Archive for Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Coach had highs, lows since being hired one year ago today

December 4, 2002


Mark ManginoâÂÂs second season at Kansas University wonâÂÂt start until next fall, but KUâÂÂs football coach begins his second year in Lawrence today.

Mangino was hired Dec. 4, 2001, after Terry Allen was fired with three games left in the season. KU finished 3-8 overall in AllenâÂÂs final year and won only one Big 12 Conference game.

The Jayhawks slid to 2-10 in ManginoâÂÂs first season and did not win a league game.

The former Kansas State and Oklahoma assistant coach insists, however, that Kansas is making progress.

âÂÂWe feel like weâÂÂve got our program going in the right direction,â Mangino said. âÂÂThere are so many positives in our program right now. Unfortunately, I understand this being a coach, weâÂÂre judged ultimately on our win-loss record. I understand that. IâÂÂm not naive. I know how this profession works. I know how college football works.âÂÂ

Clean slate

After six straight losing seasons, Mangino started fresh. He retained only two of AllenâÂÂs assistants, Travis Jones and Clint Bowen.

Mangino also brought in Mark Smith from Florida as strength and conditioning coach, promoted Carol Jarosky to head football athletic trainer and also started the year with a new secretary and a new media relations director.

There were plenty of other new things as well, like dark blue uniforms, and the coaches offices were spruced up at a cost of $151,100.

With the changes came a new attitude for players and newfound optimism for fans. KU season-ticket sales reached their highest point since 1969.

Despite the changes, KU endured its seventh straight losing season.

âÂÂIâÂÂm playing the hand I was dealt,â Mangino said after one of several lopsided losses.

That apparently was the coachâÂÂs polite way of saying AllenâÂÂs staff didnâÂÂt recruit well. He inherited a team that lacked the depth and talent needed to compete in the Big 12.

The Jayhawks finished the year ranked last in the league in total offense (316.8 yards a game) and total defense (472.4). KUâÂÂs only victories came against Division I-AA Southwest Missouri State and Tulsa, which owned the nationâÂÂs longest losing streak when KU won 43-33 on Sept. 28 at Tulsa, Okla.

A week later, KU couldnâÂÂt extend BaylorâÂÂs 29-game Big 12 losing streak and suffered a 35-32 loss at Waco, Texas. That last-second loss was as close as Kansas would come to winning a league game. The Jayhawks were outscored 380-125 in eight Big 12 games.

âÂÂThe outcome definitely wasnâÂÂt what we expected,â KU junior Zach Dyer said. âÂÂIt was a tough season. It really was with some of these games having such a wide margin. I think frustrating is a good word to use for the season because we feel like we could have done better.âÂÂ

Unforeseen things

Dyer started the season at quarterback before losing his job to junior college transfer Bill Whittemore. Dyer moved to safety and emerged as one of KUâÂÂs leading tacklers, but had to move back to quarterback for the season finale when injuries sidelined Whittemore and senior backup Jonas Weatherbie.

Before it was over, Kansas used five quarterbacks.

Mangino lost three starters - lineman Kyle Grady, receiver Harrison Hill and defensive back Carl Ivey - because of injury, illness and transfer, respectively, before the season even started. During the season, running back Reggie Duncan and lineman Brock Teddleton, who had both been in and out of ManginoâÂÂs doghouse, left the team.

Mangino also lost an assistant when offensive line coach Ken Conatser quit two games into the season.

The first-year coach also had to deal with public criticism after he chastised officials on Sept. 20 following his sonâÂÂs high school football game. He apologized for that incident six days later on his weekly radio show.

âÂÂAny time you go to a new place, whether youâÂÂre a head coach or an assistant coach, there are always things you didnâÂÂt plan on, unforeseen things,â Mangino said. âÂÂIt was no different when I left Kansas State and went to Oklahoma as an assistant coach. There were far more challenges at Oklahoma than most people really believe.âÂÂ

No one is doubting Mangino has his share of challenges ahead of him in his second year at Kansas.

âÂÂI donâÂÂt have a magic wand,â he said. âÂÂI never said I did. Even though my last name ends in a vowel, itâÂÂs not Houdini.âÂÂ


That doesnâÂÂt mean Mangino doesnâÂÂt have a few tricks up his sleeve.

Mangino, who served as recruiting coordinator for Bill Snyder at Kansas State, has a handful of recruits who have orally committed, and his staff is working at âÂÂupgrading our talent level.âÂÂ

âÂÂI think the core of our team will be very solid,â he said. âÂÂWe have to do a good job of recruiting, developing existing players we have in the program. ThereâÂÂs no question recruiting is important, and we have a lot to offer âÂÂ:quot; great campus, great education, great staff, a stadium and atmosphere for gameday at the base of the hill that is as beautiful as any place in America.âÂÂ

Developing returning players depends on Smith, who will put the Jayhawks through a rigorous winter conditioning program. At some point during the spring, KU will open the $8 million, 42,000-square-foot Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center.

