Williamson: Writing's on the Wall

I've been a huge Mark Mangino fan-slash-apologist since he walked on campus to take over the moribund Kansas football program.

I was truly excited. Late of Kansas State and Oklahoma, two winning programs, his no-nonsense, hard-nosed style seemed to be just what the athletic department ordered. He was the anti-Terry Allen, and that was good enough for me and a lot of KU fans.

Now it seems that that hard-nosed style has crossed a line or two or twelve and will be Mangino's undoing at Kansas. I didn't say "may be"; I said "will be."

Even if Mark Mangino is simply a disciplinarian and clean as a whistle, he cannot be retained at this point. In fact, I don't see how he can possibly be allowed to coach Saturday.

Numerous players and ex-players (including Joe Mortensen, as reported by the Phog's own Kevin Flaherty) have come forward, both on and off the record, to share stories about things said and done by the coach. Some of it would make Dick Cheney flinch.

Mangino's temper is legendary. Just ask any high school football official in the Lawrence area or any KU Parking employee. He wasn't hired to be a nice guy; he was hired to make Jayhawk football competitive. And he has more than most any other Kansas coach save one.

It is possible, after all, that Mangino is pure as the driven snow. Maybe he never laid a hand on or shouted a cross word to anyone. He may be gentle as a lamb and help little old ladies across Mass Street. These players could be making it all up. Maybe they're guys with various axes to grind.

Or maybe not.

Either way, the toothpaste is out of the tube, and there's no putting it back. Being involved in a situation like this is a lot like being named in a paternity suit: whether the baby is yours or not, you're guilty.

And I can't believe Lew Perkins is going to take the chance that somehow the long-shot will pay off Saturday and Kansas will win. Then he's really screwed, having to fire the coach who just beat #3-ranked Texas.

I'm also looking at this as the father of a 17-year-old. I can't see any of my friends handing their sons off to Mangino for five years. He's tainted. Perception is reality, and I don't see any way in the world Mangino comes out of this with his reputation and public perception intact.

Mangino was hired on December 4, 2001, and at that time, I wrote that I didn't know whether or not he was the long-term solution. What I did know, I wrote, was that when he left, he'd leave the program one hell of a lot better than he found it.

I think that's true. It's unfortunate, however, that he put himself in a position where his actions (alleged or actual) may overshadow the good work that he's done. I'm afraid that's exactly what's happened. That's why he won't be KU's coach much longer.


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