November 17, 2009
After capping an 11-1 regular season with an Orange Bowl win in 2007, mounting another eight-win campaign last year and a ripping off a 5-0 start this season, things aren't going so hot for Kansas lately: The Jayhawks are on the verge of missing a bowl game after a five-game skid that includes losses at Colorado and Kansas State, three of the four lowest-scoring efforts in 36 games with Todd Reesing as the starting quarterback and a temporary benching of Reesing at Texas Tech, all of which followed a series of much-publicized dust-ups between members of the football and basketball teams in September. That's almost the textbook definition of "bad month."
Might as well take the bad news all the way, then, with a players-only meeting with the administration to discuss "concerns" about one of the most successful Jayhawk coaches in recent memory:
Kansas University athletic director Lew Perkins met Monday night with the school's football players to discuss concerns about football coach Mark Mangino brought to his attention by one of the current players and others with ties to the football program, the [Lawrence] Journal-World has learned.
Mangino was not present at the meeting.
"I can confirm an internal review is under way," Perkins said in a quote released by the school. "It involves a personnel matter, and as a result, is confidential. It would be inappropriate for me to provide further information right now."
Mangino is not known for being the nicest guy, or having the best sense of humor, or kowtowing to political realities. But he has been a winner where KU is concerned: The Jayhawks have seven winning seasons in the last 40 years, and three of them belong to Mangino since 2005, including the best season in KU history in '07. That's not the kind of record that gets the athletic director sniffing behind your back unless you've really rubbed someone the wrong way, which even Mangino admits he probably has:
"Not one bit," Mangino said Tuesday [in response to a question about whether he's lost his team] at his weekly media gathering. “I may have lost some people around here, but it’s not players.” Asked what he meant, Mangino said, "Take it for what it's worth. You decipher it and see."
Players interviewed Tuesday said that Mangino has not changed the way he deals with them this season. Mangino said he felt the reason that there are issues now is the Jayhawks’ five-game losing streak.
"This is what comes when things aren’t going well," Mangino said. “You’re going to find disgruntled people. It’s a fact of any organization, whether it's sport related, whether it's corporate, any profession you're in. … That's life. It’s how it works."
Mangino was asked if he thinks there would be an investigation into his behavior if the Jayhawks were 5-1 [in Big 12 play] instead of 1-5. "No," he said.
"An organized group of former players' parents" would beg to differ, according to the Star, which says the parents are "ready to air concerns" about Mangino, as well, about as strong an indictment of a coaches' behind-the-scenes work as there can be short of a criminal investigation.
That's all that's left to this story, actually: Back-to-back losses to Texas and Missouri to complete the seven-game slide to KU's first losing season since 2004, Mangino's sudden ouster, and then the FBI storms in. As rapidly as this seemingly charmed marriage has deteriorated since mid-October, we're well past the "surprise" phase, I think.