athletic department in his first year at Stanford and I don't think the wound has healed enough for the two sides to reconcile. 

What are the drawbacks with Harbaugh?  Not many, but there are a couple. 

Harbaugh has no traditional tie-ins or experience with the Big 12 or recruiting in Kansas or Texas.  While this deficiency could be covered with a good assistant coaching staff, it is generally a negative factor. 

Secondly, and more interestingly, Lew Perkins never got along with Mark Mangino because of differences in personality.  Perkins, to put it nicely, seems to be something of a control freak.  Harbaugh has a long history dating to his playing days of having a fiery and outspoken personality.  If the two men ever got off the same page, the results could possibly be similar to what Mangino experienced.

Is Perkins' willing to risk this happening with the next Kansas football coach?  I don't know, but I hope he is.  Harbaugh would be an intriguing choice that would bring lots of excitement to Kansas Jayhawks Football and the Big 12 North next season.