Mark ManginoÃ¢ÂÂs second season at Kansas University wonÃ¢ÂÂt start until next fall, but KUÃ¢ÂÂs 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 AllenÃ¢ÂÂs final year and won only one Big 12 Conference game.
The Jayhawks slid to 2-10 in ManginoÃ¢ÂÂs first season and did not win a league game.
The former Kansas State and Oklahoma assistant coach insists, however, that Kansas is making progress.
Ã¢ÂÂWe feel like weÃ¢ÂÂve got our program going in the right direction,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said. Ã¢ÂÂThere are so many positives in our program right now. Unfortunately, I understand this being a coach, weÃ¢ÂÂre judged ultimately on our win-loss record. I understand that. IÃ¢ÂÂm not naive. I know how this profession works. I know how college football works.Ã¢ÂÂ
After six straight losing seasons, Mangino started fresh. He retained only two of AllenÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm playing the hand I was dealt,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said after one of several lopsided losses.
That apparently was the coachÃ¢ÂÂs polite way of saying AllenÃ¢ÂÂs staff didnÃ¢ÂÂt 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). KUÃ¢ÂÂs only victories came against Division I-AA Southwest Missouri State and Tulsa, which owned the nationÃ¢ÂÂs longest losing streak when KU won 43-33 on Sept. 28 at Tulsa, Okla.
A week later, KU couldnÃ¢ÂÂt extend BaylorÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂThe outcome definitely wasnÃ¢ÂÂt what we expected,Ã¢ÂÂ KU junior Zach Dyer said. Ã¢ÂÂIt 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.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 KUÃ¢ÂÂs 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 ManginoÃ¢ÂÂs 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 sonÃ¢ÂÂs high school football game. He apologized for that incident six days later on his weekly radio show.
Ã¢ÂÂAny time you go to a new place, whether youÃ¢ÂÂre a head coach or an assistant coach, there are always things you didnÃ¢ÂÂt plan on, unforeseen things,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said. Ã¢ÂÂIt 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.Ã¢ÂÂ
No one is doubting Mangino has his share of challenges ahead of him in his second year at Kansas.
Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt have a magic wand,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂI never said I did. Even though my last name ends in a vowel, itÃ¢ÂÂs not Houdini.Ã¢ÂÂ
That doesnÃ¢ÂÂt mean Mangino doesnÃ¢ÂÂt 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 Ã¢ÂÂupgrading our talent level.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂI think the core of our team will be very solid,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂWe have to do a good job of recruiting, developing existing players we have in the program. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs no question recruiting is important, and we have a lot to offer Ã¢ÂÂ: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.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 KUÃ¢ÂÂs sports programs and help recruit new ones.
Ã¢ÂÂWe have to get in the weight room in the offseason and make them stronger, faster and quicker,Ã¢ÂÂ 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.
Ã¢ÂÂWe need to have an excellent spring ball,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said. Ã¢ÂÂWe need to take advantage of every practice opportunity we have. We have to have a great spring and summer program, too.Ã¢ÂÂ
While KU needs junior college players who can contribute immediately, Mangino has repeatedly said that high school players will Ã¢ÂÂbe the foundationÃ¢ÂÂ 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 SmithÃ¢ÂÂs weight room.
Playing at home
Recruiting wonÃ¢ÂÂt be the only concern for Mangino as he prepares for his second season. The coach would like to alter KUÃ¢ÂÂs 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, heÃ¢ÂÂd like to follow the model Snyder used at Kansas State. In SnyderÃ¢ÂÂs 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 playersÃ¢ÂÂ 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.
Ã¢ÂÂAt Kansas State, it took time to develop that atmosphere,Ã¢ÂÂ said Mangino, who spent eight years on SnyderÃ¢ÂÂs staff. Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt 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 didnÃ¢ÂÂt just happen over night.
Ã¢ÂÂThe reason why the place is packed in Manhattan is because the football team wins. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs the bottom line.Ã¢ÂÂ
In the roller coaster history of Kansas football, the Jayhawks have never been able to draw well on a consistent basis.
Ã¢ÂÂWinning brings people to the ballpark,Ã¢ÂÂ Mangino said. Ã¢ÂÂYou 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 thatÃ¢ÂÂs good. But to pack the place, to get students more interested, to get our fans more interested, to get our alumni more interested Ã¢ÂÂ: IÃ¢ÂÂm not going to be naive here at all. You have to win and theyÃ¢ÂÂll show up. It will come. The day will come when people will have to stand in line to get a ticket or wonÃ¢ÂÂt get one.
Ã¢ÂÂWe 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.Ã¢ÂÂ
There are other things on ManginoÃ¢ÂÂs to-do list. The coach, for example, must fill the vacancy on his staff left by Conatser.
He also is determined to move KUÃ¢ÂÂs football offices to Memorial Stadium, a project heÃ¢ÂÂd 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.
Ã¢ÂÂThere are a lot of things I would do differently, but the course we have laid for our program is one we believe in,Ã¢ÂÂ he said. Ã¢ÂÂOur heads are up high. WeÃ¢ÂÂre not feeling bad for ourselves. We understand what it takes to build a program and we are forging ahead.Ã¢ÂÂ
Living up to ManginoÃ¢ÂÂs standards wonÃ¢ÂÂt be easy. The coach has said that he expects Ã¢ÂÂa fewÃ¢ÂÂ players to transfer and he might encourage some to Ã¢ÂÂget on with lifeÃ¢ÂÂs work.Ã¢ÂÂ
The majority of Jayhawks, however, appear to be on board.
Ã¢ÂÂWe need to do whatever it takes to go out there and win,Ã¢ÂÂ Dyer said. Ã¢ÂÂI 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. EveryoneÃ¢ÂÂs 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.Ã¢ÂÂ