Bohl and Mangino: Til Death Do They Part

<i>Jim and the Fat Man</i> takes a look at the logic behind Mark Mangino's contract extension.

Last week, local media honk major-market wannabe Kevin Kietzman prefaced his reportage of The Fat Man's contract extension by asking the stooge who handed him the report, "Is this for real, or are you having a little fun with me?" Or words that effect. I don't have it on tape. I hate to waste good tape.

For all his spouting about how loyal he has always been to the once-lowly KSU football program, I think Kietzman has forgotten how their rise to prominence began. When comparing Mangino to Snyder, you'd think Mr. Burns was 8-3 his first year.

Whether you like Coach Mangino (and I do) or not, Kansas football fans need to realize one thing: Mark Mangino is here to stay. He'll either make Kansas football competitive, or he'll go down in flames.

There could be a bunch of reasons for a contract extension. Among them…

  • Like Nuke LaLoosh, maybe Al Bohl wanted to announce his presence with authority. Remember, there are still plenty of KU fans – in particular, KU fans with a lot of money – who aren't sold on him. Mix in the allegations made by his former employer, and maybe you have a man who feels the need exert his authority. You don't achieve his position by having a small ego, and you don't keep it by being ambiguous about who's in charge.
  • Since KU is famous for the revolving door on its football coaching offices, Bohl wanted to show something you don't see very often at the University: a commitment to a football coach, his staff and his program (Yeah, yeah: I know Mason was at Kansas for nine years. He is the exception, not the rule. And I'm not sure you can really say that Dr. Frederick was ever committed to him.).
  • We all know there's a desperate need for more alumni financial support of the football program. Moving the football offices won't come cheap. The momentum that was started last year with projects intended to project a major college football image (the renovation of the coaches' offices, etc.) needs to continue to build. Maybe some of the alumni who had Mangino pegged as yet another four-years-and-gone coach will open up the checkbooks now that they know he's sticking around, whether they like it or not.
  • For those who say Al Bohl hired The Fat Man to be the lackey who will serve as a distraction when things aren't so rosy for the untouchable Roy Williams, all I can say is I know where you can pick up a black unmarked helicopter real cheap. I have a buddy who was Skull and Bones, is a Mason, and sits on the Tri-Lateral Commission. He can call a guy in Nicaragua. I can't say anything else here. Someone may actually read this.
I'm going to suggest something crazy: Maybe – just maybe – Al Bohl is convinced that the football team is getting better. As much as we want to forget his predecessor, Mangino sat down at the table and played the hand someone else dealt him. All he could realistically hope to do this season was begin to teach his new system; begin to make the program feel like a Division 1 program again; find out who wants to play and who doesn't; and keep the wheels from falling off. Even in a two-win season, you'd be hard-pressed to make a good argument that those things didn't happen. Beyond that, I thought the offense was becoming fun to watch before Whittemore got hurt. That was gravy.

I won't say that Mark Mangino is on the cusp of engineering a Snyderian turnaround of Kansas Football. But I will say that I know KU has a coach with a plan and an athletic director who wants to do everything he can to make sure football is successful and profitable, something I haven't been able to say in a very long time. What I will say is that Mark Mangino will leave the Kansas football program better than he found it.

And Dr. Bohl? With this contract extension, he has absolutely and inextricably hitched his wagon to Mangino. On the line is his job and, more important, his formidable reputation as a Rainmaker when it comes to moribund football programs. Once again, I'd bet ego prevents him from being too blasé about that.

These two will either ride off into the sunset together, or they'll end up being the only friend in Lawrence the other has got.


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