The state-of-the-art facility should benefit athletes in all of KUâÂÂs sports programs and help recruit new ones.

âÂÂWe have to get in the weight room in the offseason and make them stronger, faster and quicker,â Mangino said.

Mangino likely will bring in a handful of junior college players to fill immediate needs, notably in the secondary and offensive line. Junior college transfers can begin signing letters of intent Dec. 11. KU, no doubt, would like to find players eligible to transfer at semester who could participate in spring drills in March.

âÂÂWe need to have an excellent spring ball,â Mangino said. âÂÂWe need to take advantage of every practice opportunity we have. We have to have a great spring and summer program, too.âÂÂ

While KU needs junior college players who can contribute immediately, Mangino has repeatedly said that high school players will âÂÂbe the foundationâ of his program. National signing day for high school players is February 5.

In addition to recruiting new players and improving returning players, KU red-shirted more than a dozen players last season. The coach hopes that players such as former Purdue receiver Gary Heaggans will be able to contribute next fall after a year of intense work in SmithâÂÂs weight room.

Playing at home

Recruiting wonâÂÂt be the only concern for Mangino as he prepares for his second season. The coach would like to alter KUâÂÂs nonconference schedule. Kansas had been scheduled to play both Wyoming and San Diego State on the road, but Mangino would like to play all his nonconference games at home against beatable opponents.

In other words, heâÂÂd like to follow the model Snyder used at Kansas State. In SnyderâÂÂs 14 years at K-State, the Wildcats have played 40 of their 52 regular-season nonconference games at home and one at a neutral site.

Playing cupcakes, such as Akron and Northern Illinois, at home allowed Snyder to build a fan base and his playersâ confidence after decades of futility.

K-State will play in a bowl game for the 10th straight year this winter, and Wildcat fans have developed a reputation not only for filling KSU Stadium but for supporting their team well on the road.

âÂÂAt Kansas State, it took time to develop that atmosphere,â said Mangino, who spent eight years on SnyderâÂÂs staff. âÂÂI donâÂÂt remember it being like that in 1991 when I arrived. When I left in 1998, the stadium was packed. Everyone was dressed in purple. Everyone was excited over there. It took time to develop that. It didnâÂÂt just happen over night.

âÂÂThe reason why the place is packed in Manhattan is because the football team wins. ThatâÂÂs the bottom line.âÂÂ

In the roller coaster history of Kansas football, the Jayhawks have never been able to draw well on a consistent basis.

âÂÂWinning brings people to the ballpark,â Mangino said. âÂÂYou can have great marketing people. You can have people in your administration that do a good job of getting people in the stadium, maybe initially for the first game and get some excitement over season tickets and that kind of thing, and thatâÂÂs good. But to pack the place, to get students more interested, to get our fans more interested, to get our alumni more interested âÂÂ: IâÂÂm not going to be naive here at all. You have to win and theyâÂÂll show up. It will come. The day will come when people will have to stand in line to get a ticket or wonâÂÂt get one.

âÂÂWe have to do our part as coaches. We have to get our players ready to play, build this program the right way with dignity and integrity and everybody will come. The student body will show up. All our fans, our alumni, everybody. We just have to do a good job of preparing and winning.âÂÂ

Unfinished business

There are other things on ManginoâÂÂs to-do list. The coach, for example, must fill the vacancy on his staff left by Conatser.

He also is determined to move KUâÂÂs football offices to Memorial Stadium, a project heâÂÂd like to have in place for the 2004 season.

After a difficult first season, Mangino has a better grasp of the challenge ahead and has a season of experience as a head coach.

âÂÂThere are a lot of things I would do differently, but the course we have laid for our program is one we believe in,â he said. âÂÂOur heads are up high. WeâÂÂre not feeling bad for ourselves. We understand what it takes to build a program and we are forging ahead.âÂÂ

Living up to ManginoâÂÂs standards wonâÂÂt be easy. The coach has said that he expects âÂÂa fewâ players to transfer and he might encourage some to âÂÂget on with lifeâÂÂs work.âÂÂ

The majority of Jayhawks, however, appear to be on board.

âÂÂWe need to do whatever it takes to go out there and win,â Dyer said. âÂÂI think everybody has a bad taste in their mouths from losing, and they know that we do not want to be in that place again. EveryoneâÂÂs fed up with it and has had enough. I think we need to translate that into hard work and put everything we have into this.âÂÂ

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